July 7, 2015

1724 ARMENIA - Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley (UNESCO WHS)


The Geghard complex is an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a medieval Armenian monastic foundation in a remote area of great natural beauty. While the main chapel was built in 1215, the monastery complex was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator at the site of a sacred spring inside a cave. The spectacular towering cliffs surrounding the monastery are part of the Azat River gorge, and are included together with the monastery in the World Heritage Site listing. Some of the churches are entirely dug out of the cliff rocks, others are little more than caves, while others are elaborate structures, with both architecturally complex walled sections and rooms deep inside the cliff.

The monastery had thus been originally named Ayrivank, meaning "the Monastery of the Cave". The name commonly used for the monastery today, Geghard, or more fully Geghardavank, meaning "the Monastery of the Spear", originates from the spear which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, called here Thaddeus, and stored amongst many other relics. Relics of the Apostles Andrew and John were donated in the 12th century, and pious visitors made numerous grants of land, money, manuscripts, etc., over the succeeding centuries. In one of the cave cells there lived, in the 13th century, Mkhitar Ayrivanetsi, the well-known Armenian historian.

Ayrivank was destroyed by Arabs in the 9th century, and nothing has remained of it. Though there are inscriptions dating to the 1160s, the main church was built in 1215 under the auspices of the brothers Zakare and Ivane, the generals of Queen Tamar of Georgia, who took back most of Armenia from the Turks. The most ancient part is the small Chapel of St Gregory, lying to the east of and outside the main group. It is excavated directly into the rock of the mountainside and is uncompleted. The earliest of the inscriptions on the external wall is from 1177. The Kathoghikè (main church) is in the classic Armenian form, an equal-armed cross inscribed in a square in plan and covered with a dome on a square base. In the corners there are barrel-vaulted two-storey chapels. A gavit (entrance hall) links it with the first rock-cut church.

About the stamp
The stamp is one of the two of the series Shushi Liberation, issued on May 8, 2012, to comemorate the 20th Anniversary of the eliberation of this city.

References
Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley - UNESCO official website

Sender: Sergey Kalantaryan
Sent from Stepanakert (Artsakh / Nagorno-Karabakh), on 29.05.2015

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