Jugha – One of the oldest Armenian cities

Jugha is one of the most ancient Armenian cities that played a significant role in the development of Armenian culture during the 15th and 16th centuries. Jugha is mentioned by many chroniclers from the 5th century onwards as a rich and prosperous town. However, the city truly began to flourish and develop after the fall of Ani in the 12th century.

The city was located on the banks of the Araks River and extended over a kilometer in length and 400-500 meters in width. As it grew, it even expanded to the other side of the river.

From the 13th century onwards, crafts, arts, and trade began to rapidly develop in the city. In the 15th-16th centuries, Jugha achieved considerable advancement in stone carving, architecture, manuscript transcription and artistic decoration of books, carpet weaving, fabric printing, and gem cutting.

Enterprising merchants from Jugha traded with many Western and Eastern countries, establishing their trading houses there.

Caravans of Jugha merchants traveled to India, mainly to Madras and Calcutta, to China, Persia, Italy (Venice), Austria (Vienna), the Netherlands (Amsterdam), Turkey (Constantinople), Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Crimea, Astrakhan), even to the Philippines (Manila) and the island of Java. For instance, out of 250 merchants trading with Venice, 60 were from Jugha. In their honor, one of the streets in the city was named Jugha Street.

In their native city, the Jugha people erected numerous beautiful mansions, hotels, buildings, churches, and created a large number of khachkars with delicate and exquisite ornamentation.

The wealth of Jugha residents reached astronomical proportions. Their houses sparkled with luxury, and all the interior decorations and household utensils were made of gold and silver.

Old Jugha was famed for its medieval architectural and historical monuments, especially its numerous astonishing and exquisite khachkars.

The main temple of Jugha, Amenaprkich, was built on a hill. It is mentioned in historical documents as early as 976, which suggests that the temple’s foundation was laid no later than the 9th-10th centuries. The Amenaprkich temple complex consisted of a church, a narthex, a refectory, and one-story service and utility buildings.

The church is located in the southeast corner of the complex and is a centrally domed basilica, built from semi-processed, hewn stones. A fairly large and round dome is covered with a pyramidal covering.

The church has a wide entrance, with a lancet arch typical of 12th-13th century monuments. This suggests that the monument was built in the 13th century. To the western facade of the church, two-columned vaulted small narthexes were attached. Living cells, a refectory, a bakery, a kitchen, service, production and other buildings were located along the church walls.

Pomploz Church, or Tavaratsi (Shepherd’s) Church, is a small dome church of the 16th century, with one entrance. Inside, the church is cross-shaped, and from the outside – square. It is built among the rocks surrounding Jugha. Astvatsatsin Church (Church of the Holy Mother of God) is located directly at the fortress wall.

The rectangular building of the church with two chapels is surrounded on all sides by a rather strong fortress wall, which created the impression of a small fortress. The monument was built in the 12th-13th centuries and restored at the end of the 16th century.

No less significant monuments and well-known spiritual centers were the Jugha churches of St. Gevorg, St. Sarkis, and Verin Katank.

The ruins of the Main Caravanserai are located on the banks of the Araks River. It had an arched rectangular shape and occupied a rather vast territory. Inside, along the walls, numerous large and small rooms were built, intended for travelers and goods.

In the eastern part of the city, on a hill near the Araks River, was the Jugha fortress, or Darzavri, built in the 10th-12th centuries in an impregnable place.

On the banks of the Araks River, the ruins of a beautiful and majestic four-arched stone bridge have been preserved, built on a route of significant state and trade importance. The bridge was masterfully built from hewn stones on a lime mortar. Its arched span reached 37 meters in length and a width of 3 meters. Built in the early Middle Ages, the bridge lasted until the end of the 16th century.

In the rocks surrounding the city, there were many quarries and caves. Dated to the II-I millennia BC, these caves were used as settlements and shelters.

At that time, Armenia was a bone of contention between Iran and Turkey. Jugha was under Turkish rule. In 1603, Iran seized most of the lands that had previously been under Turkish rule. Yerevan was also taken. However, the Turks decided to reclaim the lands taken from them and began to constantly raid these territories. The Persians began to drive both the inhabitants of the Ararat valley and the inhabitants of Jugha deep into the country (Persia) so that in case of victory of the Turks, they would be left with nothing but bare lands. Moreover, the Persians wanted the fabulous capitals of the Jugha merchants to be in Persia.

The relocation took place in October 1605. Many, unable to endure the cold and the difficult crossing, died during the transition. Everything that was possible was destroyed and given to the fire immediately after the residents were evicted from the city, and the bridge that the exiles had passed was destroyed.

The Jughans were allocated a territory located on the bank of a river, not far from Isfahan, and the lands were not provided free of charge – a part of them had to be paid for. Thus was founded the city, which was named New Jugha.

The city plan was as follows: the main street was 3246 steps long and 16 steps wide. Around the main street, there were 10 wide streets, each of which was one of the city districts. At the beginning of the 17th century, the population of New Jugha reached 30,000 residents.

In the new place, the exiled Jughans once again erected their majestic temples, rebuilt churches, palaces, put up khachkars – everything as in the abandoned city. A majestic temple of the Savior and 17 other churches were erected, schools were opened. In 1647, a printing house was opened here and the printing of books began. Then the Jughans began to open printing houses in different cities, in particular, in Madras and Calcutta, where they began to publish various printed publications. In 1794, the first Armenian magazine “Azdarar” (Herald) started to be published in Madras.

Just like in Old Jugha, one of the occupations of the townspeople in New Jugha was trade, and by the XVII-XVIII centuries, they had concentrated almost all of Persia’s foreign trade in their hands, establishing trade ties with many countries. The ties with Russia were particularly strengthened. In 1660, for their favorable attitude towards Armenians, Jugha merchants presented Russian Tsar Alexander Mikhailovich with a golden throne that had 876 diamonds, 1233 emeralds and rubies, all framed by three rows of pearls. This throne is currently kept in the Armory Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin.

Old Jugha remained uninhabited for a long time, but a few families eventually returned to the ruined city. Initially, they lived in ruins, then they began to build houses, partially restore churches.

In 1848, the Jughans founded a settlement not far from the ruins of the historical city, which they also called Jugha. In 1851, the Church of St. George was erected on the outskirts of the village, where a school started operating from 1860, and a library was opened at the school from 1890.

However, being on the border, Jugha constantly suffered from military actions. Currently, both Old Jugha and the Jugha settlement are not on the territory of Armenia.

Jugha was especially famous for its khachkars, most of which have not survived. Jugha cemetery is a unique, rich collection of the most beautiful khachkars. The Jughans, perpetuating the memory of their loved ones, put up khachkars, each one more beautiful than the other.

Most khachkars were carved from pink, reddish or yellowish stone. The central part of the khachkar was decorated with a deeply incised cross, the upper part was decorated with various carved belts and arches, and in the lower part of the khachkar, on the base, there were usually depicted armed riders or symbolic decorations.

Numerous khachkars, unique in their finest drawing and stone carving skill, preserved to this day, continue to amaze with their variety and execution mastery. The master stone carvers from Jugha, continuing the traditions of Armenian stone processing and miniature art, made their own discoveries and created their own style, which served as the basis for creating a new school, a new stage in the art of khachkars.

In Jugha’s cemetery, along with khachkars, there were many tombstones in the form of rams, decorated with reliefs on everyday life themes. Both on khachkars and on tombstones, there were numerous inscriptions, images of various geometric figures, objects, tools, plant ornaments, and animal figurines.

In 1648, there were more than 10,000 khachkars in this cemetery – unique, masterfully executed works of Armenian stone carving art, mainly dating from the IX-XV centuries.
At present, a large part of the khachkars is either destroyed or ruined.

Source: www.armeniatur.am

Translated Vigen Avetisyan


Ջուղա (Հայերեն), Jugha

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