Lori Province is one of the most beautiful regions in Armenia. It boasts a multitude of natural picturesque sceneries, as well as numerous fine examples of Armenian architecture.
The most renowned architectural and cultural monuments of Lori Province are the monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin, as well as the monastery-fortress Akhtala. In fact, they enjoy the strong attention of tourists and pilgrims.
However, Lori houses many more remarkable monuments, albeit less known. This doesn’t prevent them from possessing high cultural, architectural, and historic value. Not to mention the striking landscape on the way to them. One can’t say that those sites are hard to access: you just need to know how to get there.
Along the highway towards Georgia, several kilometers away from the village of Odzun, under a high rock stands a small monastery. Built from stone cut out from the nearby mountain, this monastery merges with its background, quite successfully hiding from those who are unaware of its presence.
That’s the Horomayr Monastery mentioned by chroniclers since the 7th century. Even today, its craftsmanship is striking. One cannot avoid thinking about the courage of the builders who dared to erect a monastery in such a hard-to-access location. In spite of its not so impressive size, Horomayr was one of the major religious and cultural centers of medieval Armenia.
The monastery consists of two building complexes. One of them is right beside the edge of the plateau, while the other is situated below, beneath the precipice of the canyon. The main building of the monastery, Saint Nshan Church (Holy Sign), is lying right on the plateau. An inscription on it tells us that it was built in 1206 by mason Grigor.
In a bit more preserved state than the main church lie the mountainside buildings of the complex. Those structures built in 1187 can be seen either from the road passing above along Debed River or from the lower areas of the Odzun plateau.
5 kilometers from Odzun, on the right-hand side of the town of Stepanavan, on the outskirts of the Ardvi village stands another pearl of Lori, the 8th-century Srbanes Monastery, otherwise known as Monastery of Surb Hovhannes. This monastery was founded by Hovhannes Odznetsi, the last Armenian Catholicos to have been upraised to a sacred status by the Armenian Church. Having left his native village of Odzun and after refusing his Catholicos title, Odznetsi founded the monastery at the site of his hermitage. Interestingly, he was the only Armenian Catholicos to renounce his patriarchal title.
Near the monastery lies the tribal cemetery of an ancient princely Kalantarov family, the members of which have long ruled in the village of Ardvi. Slightly further away is Odzi Port (“snake’s navel”), a mineral spring believed to deliver water with healing powers.
The local folk knows one interesting legend about this spring. Once, Odznetsi heard a scream of a woman asking for protection from a huge snake-dragon that had crawled down from the mountain. Saint Hovhannes sent 7 of his disciples to her, but none of them would come back.
He then determined to come to help himself. Before clashing with the snake, he read a prayer. The Catholicos struck the snake with his staff and said: “Let a healing spring flow out from your navel. As for you, let your body turn into stone.”
The stricken snake slipped towards the mount and turned into stone, forming a long dark grey strip running along the brighter rock. In more modern times, scientists have analyzed the water and discovered that it contains elevated concentrations of gold and silver, which could be connected to the beliefs of the water’s curative properties.
This isn’t the only legend of Ardvi. Some say that the village used to be called Artvi. The origin of this name is explained by a legend concerning the 5th-century Armenian commander Vardan Mamikonian.
Leading his troops to battle with the Persians, Mamikonian first encountered the enemy’s troops when passing the area of the Artvi village. One of the leading regiments was commanded by Mamikonian’s son who would defeat the Persians and then order his soldiers to behead them.
When Vardan’s units caught up to his son, he boasted that he had killed a thousand Persians. When his father didn’t believe him, the junior Mamikonian threw the Persians’ heads to his father’s feet and said: “Take and count them” (“Ar, tvi” in Armenian).
Many have somewhat familiarized themselves with the Srbanes Monastery from the film “The Color of Pomegranates” directed and written by Sergei Parajanov. Most of the film’s scenes were shot at the site of the monastery.
At the initiative of the abbot of Srbanes Monastery, the nephew of Zakare and Ivane Zakarian, the Fortress of Kayan would be built between Sanahin and Haghpat Monasteries to protect them from Mongol-Tatar assaults in 1233. This fortress would strongly reinforce the area surrounded by canyons from three sides. In addition, the layout of the fortress was well thought-out, featuring 15 towers and water pipes coming from the nearest village for water supply.
In spite of the astounding defensive capabilities of the fortress, it wouldn’t stand for too long. In 1241, it was ruined by Mongol-Tatars. Later, the fortress would be complemented by the Church of Holy Mother of God. Over the following centuries, it would be damaged by frequent earthquakes. Now, the church stands dilapidated, though it was somewhat renovated in the 19th century.
If you know the location of Kayan Fortress, you could spot it from the nearby road. And if you climb up towards the monastery via the 3-kilometer footpath, you will witness the astounding and unforgettable view of the Debed River canyon.
ARMENIEN- KLOSTER Sanahin,Haghpat(HD 1080p)
Armenia 2014 – Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin / Klasztory Haghpat i Sanahin
Крепость Каян : Дсеванк