Bardzrakash Monastery

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XII - XIII AD - Lori Marz

Interior view of ruins

The masterpiece of Dsegh's monuments is the monastery of St. Gregory Bardzrakash, which is situated 2 km towards north east from the village, in thick forest on the left side of Marts river's narrow plain. One can get down to the river by the ascent and rocky narrow path taking to the Dsegh ravine from its eastern side. (Trail starts at 40 58.51 X 044 39.65)

The complex is really beautiful in all the seasons, in summer when its eternal hues melt with the environs covered with light crape, in early spring and late autumn, when it beams behind the thick trunks of leafless trees, presenting the blurred border of natural and human creation.

The complex obviously didn't have long life; the latest inscription on it belongs to the middle of XIII c.

The convent got to us completely destroyed (one of the informers of the time compared it with a "young and beautiful deceased with a smile on her face, lying on green bed"). It was partly restored in 1939, and was cleaned in 1950 and 1969.

The complex consists of two churches, a vestibule, a chapel, the ancestral cemetery of Mamikonyan and remainders of khachkars. The two churches and the vestibule that make the main group are placed near to each other in one line. The preserved oldest construction is the one-nave hall type church from north, from which only the wall (3-4 m high) preserved. In the eastern side it finishes with half-round bay near which are the two rectangle sacristies with entries placed in front of each other. In the middle part and western corners preserved the remainders of rectangle cut pillars on which leaned the cemicylindrical arches.

In contrast to the other monuments built of clearly trimmed yellowish felzit many-colored huge stone, the one-nave hall was built of roughly trimmed basalt small stones (during later reconstructions felzit was also used) and was plastered from inside.

There is no information about the construction time. It may belong to X c according to foundation and building data.

The main church is the St. Virgin (it is mentioned by this name in the inscription preserved on the walls), which is situated between the previous church and the vestibule. The remainders of the preserved walls (of the southern and western parts), the pillars with part of the arches, the cover of the southern corner, some constructive and architectural details, a great number of ornamental splinters are gathered as in the praying hall, so around the walls outside. Nothing preserved from the former dome. St. Virgin's church has very little in common with other similar constructions by its scheme. A pair of arches placed in north-south direction divided the almost square (9,6x10,2m) praying hall into three naves. The middle nave (wider than the side ones three times) in eastern side finished with a not very deep pentahedral bay with wide passage, and the side ones finished with two-storied sacristies. The latter's' first floor entries are from side naves and the second floor entries from the bays.

The dome leaned on the western pair of pillars and the arches rising from the side bays. The absence of space between the underdome and the bay is conditioned by placing the dome in the center of east west axis, thank to which the monument was balanced in that direction too. The pillars were also connected with the by-wall pillars, at the same time carrying the part of the load edge cover. The remainders of the bays show that they used to have different foundations- cemicylindrical, flat, with stalactite passage and etc.

The bottom parts of the pillars (about 3 m high), as well as the bays and anchors decorated with ornaments and stalactite are built of monolithic stone.

The entries of the church are from west and south. The southern entry of one-nave hall opens into it from north.

In the northern collapsed part shows up the one-layer wall of St. Virgin attached to the one-nave hall's half-trimmed wall.

Even in devastate condition the monument stands out with the high quality of decorations and lavishly and proper use of expressive means.

According to the 1221 dated inscription of the bottom part of Bardzrakash convent, the construction of the church started by Hamazasp Mamikonyan's grandson and Sargis's son Mertzpan during Tamar's son Grigory's power and Ivane Zakaryan's principality.

The roomy vestibule joins the St.Virgin's church from south deviated from the traditional custom of joining from west (probably conditioned by the relief and by the territory's unadvantagability). It has the widely spread in XIII c central vestibules' foundation, where the roof leans on the four middle pillars and the arches with roofing rising from the by-wall pylons. But in contrasts to that classic type example of square dimensions it is rectangle in scheme (11,3x14,3m).

It's interesting that as the vestibule's so the St.Virgin's church's long side is the diametrical one, probably again conditioned by the anadvantagability of the territory (the bottom monument complexes of Horomayri that are in similar unadvantagable territorial condition are also stretched). The cover and the bearings are destroyed (only the arch connecting southern side pair of pillars remain).

In the joining spot of the vestibule a new wall wasn't constructed and the pillars were directly attached to the already existing wall.

During the cleaning works in 1950 a great number of illustrated and ornamented huge slabs were discovered, which probably were the part of the flat ceiling.

In eastern side the half-round by with not too big opening was situated, which taken under the double-breasted roof got out of the borders of the wall with its pentahedral dimension. About that it was added later on evidence the absence of vestibule's connection with the wall, the existing richly decorated frame, the discrepancy of the anchors and etc. the vestibule appears to have had three entries at first; from east, west and south, the eastern one later on was taken into the opening of the vestibule. St. Virgin's southern entry also opens to the vestibule. There used to be square in scheme two-storied, not too big sacristies in the eastern corner side of the vestibule (the remainders of corbel ladder leading to the second floor of the vestibule preserved).

View of interior ruins.

All the entries and windows are crowned with frames. Eastern main entrance is especially noteworthy. Its surface bordered with arches is covered with felzit pentahedral stars. The outside frontal surface is solved and decorated with delicate taste and gracefulness. The family Emblem of Mamikonyans' (two-headed eagle's alto-relievo with a lamb in his claws) which is closely connected with the foundation of eastern window naves is a perfect example of architectural art. There are many inscriptions on the walls telling about people (Hamlik, Mamkan, Zatkar, Asanet and others) taking part in the construction of separate parts of the vestibule (sacristies, pillars). The same names meet in Sanahin's inscriptions too. The latest building inscription belongs to 1247 and is accepted as the finishing date of the vestibule's construction.

A medieval cemetery is situated towards south from the convent; here besides the tomb stones many noteworthy khachkars belonging to XIII c also can be found.

St. Harutyun's chapel is situated in the territory of the cemetery; the local people call it "Crow's Ark" connected with the famous legend. Its three walls and the cover are from huge basalt slabs, the western entrance takes the whole length of the wall. The stepped slab of the cover shows that the chapel at the same time served as a pedestal for a khachkar. According to the inscription of the eastern wall it was built in 1234 by Hovanes preceptor and his brother Sargis. In the southern side of St. Harutyun chapel there used to be another small chapel from which the bottom parts of walls, and an inscription on 2 m basalt slab preserved. According to the inscription Gevorg preceptor during Vahram Mamikonyan power built the small chapel.

The poop of the bridge built by Mamikonyans preserved on the left bank of "Martsa Jur" canyon. In the southern part of Dsegh plain, not far from the path taking to the convent Bardzrakash, the Sirun Khach called khachkar with three storied pedestal is situated. Its whole front is covered with delicate and beautiful ornaments, various size roses and other organic checks. According to the inscription on the khachkar it was built by Teri's son Hairadegh (it's not dated). By the foundation features it belongs to XIII c.

In the territory of the medieval cemetery in the south of the village a one-nave hall's (5,00x3,75 m) remainders preserved. It used to have a half-round bay, on the northern side of which a I I shaped window was set in stone. There is a curved processed stone in the eastern wall, by which as well as by the heavy walls (110, 125 m thick) it is supposed to have had a vaulted roof.

The entry half-buried in ground is from south. In the eastern and southern walls there used to be windows, the bottom border-stones of which show that they opened just a little. The remainders of the walls are mostly huge basalt slabs. Later on in the walls were added khachkars with their pedestals. It's easy to see that the bay and the top part of the western wall were restored, the small stones are pink felzit.

There is no exact data about the monument's construction. S. Jalalyan without mentioning the source writes that the church was built in 655.

The one-nave hall of Dsegh adds to the not too big number of one-nave medieval churches of Lori, that didn't have halls.

A tetrahedral construction leaning on a pedestal rising on three-stepped anchor is situated in the same cemetery, towards south-west from the remainders of the church.

The construction is incline broken and have had a top. The corners are rounded and covered with various ornaments. All four sides were curved. On the western part only seven square circles with chipped surfaces preserved. The southern part is decorated with grape leaves and bunch of grapes, by which it is like the curving of Ardvin's similar construction. The northern side is covered with pair of leaves in opposite directions. In the western side of the pedestal an equal-winged cross is pictured. On the southern side an inscription presented to Gavik and Khorishah is curved. Mkhitar is remembered as the scribe. The inscription might not be the construction's contemporary (names mentioned here meet in the XIII inscriptions of Bardzrakash St. Gregory convent).

The stairs are from red and light pink, the pedestal from red, the construction from yellow felzit stone.

In the south east of the construction, on three-stepped pedestal the Khachelutyan khachkar is situated, which stands out with high artistic, decorative ornaments. According to the inscription on the northern side of the construction Khilil's son Terun and his brothers built it in 1281. In the middle of the other medieval cemetery the Lusavorich church surrounded with low fence is situated. The building is completely reconstructed and there is little left from the original. In present it is a rectangle hall, on the eastern side o which the bay with two vestibules on its sides is situated. The rectangle bay stands out in the wall.

The remainders of the original building are the wall anchors and the bottom parts o the vestibule walls, built of basalt huge slabs.

The first reconstruction is connected with Mamikonyans. The vestibule of the chapel belongs to the number of ones, which in contrast to the original basalt remainders is built of yellowish-reddish felzit. Mamikonyans' family emblem preserved over the eastern window. On the southern wall a sun watch is curved, the numerals of the chapel are half-round as in many other medieval monuments (Haghpat, Sanahin, etc.). The chapel is only 3 m high, and its length was obviously changed. The frontal wall and the frame of the southern entry also preserved since Mamikonyans' times.

The building looks as present thank to 1900 reconstruction, during which the walls were almost completely renewed. An inscription on the frontal arch of the dome tells about its reconstruction.

The last, third reconstruction was in 1969 connected with founding a patriotic museum in the building.

The monument was noteworthy in different centuries and the reconstructions were dome by the peculiarities of those times.

GPS 40º 58.66 x 044º 39.54