MONASTERY OF GEGHARD

The monastery of Geghard contains a number of churches and tombs, most of them cut into the rock, which illustrate the very peak of Armenian medieval architecture. First called Ayrivank, or the Monastery of the Caves, the history of Geghard dates back to pre-Christian times.

The present buildings here date back the 10th-13th centuries, when the monastery was renamed Geghard, meaning «spear» or «lance» in Armenian.

The association itself harkens back to the times of Jesus, when a spear was used by a Roman soldier to pierce the body of Christ during the Crucifixion. The spear was long housed at Geghard, but is now in the museum of Ejmiatsin Cathedral. Geghard is an architectural wonder – a complex of churches hewn from within a mountain of solid rock.The most ancient cave-church of St Gregory (7th century) is outside the monastery walls. The principal structure, the church of the Virgin, is a cruciform building from the second quarter of the 13th century. It has a four-column gavit (1225) to the west of the church.Two cave-churches were constructed in 1263, along with the family sepulchre of the Proshian Princes. Their coat of arms is carved in the rock: two chained lions and an eagle with half-spread wings, whose claws grasp a calf.While in Geghard, notice tied ribbons on the tries around the river and sacrifice rocks with blood passages.The tied ribbons represent whishes and sacrifice rocks are used when someone brings sheep or chicken to sacrifice.These traditions are not Christian, they date back in ancient times when Armenians were influenced by the Persians and their Zoroastrian religion. There are two preserves near Garni and Geghard.

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