Handaberd Monastery

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Handaberd Monastery interior. Copyright 2006 Arlen Dilsizian and Raffi Kojian.

Karabakh Region

A few more km past this gorge and you will see the small white row houses of the new Knaravan Village on your left, with a sheer rock rising up just past it, on top of which are the extensive and impressive Handaberd Fortress*, 600m south of the Lev River. With some foundations believed to date to the 5th century, most of the massive walls were built up over the centuries. Go through the village and up on your right hugging the hill along a well cleared trail, that eventually grows faint, but continue up to the top. Handaberd Monastery is on the slope opposite, with a terrible road leading up to it. Access to the road is up the road (keeping the houses on your right), taking your only left through the forest about half-way up the village.


3 Dec 04

A group of archeologists from the Institute of Archeology within the National Academy Sciences together with professors from Yerevan Polytechnic Institute and Nagorno Karabakh state university carried out excavations in the area of Handaberd monastery in Karabakh in August of the current year. The undertaking was financed by the Harutyunians from New Jersey, USA.

The major aim of the excavation was to prepare way for multifold researches as well as to partially reconstruct the monument. Historical documents inform that most of the buildings of the monastery were built in 1276 AD by father Davit. Architectural investigation indicates that the monastery was built around a chapel. The monument differs from other classic Armenian churches with construction methods and materials and allows the observers to understand the architecture of 13-14th centuries.

Handaberd Monastery exterior. Copyright 2006 Arlen Dilsizian and Raffi Kojian.

As a result of the excavations there were found khachkars

(cross-stones), tombstones and documents dating back to 12-14 centuries. The found numerous pieces of inscriptions evidence that literacy was widespread in Armenia. A khachkar with an engraved horseman holding a spear in one hand and a goblet in the other is a unique find. The examination of khachkars found in Artsakh show that people of Artsakh always revered defenders of the motherland.

Stiffened pieces of stone found during the excavation were stated to be flints after examinations carried out at the Archeological Institute. The flint can be worked out only artificially and in high temperatures. All the findings will be resting at the Archeological till the end of the excavations and the construction of Karabakh's would-be museum.

Prepared by Ruzan Poghosian

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