Shirakavan – Capital Of Bagratid Armenia

In the 9th century, Shirakavan (Շիրակավան) was the capital of the Armenian kingdom of the Bagratids and remained so for 40 years.

In the 9th century, the Bagratids managed to conquer Armenia from the Arab Caliphate. In 885, Ashot I Bagratuni acceded to the throne, and both the Caliph and the Byzantine emperor were forced to recognize the independence of the Armenian kingdom.

Bagaran became the capital of the new state, but soon, Shirakavan was made capital instead. In 892 in Shirakavan, the coronation of King Smbat Bagratuni took place. In 928, the capital was moved to Kars.

Shirakavan was gradually abandoned and by the end of the 19th century turned into a small Armenian village called Bashsuregel. Today, Shirakavan is located in modern Turkey and is partially flooded by the waters of the Akhuryan reservoir.

In Shirakavan, on the left bank of the Akhuryan River, there is the Church of Surb Amenaprkich (All-Savior) built in 897. The church is located between the Armenian cities of Artik and Gyumri. This is one of the first major cathedrals of the post-Arab revival era of the Christian culture of Armenia.

The cathedral was built with the blessing of Catholicos Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi (Հովհաննես Դրասխանակերտցի, 850-929) and under King Smbat I (reigned in 890-914), next to the latter’s palace.

Talking about the solemn consecration of the temple, the Catholicos described the beauty and richness of its interior decoration, noting the golden tabernacle (arch) above the throne.

The cathedral, which suffered heavily from the invasion of the Seljuks in 1064, was restored by Prince Gnel and Bishop of Ani Barsegh (future Catholicos Barsegh I Anetsi).

Inscriptions from 1228 and 1231 on the walls of the church read that Prince Ivane Zakaryan and his nephew Shahinshah have freed the city from taxation.

In the late Middle Ages, windows and eastern niches were laid in the cathedral, and walls were added over the corner sections, turning the structure into a fortress in appearance.

The church’s dome was destroyed during the Russian-Turkish war of 1806-1812. In the 1950s, the church was blown up.

By Alexander Bakulin

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