Difference between revisions of "Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook- Vayots Dzor Marz"

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== EXPLORING TAVUSH MARZ ==
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==EXPLORING VAYOTS DZOR==
  
Tavush Marz in the northeastern corner of Armenia offers a wonderful range of mountain and forest scenery sprinkled with beautifully sited historic monasteries.  Dilijan, nearest point of entry to the Marz, is only 90 minutes from Yerevan by good car via Lake Sevan, and is probably the best place to stay for an extended exploration, though there are hotels in Ijevan, Berd and Noyemberian as wellThe best-known destinations are Haghartsin, Goshavank, and Makaravank, but a series of other remote sites, particularly the cluster of monasteries in the forest near Kirants/Acharkut, repay with wild scenery, warm village hospitality, and adventure the difficulty of reaching them.  The visit lends itself to a formidable driving circuit, following the border to Noyemberian in the N and returning via Akhtala, Haghpat, Sanahin, and the main Georgia-Vanadzor road.  The mountain road from Chambarak to Berd is as starkly beautiful as any in the Mediterranean, and a splendid track traverses high summer pastures from Yenokavan to Noyemberian.
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Vayots Dzor is one of the most scenic and historically interesting regions of Armenia, centered on the watershed of the Arpa River and its tributaries before they flow SW into Nakhichevan to join the Arax riverMountainous and sparsely populated, Vayots Dzor (by popular etymology "the Gorge of Woes") is crowded with medieval monasteries, forts, caves, and camping spots.  The uplands have potential hiking/horseback/mountain bike tracks.  There are trout in the streams, and wild sheep, bear (protected) and smaller game in the mountains.  The marz capital is Yeghegnadzor, a 90 minute drive from Yerevan over the main N-S route.
  
Historically, the Tavush region came sometimes under Georgian and sometimes Armenian rulersBefore Armenia's short-lived independence in 1918-20, Tavush was part of the Yelizavetpol (now Gance in Azerbaijan) districtArmenia and Georgia fought a short, sharp war in 1919 to establish what became the Soviet-era border, whereas the border with Azerbaijan was dictated by geography and ethnography -- Armenia inherited the hills, Azerbaijan the broad river valleys of the Kura and its tributaries.  Where the rivers intruded into the hills, two Azerbaijani enclaves were captured in the 1988-94 hostilities.
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Day trips from Yerevan are easy and rewardingFor a fuller exploration, however, it is necessary either to camp or exploit one of the region's hotels or B&BsThere are a series of very nice newly remodeled sanatoria and hotels in Jermuk.
  
===Dilijan===
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The earliest historically recorded settlement in Vayots Dzor was at Moz, near Malishka, and there are scattered remains of Bronze and early Iron Age graveyards and "cyclopean" forts (built of large, unworked boulders, as if by Cyclopes) elsewhere.  The region flourished most mightily in the 13th-14th centuries, when a series of gifted and pious local rulers managed to coexist with the Mongols and other passing empires.  In 1604, the region was depopulated when Shah Abbas of Persia, fighting a series of fierce campaigns against the Ottomans in and over Armenia, forcibly relocated much of the Armenian community to Persia, both to strengthen his own domain economically and to leave scorched earth for the Turks.  In 1828, with the Russian conquest, thousands of  Armenians emigrated from Persia or Eastern Turkey to resettle the region.  Still, there are scattered remains of deserted hamlets.  In 1988, the population of the combined Yeghegnadzor and Vaik (Azizbekov) regions was perhaps 60,000, including 10,000 Azeri Muslims.
  
http://www.cilicia.com/pics/maps/dilijan_streetmap.GIF
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===East from Ararat -- Areni, Noravank (Map P)===
  
<table align=left><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/20000422-dilijan-oldtown_200.jpg<br><i>Old Town Dilijan</i></td></tr></table>
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After descending the Arax valley on the main S road from Yerevan, turn left at the Yeraskh traffic circle (straight will take you to the Nakhichevan border and possible disaster), and wind up through increasingly scenic hills until the watershed that marks the border between Ararat and Vayots Dzor.
<B>[http://www.cilicia.com/armo5_dilijan.html Dilijan]*</B> =75= (40 44.37n x 044 52.09e) (14846 p), was a major summer resort in Soviet times, blessed with a cool, moist climate, even in summer, and pleasant evergreen forests protected, in principle, by a large nature reserve that wraps around the town and extends along the SW bank of the Getik river.  There are hotels, pensionats, and bed & breakfasts of various descriptions, most notably the "Lernayin Hayastan" resort on the ridge S of town, formerly a spa for Soviet nomenklatura families, now controlled by the Defense Ministry but often available for tourists or seminars.  An <B>Old Town</B> section of Sharambeyan  Street has been restored and has an ethnographic museum plus a row of early 20th c. houses now serving a museum.  If the wood makers shop is open, it is very worthy of a stop in. Dilijan is rich in prehistoric tombs, including the Golovino Early Iron Age site 3 km on the Sevan road, and Redkin Lager Iron Age site 3 km along the Ijevan road on the Aghstev river.
 
  
===West of Dilijan -- Jukhtak Vank (Map N)===
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The first village one reaches once over the pass is <B>Yelpin</B> (1314 p, population came from Salmast in 1830) N of the road.  Climbing the mountain NNW of the village are traces of a medieval fort; in the village is a 14th c. Tukh Manuk shrine/pilgrimage site.  One km N are fine khachkars.  There are prehistoric caves nearby.  A dirt road leads about 12 km NW to a mineral spring, on a hill above which is a medieval church.  A dirt road N from Yelpin leads in about 10 km to Khndzorut (Elmalu) village with a ruined gavit/narthex and cemetery with inscriptions. The old road E toward Aghavnadzor passes a left turn at the ruined hamlet of Geshin, which leads in turn to a substantial fortified cave on the mountain slope.
  
<table align=left><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/DCP_0383_200.jpg<br><i>Jukhtak Monastery</i></td></tr></table>
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<B>Chiva</B>, turnoff left, (809 p) has a 10th c. church.  Just W of the village on the S side of the road is an early Christian cemetery with fine carved tombstones.  <B>Rind</B> (1378 p) E of Chiva, founded in 1967 to replace the old village of the same name abandoned due to slides. There is a cave-shrine 3 km NE of the 10-15th c.; Verin Ulgyugh, 1 km, 11-14th c., with S. Stepanos church, 13-14th c.
From the main Dilijan roundabout 3.2 km W of Dilijan on the Vanadzor (upper left) road, the N fork of a small roundabout leads under the orange railroad bridge about 2.7 km to the ornate iron gates of the Dilijan mineral water factory (less salty than Jermuk, this recently revived table water was in early 1999 trying to recapture a share of the Yerevan bottled water market). A dirt road (impassible to cars due to landslides) leads up to the right to (10 minutes on foot) <B>[http://www.cilicia.com/armo5_jukhtak.html Jukhtak Vank]*</B> (40 45.47n x 044 48.33e), nestled in an attractive forest grove with picnic tables.  The near church, St. Grigor, was built probably in the 11th or 12th cThe dome disappeared long ago, and the foundation and walls have been brutally reinforced against the collapsing soft stone below.  The W church, S. Astvatsatsin, has this inscription:  "In the year 1201, in the Amirdom of Lasha and the Khanate of (missing), I Hayrapet, abbot of S. Petros Monastery, built S. Astvatsatsin with the hope that every sunrise in both vestibules one mass will be offered for me and one for my brother Shmavon, and in all the churches for my parents." Khachkars. On the wooded slope somewhere opposite is <B>[http://www.cilicia.com/armo5_matosavank.html Matosavank]</B> monastery  (40 45.00n x 044 48.33e). The small church, dedicated to S. Astvatsatsin of Pghndzahank and dated 1247, was built under Avag Zakarian, son of Ivane, after he had pledged submission to the Mongols and become Georgian/Armenian military  leader for Mangu Khan, grandson of the great Genghis.   The hard to follow "trail" to Matosavank begins at the nature reserve sign on the road, shortly before the mineral factory. From here, take the left steep fork down and across the river towards the monastery which is up above in the woods.
 
  
Continuing W on the potholed but adequate former traffic artery paralleling the Aghstev river and railroad line, one soon enters Lori Marz bound for Vanadzor and Gyumri.
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<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/20000325-areni-church_200.jpg<br><i>S. Astvatsatsin of Areni</i></td></tr></table>
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The village of <B>Areni</B> (1730 p, formerly called Arpa) is famous for its wine, much of which is produced in Getap further down the road.  Visible to the right of the main road is the <B><A HREF=armo5_areni-church.html>Astvatsatsin</A></B> =40= (Mother of God) church of 1321, built during the tenure of Abbot Hovhannes.  The architecture as well as the carvings are the work of Momik, and there are interesting tombstones outside. To reach the church, turn S into the village, cross the bridge, and turn left on a clear road up to the church.  There are ruins of the medieval mansion of Tarsayich Orbelian in the valley and, reportedly, remains of a cyclopean fort SE of the village on the edge of gorge and a 13th c. bridge on the Arpa r. built by Bishop Sargis (1265-1287); further along the gorge toward Arpi, on a hill on the S rim of the gorge, is the ruined 13th c. fort of Ertij.  In Areni was found in 1981 an altar with a Greek inscription of AD 163 dedicating it to the Olympian Goddess on behalf of a Roman officer, Aemilius Ovalis, of the 15th Legion Apollinaris.
  
===East From Dilijan -- Haghartsin, Goshavank (Map N)===
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Turning south through the village of Areni, a paved road climbs up to spectacular views of the Noravank gorge, passing the hamlet of Amaghu.  Near Amaghu on a hill by the gorge are remains of a medieval fortress. On the right can be seen in the distance the recent fortifications along the border with Nakhichevan.  About 1 km before the village of <B>Khachik</B>, (938 p) visible on the right are the sadly ruined remains of the 9th c. <B>Karkopi</B> or Khotakerats ("grass-eaters") Vank.  The site owes its name to the vegetarian ascetics who used to live in the gorge, assembling only for Sunday prayers.  They were reined in and monasticized by Bishop Hovhannes III, who built them a church of 911 (several times rebuilt after earthquakes) with the support of Shushan, widow of Ashot I.  The gavit is 13th c. In the village itself is the Astvatsatsin basilica dated 1681.  Some 1.5 km E of the village are remains of Berdatagh ruined medieval castle.  There is supposed a Hngazard ruined medieval church 2 km NE.
  
Taking the road E from Dilijan, one reaches in 6.7 km the turn-off right (sign-posted in Armenian) for <B>Parz Lich</B> ("Clear Lake") =40= (40 45.18n x 044 57.71e)Cross the bridge over the Aghstev, bearing W, then take the left fork, which winds through about 8 km of forest to end at a modest green lake, banks slightly muddy (beware ringworm) but excellent for a picnic and forest hikes in a quiet, non-typical setting.  
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A kilometer past Areni on the main road to Yeghegnadzor is the turnoff right for Noravank, across the bridge and through a narrow gorge, whose stream has sadly disappeared into a large iron pipe. At the entrance to the gorge on the right is a cluster of high but shallow and unornamented caves, called Trchuneri Karayr (Bird Cave), in with Bronze Age child burials were found.  Further inside the gorge on the left is the Magil Cave =40=, going a considerable distance into the hillside. Magil cave has a bat colonyThe entrance is a small hole with a metal cable coming out of it to the left of a large vertical jagged opening in the hillside, but it is very easy to get lost inside, so take a guide unless you're a pro.  Further on note a huge boulder right of the road outfitted as a picnic site.  Beyond the caves, the gorge opens out and the monastery comes into view.  The paved road continues up and to the left, ending in a parking lot below the monastery.  
  
<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/20000422-haghartsin-general_200.jpg<br><i>Haghartsin Monastery</i></td></tr></table>
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A gravel road continuing up the canyon ends after a few meters amid a welter of khorovats detritus. Continuing on foot, at the iron gates for the water project one can continue straight along the left bank of the stream toward a concealed <B>picnic site</B> with table and fire circle (about 200 meters) or else follow a path that slopes up to the left. This latter passes below the little chapel of St. Pokas (Phokas), in which is the basin of a sacred spring and, according to a tradition that was already "old" when Bishop Stepanos Orbelian wrote about him in the late 13th century, the site of a seep of miraculous healing oil from Pokas's buried relics. The learned bishop wrote, "Here surprising miracles used to occurAll kinds of pains, whose cure by men was impossible, such as leprosy and long-infected and gangrenous wounds, were cured when people came here, bathed in the water and were anointed with the oilBut in cases where these were fatal, they expired immediately." Modest votive crosses show that the shrine remains veneratedPast St. Pokas, the narrow, occasionally steep, but clear path climbs along the canyon side to a series of broad ledges with beautiful views of the cliffs.  
Continuing E on the Ijevan road another 0.8 km, an unmarked paved road ascends steeply left under the railroad tracks near the village of <B>Teghut</B> (1207 p) and into a lovely wooded stream valley with picnic areas, culminating in <B>[http://www.cilicia.com/armo5_haghardzin.html Haghartsin Monastery]**</B> =100= (40 48.16n x 044 53.55e), one of Armenia's most evocative.  After passing the decaying remains of an ill-advised cable car, note funerary shrines with khachkars.  Reaching the monastery complex proper, first building on the left is the large vaulted dining room of 1248, one of only two such in Armenia (other at Haghpat), beyond which is a ruined service building with working ovenThe gavit (end of 12th c) was built at the behest of Ivane Zakarian against the small domed 10th c. church of S. GrigorThe small S. Stepanos church of 1244 is behindS. Astvatatsin church on the right, built or rebuilt in 1281, has high on the outside of the E wall a donation relief sculture showing the Zakarian brothers. Though the churches are locked, a local caretaker has the keys. Near contemporary Kirakos Gandzaketsi (tr. R. Bedrosian) had warm praise for:
 
  
<BLOCKQUOTE>
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<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/DCP_0186_200.jpg<br><i>Noravank</i></td></tr></table>
"the blessed vardapet Khachatur Taronatsi, director of the holy congregation of Haghartsin, a holy, virtuous man renowned for his learning, especially for his musical knowledge. He made the holy congregation which he directed sparkle; prior to his coming it was desolate and withered. The king of the Georgians, Giorgi, Tamar's father, especially esteemed Khachatur; and he gave to the church, under his own signature, two villages, Abasadzor and Tandzut, and a vineyard in Mijnashen. And by all the saints he placed a curse on anyone who dared to shore these properties from the monastery. ... [Khachatur] passed to Christ and is buried on the western side of the church."
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<B><A HREF=armo5_noravank.html>Noravank</A>**</B> ("New monastery") =90= (39 41.08n x 045 13.97e) was founded by Bishop Hovhannes, Abbot of Vahanavank (in Syunik W of Kapan), who moved there in 1105 and built the original S. Karapet church.  According to Stepanos Orbelian, Hovhannes went to the Persian (actually Seljuk) Sultan Mahmud and came back with a <I>firman</I> giving him possession.  He gathered religious folk, and established a rule barring women and lewd persons.  Unfortunately, the evil <I>amira</I> (lord) of the nearby castle of <B>Hraskaberd</B> (scanty ruins of which, not firmly identified, are somewhere in the hills SE) plotted to kill him and destroy the monastery. Hovhannes, who was gifted in languages, went to Isfahan, cured the Sultan's sick son, and came back with the title deeds to Hraskaberd and 12 nearby estates, and a trusty band of heavily armed men who pushed the amira and his family off a cliff.  A century later, Stepanos says, a group of "Persians" rebuilt Hraskaberd, but two lieutenants of the Zakarian brothers kicked them out in favor of Liparit Orbelian (see end of chapter) and reestablished the monastery's claim to the estates surrounding. Bishop Hovhannes led a holy life and worked numerous miracles, such as catching in his hands unharmed a woman and infant who fell off the cliff.
</BLOCKQUOTE>
 
  
There is an ancient nut tree just E of the Astvatsatsin, shading a fine view point, and various remains of graves, including "royal" graves of the Bagratuni family S of the S. Grigor church.  Admire the fine families of pigs rooting on the surrounding hillsideFive km N of Teghut were found and taken to the museum two Aramaic inscriptions of Artashes I (189-160 BC).  
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During the 13th and 14th centuries a series of princes of the Orbelian clan built churches which served as the burial site for the family.  The monastery became the center of the Syunik bishopric.  The nearest and grandest church is the <B>Astvatsatsin</B> ("Mother of God"), also called Burtelashen ("Burtel-built") in honor of Prince Burtel Orbelian, its donor.  The church, completed in 1339, is said to be the masterpiece of the talented sculptor and miniaturist Momik. In modern times the church has had a plain hipped roof, but in 1997 the drum and conical roof were rebuilt to reflect the original glory still attested by battered fragments. The ground floor contained elaborate tombs of Burtel and his familyNarrow steps projecting from the west façade lead up to the entrance to the church/oratoryNote the fine relief sculpture over the doors, Christ flanked by Peter and Paul.
  
Continuing E on the main road, first village is <B>Haghartsin</B> (3394 p, until recently called Kuybishev after the famous Bolshevik, till 1940 Zarkhej).  In the mountains somewhere north, 15 km W of Ijevan, in the locality of Dzorapor on the side of Mt. Aghjanots, are substantial remains of <B>Kayan Berd</B>, a castle that presided in medieval times over a substantial districtIt was probably build in the 10th century under King Ashot Yerkat, but was restored under various masters, including Atabek Ivane Zakarian.  Besieged here by the Mongols in 1236, Avag the son of Ivane prudently surrendered and became a valued Mongol allyThe castle was destroyed at the end of the 14th century during Timur Lenk's invasions.
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The earlier church is the S. Karapet, a cross-in square design with restored drum and dome built in 1216-1227, just N of the ruins of the original S. Karapet, destroyed in an earthquake.  Forming the western antechamber is an impressive <I>gavit</I> of 1261, decorated with splendid khachkars and with a series of inscribed gravestones in the floor. That of the historian/bishop Stepanos dated 1303 is toward the western door.  Note the famous carvings over the outside lintelThe side chapel of S. Grigor, built in 1275, contains more Orbelian family tombs, including a splendidly strange carved lion/human tombstone dated 1300, covering the grave of Elikum son of Prince Tarsayich and brother of Bishop StepanosAlas, nothing is preserved of the rich church ornaments and miraculous relics Stepanos and his predecessors assembled for the glory of God.  In its heyday, Noravank housed a piece of the True Cross stained with Christ's blood.  This wondrous relic, acquired forcibly by a notable family of Artsakh from a mysterious stranger after it raised a villager's dead child, was purchased by the Orbelians for cash when the family became refugees.  
  
<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/20000422-goshavank-approach_200.jpg<br><i>Goshavank</i></td></tr></table>
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Noravank was hot in July/August, even in the 13th cBishop Stepanos reports that the bishops and monks moved to Arates monastery in the mountains E of Shatin to avoid the summer heatSummer tourists should arrive early morning or late afternoon for a more pleasant visit.  The warm light on the red cliffs is spectacular as the sun sets.
At 15.8 km is the turnoff right (S) toward Gosh and Chambarak/Krasnosyelsk.  Take the first right up to <B>[http://www.cilicia.com/armo5_goshavank.html Goshavank]</A>*</B> =95= (40 43.79n x 044 59.82e) or Nor Getik Vank in the village of <B>Gosh</B> (1001 p).  The monastery was founded in 1188 by famous Armenian cleric, scientist, author and law-giver <B>Mkhitar Gosh</B> (died 1213) with the help of Prince Ivane Zakarian as replacement for Old Getik Vank (SW near Martuni in Gegharkunik, on the Jivikhlu road), which was destroyed by earthquake in 1188.  The monastic complex is large and well-endowed, and was for a brief period an important center of Armenian medieval cultureThe architect Mkhitar the Carpenter and his disciple Hovhanes also took an active part in building the monastery.  The rectangular room next to the reading room stands out from the rest of the complex by its walls of large unworked stonesIn all probability, this room is a holdover from an early Iron Age fortress built on the site perhaps 2000 years before.  The reading room of the monastery school itself is unusual, built in several stages, with a chapel/bell-tower built on top in 1291.  Note the intricately carved khachkar, the famous "Aserghnagorts" ("embroidered"), standing beside the S. Grigory church doorway, the work of Master Poghos, dated 1291.  Its mate was moved to the State History Museum in Yerevan.  The Gregory the Illuminator chapel is richly carved. There is a museum in the village, along with alleged remnants of Mkhitar's house; his tomb church stands in the village W of the monastery.  
 
  
St. Hripsime chapel (1254), situated south-west of the main group - a domed building, square in the plan, of an original composition. The church of Grigor Lusavorich was started in 1237 and finished by Prince Grigor-Tkha in 1241The book depository with a bell-tower in Goshavank is a structure of a most unusual composition. Originally, before 1241. there had been in its place a small building with niches for keeping books in and with a wooden "glkhatun" type ceiling. Adjacent to it on the western side was a vast premise which probably served as a refectory and an auditorium. It also had wooden roofing. Then, a two-floor bell-tower was built over the book depository. The second stage, accomplished in 1291 by the patrons Dasapet and Karapet, where the top -  a small church with two altar apses, crowned with a multicolumn rotund belfry - was completed. The entrance to the church was from the roof of the auditorium by a cantilever stone staircase.  
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<B>Arpi</B> (1061 p) founded in 1965.  About 6.4 km after Areni, just before the Arpi sign, the first road turning right to cross the Arpa r, leads in 7.6 km to an old guardhouse on the left and, immediately beyond on the right beside the road, the tin-covered entrance to the <B><A HREF=armo5_mozrovi.html>Mozrovi cave</A></B> =80=Discovered in the 1970s during road building, the easy to navigate first 400m is deep and full of spectacular colored stalagmite and stalactite formations. Entrance is perilous, through a hole in the cover and down a steep slope, and should not be attempted without an experienced caver. The deep Arjeri cave system =75?= and several others are in the same general area.  Another mile further up  is the village of Mozrov, (90 p), and, on an increasingly poor dirt road, <B>Gnishik</B>, (40 p) almost abandoned in 1975 due to landslides.  Some 2 km NE is Dali Khach ruined shrine. In the village are khachkars of 9-17th c. and a church of 1463. There are 1st millennium BC graves 2 km N of village; by bad road SE about 10 km is Hraseka berd of the 9-12th c.  Four km E of Gnishik are the remains of old Boloraberd village with a 13-14th c. Tukh Manuk chapel. S of Boloraberd are remains of Vardablur village with a ruined church and cemetery.  There is a medieval Vardablur fortress E. Some 4 km NE of Gnishik is the former Gandzak village with a medieval cemetery and church.
  
Among the memorial khachkars of Goshavank there are unique and highly artistic ones.  The khachkars created by the carver Pavgos in Goshavank stand out among the rest. The best of them is a 1291 khachkar with the maker's name carved in the bottom left star. This is a unique and highly artistic work. The finely carved lacy ornaments are arranged in layers in which the basic elements of the composition - a cross on a shield-shaped rosette and eight-pointed Starr filling the corners of the middle-cross section-show clearly. The intricate openwork ornaments vary - a clear-cut geometrical pattern constitutes the background, and the accentuating elements form a complicated combination of a floral and geometrical ornament which never repeats itself.
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===Selim Caravansaray and the Yeghegis Monasteries (Map P)===
  
Kirakos Gandzaketsi, who studied here in the 13th c and was author of "The History of Armenia", described Nor Getik and its benefactors (tr. R. Bedrosian):
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At 34.3 m is the Yeghegis River, with roads leading N to Getap on both sides of the stream.  Take the far (E) road, bypassing <B>Getap</B>, ("River bank", known until 1935 as Ghoytur, 1855 p), home of some of the Areni vintages.  Two km NE of Getap atop a hill are ruins of Aghli Vank church, with inscriptions. Continuing N along the Yeghegis R, note at 5.8 km the spur of a medieval bridge. 
  
:The marvellous vardapet and his monks then began work on the construction of a monastery and church in the above-mentioned Tandzut valley, by order of the great prince Ivane. They built a beautiful wooden church which was consecrated in the name of saint Gregory... At Nor Getik, at the head of the monastery, they also built a smaller church in the name of Saint John the Baptist, the ordainer of Christ, the greatest fruit of womankind. Then they began on the foundation of the glorious church built with dressed stones and [crowned] with a heavenly dome, a marvel to the beholder. [Construction] was begun in 640 A.E. [=1191], four years after Salahadin took Jerusalem, and it was completed in five years ... It was built by vardapet Mkhitar with his religious community with the aid of Vakhtang Khachenatsi, lord of Haterk and his brothers Grigor, Grigoris, Khoydan, and Vasak and other pious princes, Dawit and Sadun (the sons of Kurd) as well as their sister named Arzu khatun (Vakhtang Haterketsi's wife). This woman did much to help. She and her daughters made a beautiful curtain of the softest goats' hair as a covering for the holy altar; it was a marvel to behold. It was dyed with variegated colors like a piece of carving with pictures accurately drawn on it showing the Incarnation of the Savior and other saints. It astonished those who saw it. Beholders would bless God for giving women the knowledge of tapestry-making and the genius of embroidery, as is said in Job, for it was no less than the altar ornaments Beseliel and Eghiab fashioned [Exodus 36.1]; nor is it bold to say so, for the same spirit moved them both. Not only did the woman make a curtain for this church at Getik, but for other churches as well, Haghbat, Makaravank and Dadivank; for she was a great lover of the Church, and very pious.
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At 9.1 km is the first turnoff to the right for <B>Shatin</B> (see below). Continuing straight (N), now along the Selim river, you seen on the left at <B>Hors</B> (305 p), with the Chibukh Kyorpi bridge of the 14th c.; the tomb of Chesar Orbelian, and a 14th c. church with khachkars. On the right is <B>Salli</B> (226 p); then on the left <B>Taratumb</B>, (543 p), with a khachkar of 1251 and a church of 1880; again on the right is <B>Karaglukh</B>, (801 p). Some 3 km S on a high plateau are the ruined 13th c. walls of Mamasi Vank, built according to medieval legend to house the relicts of St. Mamas, carried back to Armenia by the princes of Syunik from Caesaria in Asia Minor in the 4th c.  The 13th c. church is called S. Poghos (St. Paul). On a hill 3 km  E of Karaglukh is a simple Tukh Manuk shrine built by the ruins of a substantial earlier church.  There are numerous khachkars.
  
:The pre-consecration festival at Getik was conducted with great throngs of people attending. Among those present was Yovhannes, the bishop of Haghbat, a virtuous and blessed man as well as a multitude of priests and servitors. And they consecrated the church in the name of the blessed Mother of God.  
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<B>Aghnjadzor</B> (431 p) (formerly Aghkend, a mixed Armenian/Azeri village, with church/cemetery), is the site of <B>Lernantsk Caravansaray</B>, located about a kilometer N of the village, appearing east of the road like a half-buried Quonset hut.  Take the dirt road just past the bridge, crossing the early bridge and heading up the stream valley. A smaller and cruder structure than the Selim Caravansaray, it was built in roughly the same period.  A one-nave caravanserai built from basalt, the foundation date isn't known. A smaller hall is covered with a cylindrical vault supported by arches. There are stony troughs inside. The only entry is from the western side. This monument too is lit by means of the roofing, which together with some other data shows the influence of Armenian residential architecture on that of caravanserais. Four km N are the so-called Kapuyt Berd ("Blue Fort") ruins.  
  
:They also constructed a beautiful parvis of dressed stones for the church. The great general Zakare and his brother Ivane provided much support, for they held the princeship of the district and they so loved the holy vardapet (for in confession, Zakare was his spiritual son). They gave the church [extensive] land bounded by streams [extending] from mountain to mountain, as well as a mine in Abasadzor, and Zoradzor in the district of Bjni, and Ashawan above the monastery. They themselves also built a village close to a small lake of immense depth, naming the village after the lake Tzrkatsov (for in it swam many marsh-loving, mud-loving reptiles), as well as another smaller village below the monastery which they named Urhelanj. They also built many other chapels in the name of the blessed Apostles and the holy Hripsime.  
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Shortly beyond, the new, Lincy funded road begins to switchback up the mountain toward the Selim Pass. It is a brand new smooth road all the way to Lake Sevan, but ask about passability in the winter months.  
  
:Because Mkhitar loved deserts and uninhabited places, he made his home distant from the monastery. There he built a small wooden church in the name of the Holy Spirit. In his old age he built a church as a mausoleum for himself above the monastery on the right. It was made with dressed stones and lime and named for the Resurrection of Christ.This venerable man of whom we spoke above, reached great old age, having kept his faith. But when he saw that his bodily strength was failing and that he was close to joining his fathers, he called the residents of the congregation of Nor Getik who had shared with him in all the labors of the church and monastery, and he blessed them and his students in the name of the Lord.
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ADD SELIM PHOTO!!!
  
:Selecting one of them, named Martiros, who had studied with him and was his intimate, Mkhitar appointed him as their director. Martiros was a youth but perfected in learning, a man mellifluous in the songs of worship, a great reader and a speedy writer. Mkhitar commanded him to direct them. And he wrote a will to the great hazarapet Ivane, Zakare's brother, and entrusted to him the monastery and its director. Then he himself, white-haired and ripe in age, passed from this world to Christ.  
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<B><A HREF=armo5_selim.html>Selim Caravansaray</A>**</B> =80= (39 56.97n x 045 14.20e) lies below the road just before the summit on the south side of Selim Pass (2410 m), a splendid relic of the days when an international trade route connected Vayots Dzor to the Sevan basin and points North. According to the Armenian inscription on the right inside the door, Prince Chesar Orbelian and his brothers built this rest-house in 1332 in the reign of Abu Said Il Khan, "the ruler of the world," whose death in 1335 deprived the world of an enlightened Mongol despot and ushered in a new wave of invasions. The Persian inscription on the outside lintel (almost effaced by recent vandals, gives the date 1326-7. The Armenian inscription reads: 
  
:The director of the monastery, Martiros, together with the congregation handsomely saw to the proper requirements for the spiritual and physical burial of Mkhitar. They laid him to rest before the door of the smaller church which stands above the monastery on the west side. And to this day Mkhitar's grave aids those in pain who take refuge in his prayers, in faith; and people always take soil from that place to cure sick people and animals, for God glorifies those that glorify Him, in life and in death.  
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:"In the name of the Almighty and powerful God, in the year 1332, in the world-rule of Busaid Khan, I Chesar son of Prince of Princes Liparit and my mother Ana, grandson of Ivane, and my brothers, handsome as lions, the princes Burtel, Smbat and Elikom of the Orbelian nation, and my wife Khorishah daughter of Vardan [and ...] of the Senikarimans, built this spiritual house with our own funds for the salvation of our souls and those of our parents and brothers reposing in Christ, and of my living brothers and sons Sargis, Hovhannes the priest, Kurd and Vardan.  We beseech you, passers-by, remember us in Christ.  The beginning of the house [took place] in the high-priesthood of Esai, and the end, thanks to his prayers, in the year 1332.
  
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The best preserved caravansaray in Armenia, Selim saw reconstruction during the 1950s.  It is built of basalt blocks, with a cavernous central hall for animals separated from the two vaulted side aisles by rows of stone mangers.  A chapel which once abutted the E side of the caravanserai is now in parial ruins.  Bring a flashlight (though the dim light through the smoke holes in the roof adds a proper medieval flavor).  There is a little spring/fountain monument just uphill beyond the caravansaray. The bad road continues N over the pass and ultimately to Martuni.
  
Continuing S of Gosh toward Chambarak/Krasnosyelsk on a worsening road, one reaches <B>Khachardzan</B> (373 p, formerly the Azeri village of Polad), with a church W of the village, and then <B>Aghavnavank</B> (379 p), until recently the Azeri village of Salah, with Anapat-Astvatsatsin church of the 11-13th c. and an early bridge on the Getik river.  From Khachardzan, a rough road goes W to Chermakavan (formerly Azeri Aghkilisa) and Geghatap (formerly Chichakbulagh)  There is a ruined 11-13th c. church nearby.
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===Shatin and Eastward -- Tsakhatskar, Smbataberd (Map P)===
  
Just W of the Ijevan road N of the Gosh turn-off is <B>Hovk</B> (489 p), originally Aghkikhlu?, until recently Samed Vurghun (named after the Lenin Prize-winning Azeri poet/dramatist, 1906-1956, author of some fine works but also patriotic tracts such as "Partisans of the Ukraine" and "On Reading Lenin", famed for his laconic style)Nearby are ruins of a church and cemeteryOn the summit of a hill E of the Aghstev 12 km SW of Ijevan is the 7-9th c. fortress of Mantash or Karakala, one of several candidates to be the historical Kayan BerdAnother 4 km SW of Mantash is an Aghjkaberd (Maiden Castle) on a wooded hillThere is a church and some cisterns in the fort.
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<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/20000414-shativank-general_200.jpg<br><i>Shativank</i></td></tr></table>
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At 10.0 km from the Yeghegnadzor road is the second turn-off for <B>Shatin</B>, (1683 p, till 1935 Hasankend), where the Yeghegis river turns E.  Main attraction is <B><A HREF=armo5_shativank.html>Shativank</A>*</B> =65= (39 50.50n x 045 19.61e), a fortified monastery 3km E up the gorge.  <B>Directions:</B>  Toward the far end of the village, take the right fort down to the bridge and cross.  About 150 m further, take the right fork and then, about .5 further, the left fork steeply up to a tiny cemeteryFrom there, a jeep road winds up and around to the monasteryPreferable option, particularly for the jeepless, is to walk up the gorge, a rewarding 45-minute climb.  The path can be found by taking the left fork above the bridge, going about 100 m until 15 meters before a white-painted garage gate. On the right, between a telephone pole and an iron rod, a faint trail ascends steeply.  At the power pylon on the spine to the left, the path becomes wide and clearInside a substantial fortification wall, Shativank consists of the S. Sion Church rebuilt in 1665, two-story monks and guest quarters (SE corner is best preserved), a grain storage silo (NW), khachkars, and (outside the walls SE) a waterworksOther antiquities in the vicinity reportedly include Berdakar fort (2 km S, 5th c.), Shatin bridge, a shrine S, and a 10th c. church in Hostun.
  
The name <B>"<!A HREF=armo5_ijevan.html>Ijevan</A>"</B> (15370 p) means "Inn," reflecting the Tavush capital's previous name of Karvansara, aka Istibulagh, stopping place on an important E-W road and also, since 1870, of the railroadIn the place called Hamam-Jala on the bank of the Aghstev are remains of a medieval caravansarayThe entrance to the town is marked by the massive wine factory saying Ijevan on top of it's towerOn the N side of the main road at the W end of town (cannon outside) is a small historical/ethnographic museum reopened in 1999, with a diorama commemorating the entry of the Red Army in 1920.  Ijevan has a large rug factory, and wood product factories. There is a 200-bed high-rise hotel built in 1969 on the N side of the main road. Across from the <i>shuka</i> you can cross the bridge over the river and quickly reach the new church financed by a Boston Armenian. In the SW part of town is a S. Hovhannes church. Chamber tombs near the city hospital and a late bronze age cemetery on the left bank of river attest early occupation of the siteCrossing the Aghstev river by the bridge on the W end of town, a right turn leads to <B>Gandzakar</B> (3244 p, till 1978 Aghdan) with S. Gevorg church, a S. Kiraki chapel of 1286, Budur cyclopean fort E atop Budur mountain, with two 12-13th c. churches with khachkars in the forest nearby. To the W of upper Gandzakar is the ruined medieval Tanik fortThere is supposed to be a ruined "Ashot Yerkat" fort 6 km SWHowever, another source says the Ashot Yerkat fort is 7 km W of Ijevan.  From Gandzakar the road winds up a narrow set of unpaved switchbacks toward Berd and the Shamsadin region.
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<table align=left><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/20000414-tsakhatskar-general_200.jpg<br><i>Tsakhatskar Monastery</i></td></tr></table>
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<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/20000414-smbatabert-backwall_200.jpg<br><i>Smbataberd</i></td></tr></table>
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Going E from Shatin, one follows the Yeghegis river upstream. Note that many of the village names have changed since 1988, along with the populationAt the first fork beyond Shatin, signposted "Tsakhatskar Vank 13 km", turning left (N) on a paved road brings one to <B>Artabuynk</B> (1054 p, until 1946 Erdapin, then Yeghegis until the recent transfer of populations, when Alayaz reclaimed the name.) Its inhabitants were brought in 1830 from Khoy regionFollow the lower road parallel to the stream until about 1 km past the villageAn unmarked jeep track angles steeply down to the right, fords the stream, and climbs up. Just after passing a spring on your right.  The left fork (and left again) leads (6 km NE of village) to the splendid ruined <B><A HREF=armo5_tsakhatskar.html>Tsakhatskar Monastery</A>**</B> =90= (39 53.42n x 045 21.25e), with S. Hovhannes church of 989, S. Karapet church of the 10th c, and a host of other ruined buildings set apart from the two churches, decorated with splendid khachkars, on the flank of the mountainRetracing the track and taking the first right fork leads to the 9th century fortress of <B><A HREF=armo5_smbatabert.html>Smbatabert</A>**</B> =90= (39 52.35n x 045 20.34e). This spectacular castle sits on the crest of the ridge between Artabuynk and Yeghegis (or, as most people still call them, Yeghegis and Alayaz), and includes an upper citadelThe castle received water from a buried clay pipe leading from the monasteryAccording to legend, the Turks compelled the fort's surrender by employing a thirsty horse to sniff out the pipeline.
  
===The Shamsadin District -- Khoranashat, Varagavank (Map O)===
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Beyond Artabuynk on the main dirt road is <B>Horbategh</B> (283 p), with S. Hreshtakapetats (Holy Archangels) Church, rebuilt in 1692, and khachkars.
  
A remote and beautiful part of Armenia along the NE border with Azerbaijan, the former Shamsadin district is comprised of three deep river valleys, the Hakhum, Tavush, and Khndzorut, all running N to the Kura in Azerbaijan from the Miapor mountain range, with high ridges in betweenThe region took its name (Arabic "sun of the faith") from the Turkic Shamsh-od-Dinlu tribe, once its predominant occupants. At the end of the 18th c., this region was claimed both by the Kingdom of Georgia and by Javad Khan of Ganja. Russia cheerfully espoused the Georgian claim and occupied the district (which they called Shamshadil) in 1801, despite occasional raids by Javad Khan's forces. A few decades later, having meanwhile on January 2, 1804 stormed the Ganja fortress and killed the Khan, the Russians conceded to geography and transferred the district back to Ganja/Yelizavetpol guberniaThough part of Kazakh uezd, Shamsadin ended up in Armenia in 1919The predominant population in the early 19th century was nomadic, though a Russian survey of 1804 listed 42 Muslim villages (some now in Azerbaijan) and two Armenian (Choratan and Krzen, with 227 people), paying taxes to the chief of the Ayrumlu tribeLocals say Shamsadin has been entirely Armenian since the 1950s or before.  The region has a collection of interesting Armenian monasteries, mostly remote and difficult of access.  Care should be exercised in areas near the Azerbaijan border, since occasional firing incidents occur.
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<table align=left><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/20000325-zorats-face_200.jpg<br><i>Zorats Cathedral</i></td></tr></table>
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Returning through Artabuynk to the main E-W paved road, one soon reaches the village of <B>Yeghegis*</B> (488 p, until 1994 Alayaz), historically Armenian, as attested by the rich sprinkling of antiquities.  When its Azeri inhabitants departed, the houses were occupied by Armenians, half refugees from Sumgait in Azerbaijan and half locals seeking a house and land of their own.  Entering the village, one sees on the left a stone enclosure with khachkars commemorating the Orbelian familyLeft on a narrow village road takes one first to the Astvatsatsin basilica, rebuilt in 1703, then to a small domed 13th c. church of S. Karapet with cemetery and then, on a green hill E of town a few meters past S. Karapet, where the road turns left, <B><A HREF=armo5_zorats.html>S. Zorats cathedral</A>*</B> =65= (39 33.06n x 046 01.74e) or S. Stepanos, built in 1303 by a grandson of Prince Tarsayich Orbelian. This is a pretty unique church design, not only for Armenia, but in general.  The congregation is meant to stand outside facing the open-air altar.  The church has been extensively restored.  Its name comes allegedly from the custom of consecrating arms and horses there before battle.  In the NW part of the village, incorporated into house and garden walls, are substantial remains of cyclopean walls and caves/cellarsRight of the road inside the village is a small ruined basilicaIn 2000, a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem  under Professor Michael Stone excavated on the S side of the Yeghegis river opposite the village (take the road that winds under the damaged Azeri cemetary and cross the footbridge) a <B>Jewish cemetery</B> with some 40 gravestones with Hebrew inscriptions, attesting to the existence of a literate and prosperous Jewish community in Yeghegis in the 1200'sSomewhere on the mountain a few km NE are ruins of 13th c. Gyulum Bulaghi Vank (probably Upper Noravank, attested in manuscripts).
  
There are three access roads into the region. First is a spectacular mountain road that leaves from the NW edge of Ttujur, just beyond Chambarak/Krasnosyelsk, and follows the ridge between the Hayrum and Tavush rivers to Navur.  Second is a road that goes E from the N extremity of the Ijevan-Kazakh road, following the Azerbaijani borderThird, shortest looking on the map but the most difficult, is a poor dirt road that switchbacks up from the S edge of Ijevan, through Ganzakar and thence to Itsakar and Berd.  
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<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/P1005305_25p_200.jpg<br><i>Arates Monastery</i></td></tr></table>
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A few km E on the main road is <B>Hermon</B>, (214 p), until recently Ghavushugh. Guney Vank, plausibly identified with the anciently attested monastic center Hermoni Vank, of the 9-17th c, is somewhere nearby up a difficult road, with S. Grigor Lusavorich church and a 12-13th c. cemetery.  N of Hermon is the former village of Kalasar, with scant remains of a church and cemetery.  Taking the left fork in Hermon, and then the next left (signposted for Arates Vank), an asphalt road winds N to a small military checkpoint, beyond which is the village of <B>Arates</B> (formerly the Azeri village of Ghzlgyul, 0 p)<B><A HREF=armo5_arates.html>Arates Vank</A>*</B> =50= has the 7th c. S. Sion church; Astvatsatsin of 10th c. church; and S. Karapet of 13th c. church; a ruined gavit built in 1265/70, by order of Prince Smbat Orbelian, architect Siranes under Abbot Hayrapet.  Dirt roads lead beyond into the mountains.
  
From Krasnosyelsk/Chambarak E of Lake Sevan, the road NW along the Getik river passes <B>Ttujur</B> and (8.4 km from the Krasnosyelsk junction) turns back to the right on a smooth, partly asphalted roadFrom this turn-off, the road reaches the marz boundary/watershed at 5.8 km, and then a series of hamlets for pasturing animals during the summerAt 28.5 km is a modern monument from 1988, with picnic tables made from old millstones and an ornamental fortress inscribed "Eternal is my paternal earth." At 41.3 km is an impressive equestrian statue (1993?) of General Andranik facing fiercely toward Azerbaijan, with a small child? clutched to his chest.  Beside this is the well-tended grave of Mushegh "Papo" Asrian, commander of the Navur self-defense forceskilled in 1990 in an auto accident near Hrazdan (or else, by a more poetic narrative, sacrificed in Karabakh). At 42 km is the intersection with the Itsakar-Berd road.  Turning left one soon reaches the little village of <B>Itsakar</B> (378 p) on the road back to Ijevan.  Turning right, one enters <B>Navur</B>, (1236 p), with a series of ruined 3rd-1st millennium forts: Tandzut fort, 1st millennium BC (5 km S); Berdi Glukh fort, early 1st mill. BC (S edge of town); Kari Glukh cyclopean fort; Srtner fort, 6-4th c. BC (small hill 6 km W); Dashti Berd cyclopean fort (3km SW) has substantial wall remains. 
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Keeping right at the turnoff for Arates, one climbs to the village of <B>Vardahovit</B> (179 p, formerly the three Azeri hamlets of Gyulliduz (with huge khachkar), Gharaghaya, Gyadikvank)The current population (130 families in summer, 30 in winter) is half refugees from Azerbaijan, half localsWhen the weather holds, they scratch out a bare existence with wheat and potatoes. Continuing straight through the village, a deteriorating dirt road leads to the large, totally ruined hamlet of Gyadikvank, which has, left of the road, a few khachkars and worked blocks from a disappeared monastery. According to the mayor, the inhabitants of Gyadikvank were removed, with compensation, before the Karabakh crisis, with the aim of building a reservoir. Somewhere a few km NE is supposedly a monastery of the 10th c, Kotur Vank/Ghoturvan, with a church of 1271. Beyond Gyadikvank, the jeep track leads on through the mountains to Vardenis and Kelbajar.
  
<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/DCP_6959_25p_200.jpg<br><i>Kaptavank</i></td></tr></table>
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Returning to Hermon, the other (S) fork leads in 3.2 km up to <B>Goghtanik</B> (236 p, formerly Ghabakhlu), with an artificial cave, a 13th c. bridge, and 13th c. church. Climbing out of the Yeghegis R. valley, the road becomes a mud track, impassible in winter (summit of pass 8.6 km from Hermon). On the far side of the pass (15.7 km), on the Herher river, is <B>Karmrashen</B>, (317 p, 65 families, originally Kyotanli), from 1963 a construction site for the Arpa-Sevan tunnel, which was completed in 2000(?).  On a hill E are ruins of a small church, and 1.5 km SW are ruins of two more. There is a carved votive to Saints Peter and Paul, set up by Prince Elikum Orbelian in 1291, one km S of town.
Turning N in Navur, just before reaching the town of Berd, an adequate dirt road leads to <B>Chinchin</B>, (702 p). The 13th c. (or maybe 1151) <A HREF=armo5_kaptavank.html><B>Kaptavank Monastery</B></A> (Blue Monastery) =50= (40 53.00n x 045 18.75e) lies W of the road, only about 1 km N of Navur but a stiff hike over the ridge. Alternately, there is a dirt track from Itsakar, towards the end of the long village, that rises up and again gets you pretty close to the monastery before the mud stops you (4x4 needed) with only a 15 minute walk to go. In the environs of the church well up very cold springs. The monastery, sited in a glade, is surrounded by picturesque ravines and wooded mountains. Only one church remains of the former cloister complex. Ruins of the vestibule and other buildings join the S & E wall. The church, built in the mid-XII c (according to the inscription on the western wall was illuminated in 1151) is almost square outside, and has a rectangular hall inside. In the inscriptions it is referred to as the Church of the Holy Virgin. The church is primarily built of roughly trimmed and broken limestone of a bluish tint, most likely the source of the name. The cloister was at one time surrounded with fortification walls, outside of which there were dwellings which have not survived.  
 
  
50m from the church to the SE a historical cemetery is situated, with three holes found to its N. Lime was obtained by burning limestone in these holes. Some meters distant to the SW on the slopes of deep and rocky inaccessible ravines there are walls, built of rough stone and lime mortar, which were small sanctuaries.  
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The road improves markedly at <B>Herher</B>, (719 p) with its Surp Sion Monastery one km NE on a hilltop, first attested in the 8th c.  There are S. Sion and Astvatsatsin churches. On the interior S wall of the latter, an inscription reads:  "By the will of Almighty God, this is the memorial inscription and the indelible monument of the glorious Baron Varham, son of Vasak, grandson of the great Magistros, and of his pious wife Sandoukht and of their handsome offspring Ukan, and of the powerful and great general Varham, and of his Christ-loving mother Mamkan, and the well-born lady wife of Gontza, who built this church with much toil and ornamented it with rich plate for my long life and that of my wife and our children Ukan ...  An offering to the Holy Monastery in 732/AD 1283."
  
Three km W of Chinchin, looking down on the Hakhum river valley, is the 6-4th c. cyclopean fortress of Berdakar.
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In the village itself is a 19th c. S. Gevorg church and, just S, Grigor Lusavorich shrine (1296), with S. Gevorg or Chiki Vank of 1297; SE 1 km is the small Kapuyt Berd ("Blue Castle") on a summit; various other ruins nearby, including a ruined village with 14th c. khachkars.  In the 13th c, Herher was fief of the Orbelian vassals, the Shahurnetsi family. The Herher road rejoins the main Yeghegnadzor-Goris road about 6.5 km E of Vaik.
  
<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/DCP_6921_25p_200.jpg<br><i>Berd Town</i></td></tr></table>
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===Yeghegnadzor and Environs -- Tanahat, Boloraberd (Map P)===
The road from Navur to Berd passes a modest chapel on the right of the road.  <A HREF=armo5_berd.html><B>Berd</B></A> (40 52.80n x 045 23.59e) (8435 p), formerly Tovuzghala on the Tavush river has a rundown hotel (no running water) and a school founded in 1871.  To reach the sketchy but picturesque walls of Tavush Fort (9-10th c. or 10-13th), for which the city is named, take the right fork at the entrance to town, cross the river and head up and left; there are also traces of cyclopean walls in the central park, a cemetery of the 5-4th c. BC, and a small museum. Some 3-4 km E are S. Sargis and S. Nshan shrines.
 
  
Beyond Berd's castle, the road continues to <B>Verin Karmiraghbyur</B> (1879 p), founded in 1860, but with S. Hovhannes church of 1701. Below the village, the right fork leads to the large village of <B>Artsvaberd</B>  (3216 p, formerly Ghighi or Gharaghaya -- restaurant but no hotel, khachkars in village.  On the NW edge of the village is a Late Bronze Age tomb field.  Reportedly, S. Zoravar church is 3 km W on the edge of a gorge.  Three km NW are remains of Mamaslu cyclopean fortress.  One km S is an important Late Bronze/Early Iron Age tomb field of Horjin Horer.  W are Sprikghalacha fortress remains.
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<B>Aghavnadzor</B>, (1939 p) has 13th c. Aghjkaberd fort 1 km E; S. Astvatsatsin Church of 12th c. 4km NE, with funerary monument of 1009; ruined caravansaray 4 km NW; and 4 km N the Ul Gyughi 13-14th c. church.
  
<table align=left><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/DCP_5296_200.jpg<br><i>Khoranashat</i></td></tr></table>
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<B><A HREF=armo5_yegh.html>Yeghegnadzor</A></B>, (7724 p), historically Yeghegik, an ancient seat of the Orbelian family, until 1935 Keshishkend, from 1935-57 called Mikoyan.  Turning left up the main road into town, bear left to pass the hotel (60 rooms, bleak), then bear right100 m beyond on the left is a white building with round doorway destined to be the Museum, once funds are found to set up the exhibitsA small display room in the basement shows interesting medieval pottery, while the storerooms contain everything from fossils to spinning wheels. At the west side of town is a 17th c. church of S. Sargis, still in useImmediately beyond it is a fortified mound surrounded by a cyclopean wallYeghegnadzor's cannery, cheese factory, rug factory  are moribund.
From Artsvaberd, the road descends to the Khndzorut River.  Turning right on the bumpy dirt road leads up the river to a military post at a reservoirReportedly, a bad jeep track continues SW beyond the roadblock through walnut groves, ultimately to join the Krasnosyelsk road. Turning left toward Aigezdor, after 2.5 km a rough dirt track drops right across the Khndzorut to follow the Akhinja (or Hakhinja) tributary upstream to a little picnic area with a 1986 monument to General Andranik and the FedayiThe track presumably continues to Azerbaijan, not recommended at this time.  Continuing NE along the Khndzorut, one reaches <B>Aigedzor</B>, (2553 p, until 1939 Ghulali) has S. Hripsime Church of the 5-6th c. in the village below the school.  NE of the village atop the mountain named for Salkari Vank is a 6-4th c. fortress. There are also remains of Yereg Vank Berd medieval fortress, also called Kzkalasi, a refuge during various medieval invasionsContinuing N, one reaches the village of <B>Chinari</B> (1165 p), visible from which to the NE is <B><A HREF=armo5_khoranashat.html>Khoranashat Vank</A>*</B> =90= (40 51.66n x 045 35.96e) of 1211-20, with a </I>gavit</I> of 1222. Khoranashat is built of bluish basaltBecause of <i>occasional sniping incidents</i>, it is advisable to check with villagers before visiting the monastery (bear right through the village, then follow the dirt road left and up). Per Dr. Robert Bedrosian, the 13th century Kirakos Gandaketsi studied here under one of Mkhitar Gosh's students, the historian Yovhannes Vanakan (d. 1251). "When the Khwarazmian sultan Jalal al-Din ravaged Khoranashat in 1225, Vanakan fled with his students to a nearby cave, near the village of Lorut, south of Tawush. He continued teaching there until 1236 when a Mongol army under Molar-noyin occupied Tawush. Both Vanakan and Kirakos were taken captive by the Mongols and kept as secretaries for several months. Eventually, Vanakan was ransomed by the Christians of Gag for eighty dahekans, and Kirakos escaped secretly the same night.". In the vicinity of Chinari there are reportedly shrines of the 13-17th c., and 1st millenium BC graves.  At one time there was a large settlement around Khoranashat, which was surrounded with large fortification walls, with gates decorated with columns. There were numerous residences situated on an enclosed territoryas well as pavilions housing mineral springs.
 
  
From Artsvaberd, a road leads N to <B>Choratan</B> (1042 p), with S. Hripsime church of 1683 and a 17th c. shrine. From there, a road NW leads to <B>Norashen</B> (1717 p), reportedly with a museum; Soviet biologist A. Avagian was born here; on the S end of Norashen is a cyclopean fort called Pilor Pat. 5 km SW on the left of road leading to mountains is a ruined fort of 5-4th c. BC, source of rich finds during excavation. North toward the border is <B>Mosesgegh</B> (1978 p), with unspecified churches, shrines, and caves nearby.  The road NW to <B>Aigepar</B> (542 p, founded in 1937, until 1967 "the town connected to the fermentation factory") and <B>Nerkin Karmiraghbyur</B> (993 p, church of 16-19th c., ruins of Shenategh, khachkars of S. Sargis and S. Khach) passes dangerously close to the border.
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<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/20000325-tanahati_200.jpg<br><i>Tanahati Vank + Gladzor University ruins</i></td></tr></table>
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Continuing N up the road past the Museum, one reaches the village of <B>Gladzor</B> (2095 p) until 1946 Ortakend; inhabitants came from Soma, Iran in 1830. There is the so-called Vardani berd of the 9th c. on SW edge, with khachkars; also 1692 S. Hreshtakapet (Archangel) church. Continuing, the road reaches <B>Vernashen</B>, (1170 p, historical name Srkoghovk, known till 1946 as Bashkend) site of the Masis shoe factory.  Inhabitants came from Salmast in 1829. In village, S. Hakob church of 17th c. built with earlier carved blocks, has been converted into a <B>museum for the Gladzor university</B>.  There are photographs and maps charting the existence of  educational institutions in Armenia, and the influence of Gladzor and its pupils.  Outside the door are seven modern khachkars representing the trivium and quadrivium, the 7 branches of medieval learning.  <B><A HREF=armo5_gladzor.html>Tanahati Vank</A>*</B> (or Tanade) =75= (40 44.37n x 044 52.09e), the actual site of the university is 7 km SE continuing along the same narrow paved road.  The S. Stepanos church was built 1273-79 by the Proshian family (family crest of eagle with lamb in its claws carved in S wall, with the Orbelian crest of lion and bull near it). Here is the story of S. Stepanos, as told by Kirakos Gandzaketsi (tr. R. Bedrosian)
  
<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/DCP_6881_25p_200.jpg<br><i>Shkhmuradi Vank</i></td></tr></table>
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:At this time, in the year 222 A.E. [= 773], Step'annos, the court priest, who was recognized as an eloquent man, attained mastery of all scholarly and grammatical knowledge, with spiritual virtue. In Armenia there were select, enlightening vardapets then, [among them] lords Ep'rem, Anastas, Xach'ik and Dawit' Horhomayets'i, and the great scholar Step'annos Siwnets'i, a pupil of Movses, whom we recalled above. Step'annos was a translator from the Greek to the Armenian language who, beyond his translations, wrote spiritual songs of sweet melody, sharakans, kts'urds (anthems), and other songs. He also wrote brief commentaries on the Gospels, on grammar, on the Book of Job and [the hymn] "Lord, that the edge of night..." (Ter et'e shrt'ants'n gisheroy). It is said that from childhood, the blessed Step'annos was versed in the writings of holy men. Aspet Smbat, a Diophysite, was antagonistic toward Step'annos. So Step'annos left him in disagreement and went to Rome where he found a certain orthodox hermit with whom he stayed and learned from. Now when Smbat heard about this, he wrote to the Byzantine emperor [informing him] that Step'annos was a heretic who anathematized the emperor's confession, and that he was [66] staying with a certain hermit named such-and-such. The emperor became furious and ordered Step'annos to court. But the hermit first advised him to say about himself: "I am a beggar and a wanderer". When the emperor heard this, his angry rage subsided. Becoming bold, Step'annos entreated the emperor to open the trunks of sacred writings for him. Finding there a book with golden letters containing an account of the faith, he showed it to the emperor. [The latter] upon reading it, sent Step'annos to the city of Rome to bring thence three similar books about the true faith, so that the country be converted to that religion.  
Returning to the Berd roundabout, the main road N leads (left fork) to the attractive village of <B>Zavenavan</B> (1560 p. until recently -- or maybe still -- <B>Tovuz</B>), with an Astvatsatsin church by the road, a S. Gevorg sacred site, the Tavush and Katsaret forts and a rock-cut grotto (vimapor karayr) somewhere in the vicinity.  Continuing, one passes on the left an unmarked dirt road to Chinchin and then descends steeply into the valley of the Hakhum river, and <B>Tsaghkavan</B> (985 p, until 1939 Veligegh)  The important <B><A HREF=armo5_shkhmuradi.html>Shkhmuradi Vank</A></B> =65= (40 54.87n x 045 18.14e) of the 12-13th c. with S. Astvatsatsin church built in 1181, is west of  town about 6 km up the river valley. The "Khoranik" building was situated on the E part of the complex and its entry opened to the small vestibule. The one-nave vaulted church, built of unprocessed stone, is now destroyed. In partly preserved walls longitudinal canals can be seen, in which were put logs, that gave the construction seismic-protection. An inscription on the W wall, dated using the Hovanes Sarkavag system, says Khoranik was built in 1149 -- making it the oldest building of the ensemble. The construction got its name from the word "zkhoraniks" in the same inscription150 m up from the monastery is 6-5th c. fortress called Kalkar.  Some 2 km N of Kalkar and 1.5 km N of the road to Shkhmuradi Vank is another similar fort called Sevkareri Blur. One km NE of this fort is a third, Sevkareri Takht on the left bank of the Hakhum River.  In front of the cattle breeding farm of Tsaghkavan village on the right bank of the river is another cyclopean fort called Baghri Khach.
 
  
<table align=left><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/DCP_5382_200.jpg<br><i>Nor Varagavank</i></td></tr></table>
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:Now Step'annos, heedless of the autocrat's order, took the books from Rome and went to the city of Dwin in order to enlighten his country with them. And lord Dawit' ordained Step'annos bishop of Siwnik', at the request of K'urd and Babgen, princes of Siwnik'. After occupying the episcopacy for only a year, [Step'annos] was slain by a whore from Moz district. His body was taken to a chamber in Arkaz; from there they laid it to rest in the monastery of T'anahat. The venerable Step'annos brought the writings to the bishopric of Siwnik'; three ranks for the bishops of Armenia were established. Now a certain cenobite named Noah (Noy), saw a vision in which Step'annos' breast was covered with blood as he stood before the Savior, saying: "Behold this, Lord,for Your judgements are righteous". Notifying the cenobites in the district about the coming wrath, he admonished them to prayThen behold, from On High an impenetrable darkness enveloped the borders of Moz, and the place shook for forty days. Ten thousand people were buried [in the earthquake], for which reason the place was named Vayots' Dzor [Valley of Sighs], as it still is today. For those in pain, and those who are ill, there is much healing in Step'annos' relics, for those who seek the intercession of the blessed man. In this world God glorifies those who glorify Him, while in the next world, He gives them good things He has prepared, [things] "which eye has not seen, which ear has not heard, and which the heart of mankind has not experienced" [I Corinthians 2, 9].
Next village E is <B>Varagavan</B> (476 v). To reach the charmingly sited monastery of <B><A HREF=armo5_nor-varagavank.html>Nor Varagavank</A>*</B> =85= (40 57.70n x 045 19.68e), with S. Astvatsatsin church of 1237, Anapat 1198, David Ishkhan tomb/shrine 13th c, enter the village at the cemetery, then follow the main road through the village (when in doubt, always bear left), about 4.5 km through pleasant woodsBuilt of trimmed creme colored stone with greenish hues, the complex has a few attached churches and chapels which are in various states of collapse and frozen reconstruction. With some very nice, khachkars, the show-stopper is the portal to the main church, with a puzzle of salmon and green stones, each carved with incredible intricacy and each carving unique. The complex is the result of building activities of the owners of Nor Berd- the Kyurikids. The cloister was the center of episcopacy and played an important role in their lives. The religious and cultural figure Hovanes Tuetsi resided at Nor Varagavank during the XIII c. In XIX c the abbot of the cloister was Grigor Manucharyan, who in 1804-1828 together with his volunteer detachment took an active part in freeing Eastern Armenia.  
 
  
In XII-XIII cc sources the ensemble is called Anapat. The newer name of Nor Varagavank is the evidence of one of the most horrible periods of history of Armenia. Running away from the original Varagavank (near Lake Van, in Anatolia) which was destroyed by the Mongol's invasion, Patriarch Luke, who had a "Surb Nshan" (cross) with him, wandered looking for a new place and finally stopped at Anapat Monastery, which in honor of Varagavank was renamed Nor (new) Varagavank.  
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<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/20000413-arkazi-exterior_200.jpg<br><i>Arkazi S. Khach Church</i></td></tr></table>
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Varaga S. Nshan shrine of 13th c adjoins S. Stepanos Church. South of it, among the ruins of the educational buildings, are foundations of a small 5th c. basilica.  The site was excavated in 1970 by I. Gharibian. Gladzor University flourished from 1291 till the 1340s and was a bastion of Armenia's theological resistance to Uniate Catholicism.  About 3 km E of Tanahati Vank is <B><A HREF=armo5_arkazi.html>Arkazi S. Khach</A></B> (Holy Cross) Vank =30= (39 46.80n x 045 25.30e), a church completely rebuilt in 1870-71, still a significant pilgrimage site particularly on October 8 or 11.  According to legend, a piece of the true Cross, given by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius to the wife of Burtegh, ruler of Syunik, was buried in the walls.  
  
Surb Nshan Church, the oldest of the complex is situated on the SE part of the complex. It was built by the son of Vasak I, grandson of Kyurike II - David Bagratuni in 1198. The two-storeyed burial vault joins the northern wall of the church Surb Nshan. The same David built it in 1200 as an ancestral script. The two-storeyed chapel joins the church Surb Nshan from south. It was built in the beginning of XIII c. It is supposed that the top tiers of either building served as side-chapels for the church. A removable ladder was used to access them.  
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<table align=left><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/DCP_3974_200.jpg<br><i>Boloraberd</i></td></tr></table>
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<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/DCP_3952_200.jpg<br><i>Spitakavor Vank</i></td></tr></table>
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<B><A HREF=armo5_boloraberd.html>Boloraberd</A>*</B> or Proshaberd =40= 39 49.83n x 045 22.53e), is 6-7 km N of Vernashen on a poor jeep track (L just beyond Gladzor U. Museum, then left at dead end upon another dirt road.  Right just before the first house you reach, and go a long way until a small black and white sign where you take your final right.  Soon, Spitakavor Monastery will appear on your left, then the fortress atop the huge rock outcrop on your right.  Don't try this in wet or muddy conditions.) The fortress was built in 13th c. by Prince Prosh, namesake of the Proshian family; shrine to E. About one km distant is the <B><A HREF=armo5_spitakavor.html>Spitakavor S. Astvatsatsin church</A>*</B> =70= (39 49.75n x 045 21.87e), built in 1321 by the Proshians, with a bell tower of 1330 and rich sculptural decoration similar to that of Noravank and perhaps by the same artists.  There are traces of a ruined 5th c. basilica.  {Along a short path below the picnic area is a spring}  In the yard of the monastery are buried the earthly remains of the famous Turk-fighter Garegin Nzhdeh, brought secretly to Armenia in 1983. Nzhdeh, born Garegin Ter-Harutyunian in 1886, the son of a village priest in Nakhichevan, led an Armenian band fighting alongside the Bulgarians in the 1912 First Balkan War. He then led a combined Armenian-Yezidi volunteer detachment against the Turks in WWI. In the 1919-21 battles for Armenian independence, Nzhdeh led the Armenian irregular forces in Zangezur (now S. Syunik Marz). Forced into exile with the Sovietization of Armenia, Nzhdeh pursued fruitless negotiations with Nazi Germany in hopes of redeeming the lost Armenian lands of Eastern Turkey. He died in a Soviet prison in 1955.  
  
Astvadzadzin Church is the most important building of the complex. According to the inscription and information, given by Kirakos Gandzaketsi, it was built in 1224-1237 by David's son Vasak II, and was illuminated in 1240. The architect was Gazan from Ani. A small vestibule joins the southern wall of the church and adjoins all three buildings of the Anapat complex (the original part of the ensemble). It was built in second quarter of the XIII c. The big vestibule is situated in the western part of the main church. By the northern and partly by the western walls it joins the rocks of the mountain. It was built after the small vestibule in the XIII c. The vestibule has two entries from southern and eastern facades (the latter is a rare example of cult architecture). To the southwest and northwest of the complex two chapels (XIII c) are situated, by which there is an old cemetery. The large khachkar with images of human figures in the big vestibule was created by master Vardan in 1620.  
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Some 150 meters E past the main turnoff into downtown Yeghegnazdor, a paved road goes S toward <B>Agarakadzor</B>, (1204 p), just across the Arpa. Immediately after crossing the bridge, turn right and follow the dirt road downstream about 2 km to the well-preserved <B>13th c. bridge*</B> which served once the road to Julfa. There is a 13-15th c. graveyard 2km E of town. On the N bank of the Arpa somewhere nearby is the abandoned site of Erdes with a ruined medieval castle and a small church.
  
<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/DCP_6802_25p_200.jpg<br><i>Srveghi Vank</i></td></tr></table>
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===Moving East to Vayk (Map P)===
N beyond Varagavan and E at the intersection, <B>Paravakar</B> (1649 p) has shrines, khachkars, and other minor ruins.  Turning W instead, the village of <B>Vazashen</B> (757 p) has Karmir Kar ruined fort and churches.  WNW toward the border is the ruined 10-13th c monastery of Honut in the abandoned village of the same name.  <B>Aigehovit</B> (2909 p, until 1969 Uzuntala) has the red brick walled <A HREF=armo5_srveghi.html><B>Srveghi Vank*</B></A> =70= (40 57.92n x 045 14.65e) of the 12-13th c. on the skyline SW of the village, with an inscription:  "In the year 1252 we Artavazd and Sargis built this church by the hand of master Hovhannes."  There is also a S. Sargis shrine, Kotrats Yeghtsi ("Broken church"), and an 18th c. (Persian period) guard tower on the right bank of the Aghstev. 
 
  
ADDITIONAL SRVEGHI INFO?
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Some 3 km E beyond the large and active village of <B>Malishka</B> (4204 p with brand new church), a dirt road right leads to the sparse remains of Moz, the original city of Vayots Dzor, ruined by earthquake in the 8th c.  There is a Bronze Age burial ground, an early fort and church of the 7th c. Other smaller sites in the Malishka region reportedly include Ghaluchay fort 2 km SE, 13-15th c.; Solyani fort in Doshalti. A once-paved road about 4 km E of Malishka crosses the Arpa and ends at <B>Zedea</B> (160 p) formerly Zeita, a small mountain village with a few khachkars amid bleak but interesting scenery.
  
===East of Ijevan (Map N)===
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<B>Vayk</B> (5458 p) (originally Soylan, from 1956-1994 Azizbekov, named for one of the few ethnic Azeris among the famous 26 Baku commissars, vanguard of Azerbaijan's largely ethnic Armenian proletariat, whose short-lived Bolshevik government of Baku was deposed as the Turkish army approached.  Fleeing to Turkmenistan, the 26 were detained and finally executed in September 1918 by jittery local authorities after the British refused to take them), on the Arpa r.; Tigran Hotel, restaurants.  One km E is a bridge rebuilt by General Paskevich in 1827.
  
<B>Getahovit</B> (2020 p) and <B>Yenokavan</B> (568 p) lie N of the road, on either side of the Sarnajur (formerly Tala) river.  West of Getahovit is the ruined Iritsi Aghbyur medieval settlement with church and cemetery.  Until 1935 called Krdevan, Yenokavan was named after early Communist Yenok Mkrtumyan, who founded the first party cell in the region. On the S. edge of Yenokavan, perched on a rock overlooking the scenic gorge, is a small church with medieval tombstones.  About a km S, down inside the gorge, reachable only on foot, is an Astvatsatsin church of the 13th c.  Some 17 km W is the Okonakhach church. There are anciently inhabited caves in the river valleyAt the NE end of the village overlooking the gorge is the 6-5th c. BC Astghi Blur with cyclopean walls and a huge tomb field. The main dirt road through Yenokavan bears right and up the ridge, traversing the <B>starkly beautiful mountain pastures of the Ijevan Mt. Range*</B>.  This road, passible April-November (barely) by street car, serves various yaylas inhabited only in summer, and leads in some 66 km to the main Azatamut-Noyemberian road just S of Noyemberian. This may be the best road to Samsoni Vank. Eight km NW of Yenokavan on this road, atop a hill, is Berdategh Early Armenian cyclopean fortressSomewhere toward the Noyemberian end of the road is a village called Gomshavar with, 2 km E in a spot called Dondar, remains of a Bronze Age settlement.
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Somewhere N above Vaik is <B>Arin</B> (240 p) formerly Daylakhlu, founded in the mid-19th c. on an older siteSouth from Vaik is <B>Azatek</B> (565 p), with a 17-18th c. church and ruins of a castle locally called Smbataberd; residents came from Salmast in 1828.  Two km S is S. Hakop shrine of 1072, with S. Marinos shrine nearbyThe disused village of Por has a 19th c. church and a medieval cemetery.
  
<B>Lusadzor</B> (598 p) is 7 km E of Ijevan; until 1935 it was called Khavaradzor; S and W are medieval remains with khachkars.  On the W end is an Iron Age cemetery.  There is a recent church.  E of the main road is the village of <B>Khashtarak</B> (1741 p), with a recent church; W and SE are abandoned medieval settlements with khachkars.  Beyond, a road continues S to <B>Lusahovit</B> (332 p, until 1978 Tsrviz), with the <B>Moro-Dzoro or Tsrviz Vank</B> of the 5-12th c.. Atabek Ivane Zakarian sponsored the rebuilding of the dome of the Astvatsatsin Church in 1213.  Among the rich inscriptions is one by King Georgi of Georgia (1156-84) the father of Queen Tamar, freeing the monastery from taxes and endowing it with land.  The Tsrviz medieval settlement nearby has khachkars.  Continuing E toward the border, <B>Aknaghbyur</B> (476 p) -- until 1967 Nerkin Aghdan, from 1967-70 Morut -- is left of the road.  East of the village near a spring is a huge oak tree, legendarily planted by sparapet Vardan Mamikonian in 450 AD, used as a pilgrimage site.
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===Southern Vayots Dzor (Map P)===
  
<B>Ditavan</B> (417 p) was founded in the beginning of the 19th c., and until 1967 was called RevazluIt has a bentonite mine. <B>Azatamut</B> (1863 p, till 1978 the Bentonite Combinat) is the end of the road, travel into Azerbaijan blocked by an impromptu barricade and cautionary whistles from the locals.  A road turns S up toward Aigehovit and the Shamsadin district.
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Crossing the second bridge after leaving Vaik puts one on the paved road to <B>Zaritap</B> (1333 p), (until 1935 Pashaghu, then until 1957 Azizbekov), with 13th c. khachkars, a modern church, and traces of an old fort.  A regional tobacco centerContinuing straight past Zaritap, one takes the unmarked left fork to reach the newer section of <B>Martiros</B> village (656 p).  At the military barracks, turn left and bear left again to reach in 2 km the older part of Martiros, founded, as a huge <B>khachkar</B> still attests, in 1283 at the command of Prince Prosh and his son Paron Hasan.  Opposite the khachkar is a basilica built in 1866 and extensively rebuilt in the 1980s, including half-finished buildings for a future theological academy.  A local woman named Taguhi Zeldian saw a vision here, and inspired the All-Holy Trinity Second Jerusalem church.
  
===North to Noyemberian -- Makaravank, Kirants (Map N)===
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Just before entering this part of Martiros, a dirt road forks right, around the hill and across a flat field.  Stop at the far edge, and follow the slope around to the left (E) toward a lone khachkar with several tumbled monument bases.  A rough track SE follows a water channel around to a small dam in the gorge.  Cross it, and climb about 100 m to a little door in the rock leading to the <B><A HREF=armo5_martiroscavechurch.html>rock-cut S. Astvatsatsin church</A></B> =30= (39 35.17n x 045 31.28e) and side chapel, founded by Matevos vardapet in 1286 at the behest of the Proshians (who also built the rock-cut Geghard).  There is an underground passage, now blocked, to the stream, and caves below left of the church.
  
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The right fork in new Martiros leads to <B>Sers</B> (221 p).  The right fork closer to Zaritap on the Zaritap-Martiros road leads to <B>Khndzorut</B> (515 p, 19th c. church), until 1946 Almalu (Turkish name also means "apple-ish").  Somewhere NW of Khndzorut is the abandoned site of <B>Horadis</B>, with a church of 1668.  Gulistan village near Khndzorut has a ruined fortress S.  Bardzruni village further E has a small church used as a shop.
  
The Azatamut-Noyemberian road forks left (N) off the main Ijevan-Kazakh road a few km before the Azeri border.  The road, paved and in reasonably good condition, parallels the border, and at Askipara/Voskepar cuts through occupied Azeri territory, but is normally safe for travelHowever, the villages of Barekamavan and Shavarshavan, E of Baghanis, should probably be avoided, as the target of occasional heavy machinegun fireNote that the most commonly available Armenian map fails to show the accurate border.
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Turning E through Zaritap, a left fork leads to <B>Akhta</B>, populated by Azeris until 1990, now with a single occupant.  The cemetery has ram and other animal-shaped tombstones.  The right fork leads to <B>Gomk</B>, (260 p) formerly Gomur, with a 17th c. church and an important shrine/khachkar of 1263The inscription reads, "In 712 of the Armenian era, under the pious Prince Prosh, Mkhitar, Arevik, son of Khoidan, set up this cross and chapelIn the village there was not even a church; we have built this church with our own means with much trouble, for us and our parents.  You who read, remember us in your prayers."  <B>Kapuyt</B> has various khachkars and inscriptions of the 10-15th c.
  
What makes this road worth the frisson of driving through a war zone is a cluster of medieval churches set in lovely stream valleys amid the wooded hills W of the road.  Also, those of a philosophical bent can profitably contemplate the <B>destroyed and looted remains</B> of Yukari (upper) and Ashagi (lower) Askipara, an Azerbaijani enclave and salient reduced in fierce fighting in 1992. Cows and sheep graze among the roofless remains, a reminder of how quickly a prosperous village of the late 20th c. can become an archaeological site.
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===Jermuk and Eastward -- Gndevank (Map P)===
  
<table align=left><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/DCP_4636_200.jpg<br><i>Makaravank</i></td></tr></table>
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<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/P1005522_25p_200.jpg<br><i>Gndevank</i></td></tr></table>
Almost immediately after taking the left fork toward Noyemberian, an unsignposted paved road turns W to the village of <B>Achajur</B> (3901 p). Continuing on the main road through the village, at the top a muddy but passable asphalt/dirt road bears left (generally SW), winding along about 6 km (taking the main fork each time, if in doubt go right) to the beautifully situated hillside monastery of <B><A HREF=armo5_makaravank.html>Makaravank</A>*</B> =85= (40 58.45n x 045 07.65e).  First is a picnic area next to an ancient springPassing through the gate in the circuit wall, the main church of 1205, built by Vardan son of Prince Bazaz, is on the right, and the gavit on the left.  The facade of the gavit, which was built with a donation from Prince Vache Vachutian in 1224, bears sculptures of a sphinx and a lion attacking a bullInside the gavit, one reaches the earliest church, of the 10th or 11th cOutside, E of these, is a small Astvatsatsin church built by Abbot Yovhannes in 1198 in memory of his parents and brothers, with sculpted portalBeside it is a small ruined chapel.
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Continuing on toward Jermuk, in the gorge of the Arpa river, below the village of <B>Gndevaz</B>, (960 p, Astvatsatsin church of 1686, water channel of 11th c.), is <B><A HREF=armo5_gndevank.html>Gndevank</A>*</B> =65= (39 45.53n 045 36.69e) This monastery was founded in 936 by Princess Sofia of Syunik, who reportedly boasted that "Vayots Dzor was a jewelless ring, but I built this as the jewel on it." Inside the S. Stepanos church of 936 is a wall-painting of Mary and the Christ child, thought to be contemporary with the churchThe gavit, built during the time of Abbot Kristapor, dates to 999, but the monastery circuit wall is late medieval.  The monastery is surrounded with high walls.  in the southern and western parts of the precincts are rows of domestic buildings for the use of the monks. The restoration works on the church and the jhamatun, damaged by earthquakes, were undertaken between 1965 and 1969 thanks to financial aid from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, in Lisbon.  Gndevank can be reached by taking the narrow road on the W side of the river (this "old Jermuk road", though in disrepair and narrow, is a very scenic route and unless you don't mind a serious hike, much easier as you can drive right up to the monastery which is across a little bridge on the rightThe whole old road has nice natural surroundings and a stream and is perfect for camping, hiking, and dirt biking), or by taking the main Jermuk road, turning left till the far lower edge of Gndevaz, and walking about 2 km (?)The village of <B>Kechut</B> has three ruined churches of the 7th, 13th and 17th cKhachkars from there were used to build a later bridge over the Arpa.
  
At the NW edge of Achajur is the Tmbadir Early Armenian fortress. Also near Achajur, about 2 km NW on a flat hilltop near Sevkar, is a ruined Nahatak (martyr) church probably of the 17th c, with an 8-7th c. BC fortSome 3km NW of the village on a wooded height is S. Hovhannes churchIn the SW part of the village is an old settlement with khachkars; 3 km SW are remains of Old Achajur with remnants of a medieval fortress, identified as Kayan Berd, atop Paytatap Mountain.  There is an old shrine on the S slope.  A dirt road winds 25 km SW from the W end of Achajur to intersect with another from Yenokavan, near which intersection is the Early Iron Age fort of Bardzraberd.
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<table align=left><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/P1005501_25p_200.jpg<br><i>Jermuk Waterfall</i></td></tr></table>
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<B><A HREF=armo5_jermuk.html>Jermuk</A></B> =70= (39 50.38n 045 40.25e), (5146 p) on the Arpa r., 2080 m elevationNamed for the hot springs (up to 65  C), source of the famous fizzy waterThere is a picturesque waterfall, interesting walks, a rock formation in the shape of Vardan Mamikonian, and the possibility of a cure of most human ailments at one of the many sanatoriums, where, for about $10, you can soak in a bathtub of piping hot mineral water for exactly 15 minutes before the Soviet nurses begin frantically warning you that you are going to "overdose" on the medicinal water if you do not get out right away.  There is a nice tiny roadside pool across the river from the waterfall if you prefer to relax uninterrupted for free. The entire resort area has undergone massive renewal and is once again a popular destination. A rich village in medieval times, its remains are under the modern buildings.
  
Returning to the Noyemberian road, a by-road left leads to <B>Sevkar</B> (2104 p), with 14th c. churchAn underground Communist Party cell was founded here in 1919. Next comes <B>Sarigyugh</B> (1104 p), birthplace of a whole herd of Heroes of Socialist Labor.  On a little hill on the W edge of the village is a cyclopean fort of the 8-7th c. BC; cist graves 1 km W of village.  Ruins of Tsakageghtsi church are located on summit of little hill 3 km W near another small Iron Age fortress.  The village of <B>Berkaber</B> (454 p, formerly Joghaz) is on a small road right, near a small reservoir just inside the border.  It has a wood-roofed church and khachkars.  About 1 km W of Berkaber on the Joghaz river is the Gavarzin medieval fort (dangerously near the border)Even more dangerous would be the climb to medieval Gaga Berd on the border summit W of Berkaber.  A spur road left from the main road leads to <B>Tsaghkavan</B> (542 p), with S. Hakob Church and 12-13th c. khachkars.
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A right turn (S) at or just after the main turnoff for Gndevaz and Jermuk leads to <B>Artavan</B> (425 p), with 18th c. bridge, cemetery, probably a fief of TatevContinuing on takes one to <B>Saravan</B> (317 p, till 1956 Darb, Azeri until 1988), with a 17th c. church and some medieval gravestones, and <B>Ughedzor</B>, formerly Kochbek, on the Darb river.  At the summit of the pass, one enters the Marz of Syunik (Map K).
  
<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/DCP_6748_25p_200.jpg<br><i>Arakelots Vank</i></td></tr></table>
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<B>Kirants</B> (223 v, until 1967 Getashen, historically ?) lies above the N bank of the Askipara, Karkhan or Kunen river. A bit further W, straddling the river, is <B>Acharkut</B> (202 p, once Kunen), a formerly mixed village founded in 1930 as part of a forestry collective but occupying part of a once major 9-10th c. town site.  On the N bank is an early church.  On the slope S of Acharkut by the bridge, a dirt road winds uphill to a ramshackle cemetery church of S. Astvatsatsin (inscription reads:  "In the year 1675 I Melikshahnazar son of Melikaslamaz of the Herume clan, and my wife Khanzate built S. Astvatsatsin by the hand of Master Hakop.") and a picnic area beyond.  At the W edge of Acharkut, on the N side of the stream (medieval Sranots bridge somewhere nearby), the main village road ends at a locked gate, which a neighbor (on the right) will open.  About 1 km W of the gate, overlooking the muddy, rutted but passable track (ideal for mountain bikes), are the ruined but interesting remains of a caravansaray below the 13th c. <B><A HREF=armo5_arakelotsvank.html>Arakelots (Apostles') Monastery</A>*</B> =60= (41 02.00n x 045 04.28e) complex.  About 80 m further, a jeep track branches uphill to the monastery proper, visible on the crest of the hill in dense forest.  Though the church is unimpressive, the forest setting, the mossy tombstones and substantial remains of the defensive circuit make this a rewarding site.  Note the interesting <I>jhamatun</I> roof, which is built using the <I>hazarashen</i> method.  The Hazareshen method normally uses square timber, being stacked in smaller and smaller squares at 45 degree angles, somewhat like a pyramid.  That same method is employed using stone at Arakelots.  There is a ruined chapel on the next hill as well.  Supposedly, 2 km NE of Arakelots Vank on a flat place on the mountain ridge is the little church and khachkar of Khndzorut.
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<B>The Orbelian Princes</B><BR>
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<FONT SIZE=-1>By <I>Brady Keisling</I><BR>
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To reach the remote but unique 13th-14th c. Kirants Monastery, continue upstream.  After another 5 km or so, one branch of the road turns left, crossing the Zayghoshani bridge (with Persian inscription:  in the year of the Hijra 1207, early 19th c.) and ascending S (a few dozen meters past the bridge - up to your right, then veering left) toward <B>Deghdznuti Vank</B> (40 59.84n x 045 01.80e) of the 13th c. (1 km or so) and <B>Samsoni Vank</B> (40 58.29n x 045 02.11e), another 6 km S of Deghdznuti (more reachable from Yenokavan).  Deghdznuti has a domed 12-13th c. church, a shrine and another small church.  The ruins are fantastic, with fine architecture and carvingsInscriptions ask that we remember Atabek Sadun (1260-80??) as well as the financer of Haghpat, Ter Hovhannes IV (1257-80??). On the right bank of the Khndzorkut river, atop a mountain between Deghdznuti and Samsoni Vank is supposed to be the Berdakar medieval fort, with cisterns.
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The Orbelian lords of Syunik were a fascinating family, documented in inscriptions throughout Vayots Dzor and Syunik, and recorded by the family bishop Stepanos in his 1297 History of Syunik. They traced their legendary origin back to China (or at any rate somewhere east and exotic), but from the 4th through 12th century were a major feudal family in Georgia, with their home base the fortress of Orbet in or near AbkhaziaIn the late 12th century, their leader Ivane led his whole extended clan on the losing side in a power struggle between the deceased king's young heir, Ivane's protege Demetre, and the king's brother Georgi.  Ivane sent his brother Liparit and nephews Elikum and Ivane to the Persians in Tabriz for help, but this new army came too late, after Ivane had been blinded, his family strangled, and young Demetre blinded and castrated.  
  
<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/DCP_4582_200.jpg<br><i>Kirants Vank</i></td></tr></table>
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Liparit died in exile. One son, Ivane, returned to Georgia when the situation cooled down; his descendants, on their dwindled estates, stayed prominent in Georgia and even the USSRHonored by the Persian atabek, other son Elikum stayed and became an important official, converting (half-heartedly and maybe not at all) to Islam and dying in one of the atabek's warsHe left behind a widow, sister of an Armenian bishop of Syunik, and a young son LiparitThese quickly became, involuntarily, the wife and step-son of a Muslim notable in Nakhichevan.  
Back along the main river track, at about 8 km from the gate on the main W track is a splendid modern local monument, a monumental stone-built picnic site with <B>open-air museum*</B> above -- a rock overhang closed with an iron grating, with local agricultural and household implements from the 19th cContinuing upstream, dodging rocks and deep ruts, one finally sees at about 10 km <B><A HREF=armo5_kirants.html>Kirants Monastery</A>*</B> =90= (41 00.68n x 044 59.50e), 13-14th c.  The main church is unusual for its brick construction and colored tile decoration.  {It is a very impressive and unusual monastery with burnt bricks, glazed tile accents, interior frescos, and a gorgeous setting in one of Armenia's lushest forestsIt consists of three churches, two tunnel-vestibules, a refectory, and remainders of dwelling and auxiliary constructions, encircled in fortified walls with wide vaulted gates.  Passages inside the church walls lead up to the dome. Most of the buildings are built of baked tuff (burnt brick) and from this point of view the ensemble presents one of the unique erections of medieval Armenian architecture (like Srveghi Monastery, situated in the same region). The main church and the refectory were plastered with lime mortar and covered with frescos inside, some of which remain. Georgian inscriptions in the frescoes show the complex belonged to the Chalcedonian religion. Remainders of dwelling and commercial constructions of the community are preserved on the southern side of the complex. It is hard to reach with most of the road being so rutted, but well worth it if you can make it.  Drive along the dirt road with the river to your left without crossing until absolutely necessary.  After crossing once, you will soon cross again, and the monastery will be in a clearing above the river, just a few minutes walk from the crossingSomewhere around Deghdznuti Vank would have been Mahkanaberd, the fortress capital of the Artsruni family, who enjoyed quasi-autonomy in the area in the 11-12th c.
 
  
Bumping back to the main road, you cross imperceptibly into a projecting piece of Azerbaijan and the destroyed Azeri village of Lower Askipara. However, the de facto boundary in 1999 runs along a line of hills about 3 km further EThe spur road left takes one back into Armenia, the village of <B>Voskepar</B> (883 p) just W of the road, with a brand new little church by the highway.  Still standing on the edge of the ruins of Askipara, intact/restored despite use in the fighting as a machine gun nest, is <B>Astvatsatsin Church</B> of the 7th c, visible from the roadSomewhere near are traces of a 10-11th c. castle. A deteriorating road W from Voskepar leads one to a lovely stream valley filled with the skeletal houses of <B>Upper Askipara</B> (Verin Aghsibara), a piece of Azerbaijani territory entirely surrounded by Armenia and separated from Lower Askipara by VoskeparAt the W end of the village is an 18th (?) c. tower fort with arrow slits.  One km beyond is a medieval stone bridge.  Taking the road further upstream, the right fork allegedly leads to a large ruined church beyond a former collective farm complex.
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In the year 1211 a combined Georgian and Armenian army under Ivane Zakarian wrested control of Syunik from the TurksRemembering the Orbelians -- whose dominant role in Georgia the Zakarians had since filled -- Ivane made a search, located Liparit thanks to the bishop brother-in-law, and established him as feudal lord of Vayots DzorBolstered by marriage alliances with its feudal relations the Khaghbakians or <B>Proshians</B> and others, the Orbelians flourished, building or supporting a network of fine monasteries, historically important manuscripts, and inscribed khachkarsEvery medieval monastery in Vayots Dzor bears inscriptions recording their patronage.  
  
Astvatsatsin Church PHOTO ABOVE!!!!!!!!
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The Mongol arrival imposed the need for fast footwork.  In 1251 and 1256, the prudent and multi-lingual Orbelian prince Smbat made arduous pilgrimages to Karakorum, armed with a splendid jewel and divine blessing, and persuaded Mangu Khan, son of Genghis, the Mongol ruler, to make Syunik and its churches a tax-exempt fiefdom under Mangu's (or at least his Christian mother's) direct patronage.  The family expanded its influence, helped by an apparently genuine and reciprocated liking and respect for the Mongols, at least until the Mongols converted to Islam.  In 1286, the scholar of the family, the historian Stepanos, made the pilgrimage to the Western Armenian kingdom in Cilicia and was made Metropolitan -- presiding archbishop --of the newly amplified See of Syunik.
  
Leaving Azerbaijan again, you follow the Baghanis river to reach <B>Baghanis</B> (708 p) with a ruined church perhaps of the 10th c. E of the road, and 12-13th c. funerary monument.  The right (NE) fork from Baghanis leads to areas still under occasional artillery fire and should probably be avoided.  It goes to <B>Voskevan</B> (1296 p), formerly Ghoshghotan, with a 19th c. church; birthplace of Soviet hero Ishkhan Saribekian, a sergeant in the Great Patriotic War.  Next is Koti (2097 p), until 1964 Kotigegh, then renamed Shavarshavan in honor of Shavarsh Amirkhanian, 1894-1959, born in the village, an early communist who rose to become head of the Armenian KGB precursor.  This road ends at <B>Barekamavan</B> (442 p, till 1978 Dostlu, Kurumsulu).  Some 2 km  NW is the Bardzryel pilgrimage site.
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The fiefdom was divided in three from 1290-1300, then reunited by Burtel, who ruled a flourishing principality and was ultimately named Mayor/Amir of the Mongol capitals Sultania and TabrizThis close cooperation with the Mongol rulers had its priceSeveral Orbelians died on the Khan's campaigns far from home, and one spent 12 years a captive in Egypt before being ransomed.  The Orbelians survived the arrival of Timur Lenk and his Turkmen hordes in the 1380s, but in the collapse of Timur's empire into warring factions, Smbat, the last firm Orbelian ruler of Syunik, chose the wrong side and, on the capture of his stronghold of Vorotnaberd (S of Sisian) in 1410, decamped for Georgia where he diedOrbelians managed to retain property in Vayots Dzor throughout the 15th c, though many of them emigrated to their relatives in Georgia.
 
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Continuing toward Noyemberian, <B>Jujevan</B> (559 p) was founded in 1874 and has the 19th c. Jujevank monastery and a 12-13th c. chapel.  At the SE end of the village on the left side of the Ijevan road is the Early Bronze Age Jaghatsategh settlement.  On the S side of Jujevan atop a hill on the Ijevan-Noyemberian road is an Early Iron Age cyclopean fort called Poploz-Gash
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<B>Noyemberian</B> (5156 p) has a small, spartan hotel on the W side of the square/park, behind a cafe.  Near the town are three Iron Age cyclopean forts, with traces of early metalworking:  Berdagh, 2km NE; Mraghants Areguni; and Tpi-Gash, N of townNE is <B>Dovegh</B> (572 p), formerly Balakend.  About 3 km S of Dovegh is the <B>shrine of S. Sargis</B>, a pilgrimage site for the region.
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<table align=right><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/P1004283_25p_200.jpg<br><i>Mshkavank</i></td></tr></table>
 
The main road continues W to <B>Koghb</B> (4092 v). <B><A HREF=armo5_mshkavank.html>Mshkavank</A>*</B> or Mshakavank =50= (41 09.74n x 044 58.22e), with a restored Astvatsatsin church, gavit, 5-6th c. Tsghakhach church, 6th c. Tvarageghtsi church and cemetery of the 12-13th c., is on the mountain 3-4 km SW, accessible by jeep track from Koghb or NoyemberianWhen driving towards Georgia from Ijevan you hit a traffic circle in the village of Koghb.  Turn left (SW) into the village, and head into it.  Head left at the WWII memorial, crossing the bridge just past it.  Head up into the hill on the nice dirt road two "gorges" from the red and white TV tower, and at the top of this gorge head right along the ridge.  The monastery is about 3km past the bridge. SE 1.5 km is Berdategh cyclopean fort, and also (maybe) in the same direction the Gharanots Gol fort.  W of Koghb are two cyclopean forts, Zikurati and Kozmani (10 km), with Bronze Age tomb fields adjoining.  15 km W is Patashar cyclopean fort.  NW of Koghb is a S. Arakel ruined shrine in the old Arakelots village.  After Koghb, the main road reaches <B>Archis</B> (1244 p, S. Hakop church, shrine, old iron-working site; Early Iron Age cyclopean fort traces 1.5 km S from the village atop a hill parallel to the Debed) and <B>Ayrum</B> (2190 p), where the road joins the main Vanadzor-Tbilisi highway.  S of Ayrum on the right bank of the Debed on the hill of the candy factory is an Early Bronze Age  Shahlama fortress.  Another Shahlama Bronze Age site is on the Debed at the intersection where the roads diverge to Tbilisi and Alaverdi.  Ayrum also had an Early Iron Age site 3 km SW of the train station, where a group of 10-8th c. BC bronze figurines were found in 1962.  To SE is <B>Lchkadzor</B> (435 p) with 3 km NE on Danieli Tala hill an unexcavated cyclopean fort.
 
 
 
<table align=left><tr><td>http://www.cilicia.com/pics/picm/P1004249_33p_200.jpg<br><i>Ghalinjakar Castle of Berdavan</i></td></tr></table>
 
From Koghb, a road leads NE to <B>Berdavan</B> (3173 p, once Kalacha).  Turning right, an asphalt road winds down through the villageWhere two dirt roads fork, take the left hand, cross the stream, and then bear left again at the next fork, leading (jeeps only) to a picturesque triangular 10-11th c. <B><A HREF=armo5_berdavan.html>Ghalinjakar castle*</A></B> (41 12.23n x 045 01.22e)on a hill near the Azerbaijan border, just past ruins of a church with a cross "with arms" (tevavor khach) in the yard.  There used to be shelters, stores, etc. in the castle courtyard. On the outsides of the walls are 11 towers like half or 3/4 rolls. Due to the topography, the SW walls are 5.5m high and the NW ones 10.5m high. The only entry 1m wide is from W side with tuff pointed end. There are stairs towards south from the entry. The fortress used to have a secret passage taking to the canyon. Part of it with average man's height can be seen from the bottom part of E tower corner. The tower is empty and has a high door taking to the secret passage. Berdavan fortress is probably the Ghalinjakar temple remembered by an unnamed XIII c Georgian historian. It appears that Berdavan existed at least since XIII c. but the present structure probably belongs to late medieval times, probably to XVII c, with some additional reconstruction taking place in the 1980s. A medieval cemetery has an especially noteworthy big khachkar leaning on cube-shaped pedestal with cross images and pictures of standing people figures on its eastern side. There are large khachkars in the village.  From Berdavan, a road goes W to <B>Zorakan</B> (1006 p, formerly the Azeri village of Verin Kerplu), <B>Haghtanak</B> ("Victory")(1125 p, formerly the Village Linked to Tumanian Sovkhoz), with a Shahlama 6-4th c. fortress on the right bank of the Debed, <B>Ptghavan</B> (906 p), <B>Deghdzavan</B> (283 p), and <B>Bagratashen</B> (3046 p) on the Georgian border.  Originally Lambalu, from 1960-72 Debedashen, Bagratashen was renamed after Hero of Socialist Labor and founder of the Zeitun plant, Bagrat Vardanian (1894-1971).  North along the border, <B>Debedavan</B> (513 v) was formerly the largely Azeri wine-producing center of Lalvar.
 

Revision as of 02:58, 2 November 2004

EXPLORING VAYOTS DZOR

Vayots Dzor is one of the most scenic and historically interesting regions of Armenia, centered on the watershed of the Arpa River and its tributaries before they flow SW into Nakhichevan to join the Arax river. Mountainous and sparsely populated, Vayots Dzor (by popular etymology "the Gorge of Woes") is crowded with medieval monasteries, forts, caves, and camping spots. The uplands have potential hiking/horseback/mountain bike tracks. There are trout in the streams, and wild sheep, bear (protected) and smaller game in the mountains. The marz capital is Yeghegnadzor, a 90 minute drive from Yerevan over the main N-S route.

Day trips from Yerevan are easy and rewarding. For a fuller exploration, however, it is necessary either to camp or exploit one of the region's hotels or B&Bs. There are a series of very nice newly remodeled sanatoria and hotels in Jermuk.

The earliest historically recorded settlement in Vayots Dzor was at Moz, near Malishka, and there are scattered remains of Bronze and early Iron Age graveyards and "cyclopean" forts (built of large, unworked boulders, as if by Cyclopes) elsewhere. The region flourished most mightily in the 13th-14th centuries, when a series of gifted and pious local rulers managed to coexist with the Mongols and other passing empires. In 1604, the region was depopulated when Shah Abbas of Persia, fighting a series of fierce campaigns against the Ottomans in and over Armenia, forcibly relocated much of the Armenian community to Persia, both to strengthen his own domain economically and to leave scorched earth for the Turks. In 1828, with the Russian conquest, thousands of Armenians emigrated from Persia or Eastern Turkey to resettle the region. Still, there are scattered remains of deserted hamlets. In 1988, the population of the combined Yeghegnadzor and Vaik (Azizbekov) regions was perhaps 60,000, including 10,000 Azeri Muslims.

East from Ararat -- Areni, Noravank (Map P)

After descending the Arax valley on the main S road from Yerevan, turn left at the Yeraskh traffic circle (straight will take you to the Nakhichevan border and possible disaster), and wind up through increasingly scenic hills until the watershed that marks the border between Ararat and Vayots Dzor.

The first village one reaches once over the pass is Yelpin (1314 p, population came from Salmast in 1830) N of the road. Climbing the mountain NNW of the village are traces of a medieval fort; in the village is a 14th c. Tukh Manuk shrine/pilgrimage site. One km N are fine khachkars. There are prehistoric caves nearby. A dirt road leads about 12 km NW to a mineral spring, on a hill above which is a medieval church. A dirt road N from Yelpin leads in about 10 km to Khndzorut (Elmalu) village with a ruined gavit/narthex and cemetery with inscriptions. The old road E toward Aghavnadzor passes a left turn at the ruined hamlet of Geshin, which leads in turn to a substantial fortified cave on the mountain slope.

Chiva, turnoff left, (809 p) has a 10th c. church. Just W of the village on the S side of the road is an early Christian cemetery with fine carved tombstones. Rind (1378 p) E of Chiva, founded in 1967 to replace the old village of the same name abandoned due to slides. There is a cave-shrine 3 km NE of the 10-15th c.; Verin Ulgyugh, 1 km, 11-14th c., with S. Stepanos church, 13-14th c.

20000325-areni-church_200.jpg
S. Astvatsatsin of Areni

The village of Areni (1730 p, formerly called Arpa) is famous for its wine, much of which is produced in Getap further down the road. Visible to the right of the main road is the <A HREF=armo5_areni-church.html>Astvatsatsin</A> =40= (Mother of God) church of 1321, built during the tenure of Abbot Hovhannes. The architecture as well as the carvings are the work of Momik, and there are interesting tombstones outside. To reach the church, turn S into the village, cross the bridge, and turn left on a clear road up to the church. There are ruins of the medieval mansion of Tarsayich Orbelian in the valley and, reportedly, remains of a cyclopean fort SE of the village on the edge of gorge and a 13th c. bridge on the Arpa r. built by Bishop Sargis (1265-1287); further along the gorge toward Arpi, on a hill on the S rim of the gorge, is the ruined 13th c. fort of Ertij. In Areni was found in 1981 an altar with a Greek inscription of AD 163 dedicating it to the Olympian Goddess on behalf of a Roman officer, Aemilius Ovalis, of the 15th Legion Apollinaris.

Turning south through the village of Areni, a paved road climbs up to spectacular views of the Noravank gorge, passing the hamlet of Amaghu. Near Amaghu on a hill by the gorge are remains of a medieval fortress. On the right can be seen in the distance the recent fortifications along the border with Nakhichevan. About 1 km before the village of Khachik, (938 p) visible on the right are the sadly ruined remains of the 9th c. Karkopi or Khotakerats ("grass-eaters") Vank. The site owes its name to the vegetarian ascetics who used to live in the gorge, assembling only for Sunday prayers. They were reined in and monasticized by Bishop Hovhannes III, who built them a church of 911 (several times rebuilt after earthquakes) with the support of Shushan, widow of Ashot I. The gavit is 13th c. In the village itself is the Astvatsatsin basilica dated 1681. Some 1.5 km E of the village are remains of Berdatagh ruined medieval castle. There is supposed a Hngazard ruined medieval church 2 km NE.

A kilometer past Areni on the main road to Yeghegnadzor is the turnoff right for Noravank, across the bridge and through a narrow gorge, whose stream has sadly disappeared into a large iron pipe. At the entrance to the gorge on the right is a cluster of high but shallow and unornamented caves, called Trchuneri Karayr (Bird Cave), in with Bronze Age child burials were found. Further inside the gorge on the left is the Magil Cave =40=, going a considerable distance into the hillside. Magil cave has a bat colony. The entrance is a small hole with a metal cable coming out of it to the left of a large vertical jagged opening in the hillside, but it is very easy to get lost inside, so take a guide unless you're a pro. Further on note a huge boulder right of the road outfitted as a picnic site. Beyond the caves, the gorge opens out and the monastery comes into view. The paved road continues up and to the left, ending in a parking lot below the monastery.

A gravel road continuing up the canyon ends after a few meters amid a welter of khorovats detritus. Continuing on foot, at the iron gates for the water project one can continue straight along the left bank of the stream toward a concealed picnic site with table and fire circle (about 200 meters) or else follow a path that slopes up to the left. This latter passes below the little chapel of St. Pokas (Phokas), in which is the basin of a sacred spring and, according to a tradition that was already "old" when Bishop Stepanos Orbelian wrote about him in the late 13th century, the site of a seep of miraculous healing oil from Pokas's buried relics. The learned bishop wrote, "Here surprising miracles used to occur. All kinds of pains, whose cure by men was impossible, such as leprosy and long-infected and gangrenous wounds, were cured when people came here, bathed in the water and were anointed with the oil. But in cases where these were fatal, they expired immediately." Modest votive crosses show that the shrine remains venerated. Past St. Pokas, the narrow, occasionally steep, but clear path climbs along the canyon side to a series of broad ledges with beautiful views of the cliffs.

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Noravank

<A HREF=armo5_noravank.html>Noravank</A>** ("New monastery") =90= (39 41.08n x 045 13.97e) was founded by Bishop Hovhannes, Abbot of Vahanavank (in Syunik W of Kapan), who moved there in 1105 and built the original S. Karapet church. According to Stepanos Orbelian, Hovhannes went to the Persian (actually Seljuk) Sultan Mahmud and came back with a firman giving him possession. He gathered religious folk, and established a rule barring women and lewd persons. Unfortunately, the evil amira (lord) of the nearby castle of Hraskaberd (scanty ruins of which, not firmly identified, are somewhere in the hills SE) plotted to kill him and destroy the monastery. Hovhannes, who was gifted in languages, went to Isfahan, cured the Sultan's sick son, and came back with the title deeds to Hraskaberd and 12 nearby estates, and a trusty band of heavily armed men who pushed the amira and his family off a cliff. A century later, Stepanos says, a group of "Persians" rebuilt Hraskaberd, but two lieutenants of the Zakarian brothers kicked them out in favor of Liparit Orbelian (see end of chapter) and reestablished the monastery's claim to the estates surrounding. Bishop Hovhannes led a holy life and worked numerous miracles, such as catching in his hands unharmed a woman and infant who fell off the cliff.

During the 13th and 14th centuries a series of princes of the Orbelian clan built churches which served as the burial site for the family. The monastery became the center of the Syunik bishopric. The nearest and grandest church is the Astvatsatsin ("Mother of God"), also called Burtelashen ("Burtel-built") in honor of Prince Burtel Orbelian, its donor. The church, completed in 1339, is said to be the masterpiece of the talented sculptor and miniaturist Momik. In modern times the church has had a plain hipped roof, but in 1997 the drum and conical roof were rebuilt to reflect the original glory still attested by battered fragments. The ground floor contained elaborate tombs of Burtel and his family. Narrow steps projecting from the west façade lead up to the entrance to the church/oratory. Note the fine relief sculpture over the doors, Christ flanked by Peter and Paul.

The earlier church is the S. Karapet, a cross-in square design with restored drum and dome built in 1216-1227, just N of the ruins of the original S. Karapet, destroyed in an earthquake. Forming the western antechamber is an impressive gavit of 1261, decorated with splendid khachkars and with a series of inscribed gravestones in the floor. That of the historian/bishop Stepanos dated 1303 is toward the western door. Note the famous carvings over the outside lintel. The side chapel of S. Grigor, built in 1275, contains more Orbelian family tombs, including a splendidly strange carved lion/human tombstone dated 1300, covering the grave of Elikum son of Prince Tarsayich and brother of Bishop Stepanos. Alas, nothing is preserved of the rich church ornaments and miraculous relics Stepanos and his predecessors assembled for the glory of God. In its heyday, Noravank housed a piece of the True Cross stained with Christ's blood. This wondrous relic, acquired forcibly by a notable family of Artsakh from a mysterious stranger after it raised a villager's dead child, was purchased by the Orbelians for cash when the family became refugees.

Noravank was hot in July/August, even in the 13th c. Bishop Stepanos reports that the bishops and monks moved to Arates monastery in the mountains E of Shatin to avoid the summer heat. Summer tourists should arrive early morning or late afternoon for a more pleasant visit. The warm light on the red cliffs is spectacular as the sun sets.

Arpi (1061 p) founded in 1965. About 6.4 km after Areni, just before the Arpi sign, the first road turning right to cross the Arpa r, leads in 7.6 km to an old guardhouse on the left and, immediately beyond on the right beside the road, the tin-covered entrance to the <A HREF=armo5_mozrovi.html>Mozrovi cave</A> =80=. Discovered in the 1970s during road building, the easy to navigate first 400m is deep and full of spectacular colored stalagmite and stalactite formations. Entrance is perilous, through a hole in the cover and down a steep slope, and should not be attempted without an experienced caver. The deep Arjeri cave system =75?= and several others are in the same general area. Another mile further up is the village of Mozrov, (90 p), and, on an increasingly poor dirt road, Gnishik, (40 p) almost abandoned in 1975 due to landslides. Some 2 km NE is Dali Khach ruined shrine. In the village are khachkars of 9-17th c. and a church of 1463. There are 1st millennium BC graves 2 km N of village; by bad road SE about 10 km is Hraseka berd of the 9-12th c. Four km E of Gnishik are the remains of old Boloraberd village with a 13-14th c. Tukh Manuk chapel. S of Boloraberd are remains of Vardablur village with a ruined church and cemetery. There is a medieval Vardablur fortress E. Some 4 km NE of Gnishik is the former Gandzak village with a medieval cemetery and church.

Selim Caravansaray and the Yeghegis Monasteries (Map P)

At 34.3 m is the Yeghegis River, with roads leading N to Getap on both sides of the stream. Take the far (E) road, bypassing Getap, ("River bank", known until 1935 as Ghoytur, 1855 p), home of some of the Areni vintages. Two km NE of Getap atop a hill are ruins of Aghli Vank church, with inscriptions. Continuing N along the Yeghegis R, note at 5.8 km the spur of a medieval bridge.

At 9.1 km is the first turnoff to the right for Shatin (see below). Continuing straight (N), now along the Selim river, you seen on the left at Hors (305 p), with the Chibukh Kyorpi bridge of the 14th c.; the tomb of Chesar Orbelian, and a 14th c. church with khachkars. On the right is Salli (226 p); then on the left Taratumb, (543 p), with a khachkar of 1251 and a church of 1880; again on the right is Karaglukh, (801 p). Some 3 km S on a high plateau are the ruined 13th c. walls of Mamasi Vank, built according to medieval legend to house the relicts of St. Mamas, carried back to Armenia by the princes of Syunik from Caesaria in Asia Minor in the 4th c. The 13th c. church is called S. Poghos (St. Paul). On a hill 3 km E of Karaglukh is a simple Tukh Manuk shrine built by the ruins of a substantial earlier church. There are numerous khachkars.

Aghnjadzor (431 p) (formerly Aghkend, a mixed Armenian/Azeri village, with church/cemetery), is the site of Lernantsk Caravansaray, located about a kilometer N of the village, appearing east of the road like a half-buried Quonset hut. Take the dirt road just past the bridge, crossing the early bridge and heading up the stream valley. A smaller and cruder structure than the Selim Caravansaray, it was built in roughly the same period. A one-nave caravanserai built from basalt, the foundation date isn't known. A smaller hall is covered with a cylindrical vault supported by arches. There are stony troughs inside. The only entry is from the western side. This monument too is lit by means of the roofing, which together with some other data shows the influence of Armenian residential architecture on that of caravanserais. Four km N are the so-called Kapuyt Berd ("Blue Fort") ruins.

Shortly beyond, the new, Lincy funded road begins to switchback up the mountain toward the Selim Pass. It is a brand new smooth road all the way to Lake Sevan, but ask about passability in the winter months.

ADD SELIM PHOTO!!!

<A HREF=armo5_selim.html>Selim Caravansaray</A>** =80= (39 56.97n x 045 14.20e) lies below the road just before the summit on the south side of Selim Pass (2410 m), a splendid relic of the days when an international trade route connected Vayots Dzor to the Sevan basin and points North. According to the Armenian inscription on the right inside the door, Prince Chesar Orbelian and his brothers built this rest-house in 1332 in the reign of Abu Said Il Khan, "the ruler of the world," whose death in 1335 deprived the world of an enlightened Mongol despot and ushered in a new wave of invasions. The Persian inscription on the outside lintel (almost effaced by recent vandals, gives the date 1326-7. The Armenian inscription reads:

"In the name of the Almighty and powerful God, in the year 1332, in the world-rule of Busaid Khan, I Chesar son of Prince of Princes Liparit and my mother Ana, grandson of Ivane, and my brothers, handsome as lions, the princes Burtel, Smbat and Elikom of the Orbelian nation, and my wife Khorishah daughter of Vardan [and ...] of the Senikarimans, built this spiritual house with our own funds for the salvation of our souls and those of our parents and brothers reposing in Christ, and of my living brothers and sons Sargis, Hovhannes the priest, Kurd and Vardan. We beseech you, passers-by, remember us in Christ. The beginning of the house [took place] in the high-priesthood of Esai, and the end, thanks to his prayers, in the year 1332.

The best preserved caravansaray in Armenia, Selim saw reconstruction during the 1950s. It is built of basalt blocks, with a cavernous central hall for animals separated from the two vaulted side aisles by rows of stone mangers. A chapel which once abutted the E side of the caravanserai is now in parial ruins. Bring a flashlight (though the dim light through the smoke holes in the roof adds a proper medieval flavor). There is a little spring/fountain monument just uphill beyond the caravansaray. The bad road continues N over the pass and ultimately to Martuni.

Shatin and Eastward -- Tsakhatskar, Smbataberd (Map P)

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Shativank

At 10.0 km from the Yeghegnadzor road is the second turn-off for Shatin, (1683 p, till 1935 Hasankend), where the Yeghegis river turns E. Main attraction is <A HREF=armo5_shativank.html>Shativank</A>* =65= (39 50.50n x 045 19.61e), a fortified monastery 3km E up the gorge. Directions: Toward the far end of the village, take the right fort down to the bridge and cross. About 150 m further, take the right fork and then, about .5 further, the left fork steeply up to a tiny cemetery. From there, a jeep road winds up and around to the monastery. Preferable option, particularly for the jeepless, is to walk up the gorge, a rewarding 45-minute climb. The path can be found by taking the left fork above the bridge, going about 100 m until 15 meters before a white-painted garage gate. On the right, between a telephone pole and an iron rod, a faint trail ascends steeply. At the power pylon on the spine to the left, the path becomes wide and clear. Inside a substantial fortification wall, Shativank consists of the S. Sion Church rebuilt in 1665, two-story monks and guest quarters (SE corner is best preserved), a grain storage silo (NW), khachkars, and (outside the walls SE) a waterworks. Other antiquities in the vicinity reportedly include Berdakar fort (2 km S, 5th c.), Shatin bridge, a shrine S, and a 10th c. church in Hostun.

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Tsakhatskar Monastery
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Smbataberd

Going E from Shatin, one follows the Yeghegis river upstream. Note that many of the village names have changed since 1988, along with the population. At the first fork beyond Shatin, signposted "Tsakhatskar Vank 13 km", turning left (N) on a paved road brings one to Artabuynk (1054 p, until 1946 Erdapin, then Yeghegis until the recent transfer of populations, when Alayaz reclaimed the name.) Its inhabitants were brought in 1830 from Khoy region. Follow the lower road parallel to the stream until about 1 km past the village. An unmarked jeep track angles steeply down to the right, fords the stream, and climbs up. Just after passing a spring on your right. The left fork (and left again) leads (6 km NE of village) to the splendid ruined <A HREF=armo5_tsakhatskar.html>Tsakhatskar Monastery</A>** =90= (39 53.42n x 045 21.25e), with S. Hovhannes church of 989, S. Karapet church of the 10th c, and a host of other ruined buildings set apart from the two churches, decorated with splendid khachkars, on the flank of the mountain. Retracing the track and taking the first right fork leads to the 9th century fortress of <A HREF=armo5_smbatabert.html>Smbatabert</A>** =90= (39 52.35n x 045 20.34e). This spectacular castle sits on the crest of the ridge between Artabuynk and Yeghegis (or, as most people still call them, Yeghegis and Alayaz), and includes an upper citadel. The castle received water from a buried clay pipe leading from the monastery. According to legend, the Turks compelled the fort's surrender by employing a thirsty horse to sniff out the pipeline.

Beyond Artabuynk on the main dirt road is Horbategh (283 p), with S. Hreshtakapetats (Holy Archangels) Church, rebuilt in 1692, and khachkars.

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Zorats Cathedral

Returning through Artabuynk to the main E-W paved road, one soon reaches the village of Yeghegis* (488 p, until 1994 Alayaz), historically Armenian, as attested by the rich sprinkling of antiquities. When its Azeri inhabitants departed, the houses were occupied by Armenians, half refugees from Sumgait in Azerbaijan and half locals seeking a house and land of their own. Entering the village, one sees on the left a stone enclosure with khachkars commemorating the Orbelian family. Left on a narrow village road takes one first to the Astvatsatsin basilica, rebuilt in 1703, then to a small domed 13th c. church of S. Karapet with cemetery and then, on a green hill E of town a few meters past S. Karapet, where the road turns left, <A HREF=armo5_zorats.html>S. Zorats cathedral</A>* =65= (39 33.06n x 046 01.74e) or S. Stepanos, built in 1303 by a grandson of Prince Tarsayich Orbelian. This is a pretty unique church design, not only for Armenia, but in general. The congregation is meant to stand outside facing the open-air altar. The church has been extensively restored. Its name comes allegedly from the custom of consecrating arms and horses there before battle. In the NW part of the village, incorporated into house and garden walls, are substantial remains of cyclopean walls and caves/cellars. Right of the road inside the village is a small ruined basilica. In 2000, a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under Professor Michael Stone excavated on the S side of the Yeghegis river opposite the village (take the road that winds under the damaged Azeri cemetary and cross the footbridge) a Jewish cemetery with some 40 gravestones with Hebrew inscriptions, attesting to the existence of a literate and prosperous Jewish community in Yeghegis in the 1200's. Somewhere on the mountain a few km NE are ruins of 13th c. Gyulum Bulaghi Vank (probably Upper Noravank, attested in manuscripts).

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Arates Monastery

A few km E on the main road is Hermon, (214 p), until recently Ghavushugh. Guney Vank, plausibly identified with the anciently attested monastic center Hermoni Vank, of the 9-17th c, is somewhere nearby up a difficult road, with S. Grigor Lusavorich church and a 12-13th c. cemetery. N of Hermon is the former village of Kalasar, with scant remains of a church and cemetery. Taking the left fork in Hermon, and then the next left (signposted for Arates Vank), an asphalt road winds N to a small military checkpoint, beyond which is the village of Arates (formerly the Azeri village of Ghzlgyul, 0 p). <A HREF=armo5_arates.html>Arates Vank</A>* =50= has the 7th c. S. Sion church; Astvatsatsin of 10th c. church; and S. Karapet of 13th c. church; a ruined gavit built in 1265/70, by order of Prince Smbat Orbelian, architect Siranes under Abbot Hayrapet. Dirt roads lead beyond into the mountains.

Keeping right at the turnoff for Arates, one climbs to the village of Vardahovit (179 p, formerly the three Azeri hamlets of Gyulliduz (with huge khachkar), Gharaghaya, Gyadikvank). The current population (130 families in summer, 30 in winter) is half refugees from Azerbaijan, half locals. When the weather holds, they scratch out a bare existence with wheat and potatoes. Continuing straight through the village, a deteriorating dirt road leads to the large, totally ruined hamlet of Gyadikvank, which has, left of the road, a few khachkars and worked blocks from a disappeared monastery. According to the mayor, the inhabitants of Gyadikvank were removed, with compensation, before the Karabakh crisis, with the aim of building a reservoir. Somewhere a few km NE is supposedly a monastery of the 10th c, Kotur Vank/Ghoturvan, with a church of 1271. Beyond Gyadikvank, the jeep track leads on through the mountains to Vardenis and Kelbajar.

Returning to Hermon, the other (S) fork leads in 3.2 km up to Goghtanik (236 p, formerly Ghabakhlu), with an artificial cave, a 13th c. bridge, and 13th c. church. Climbing out of the Yeghegis R. valley, the road becomes a mud track, impassible in winter (summit of pass 8.6 km from Hermon). On the far side of the pass (15.7 km), on the Herher river, is Karmrashen, (317 p, 65 families, originally Kyotanli), from 1963 a construction site for the Arpa-Sevan tunnel, which was completed in 2000(?). On a hill E are ruins of a small church, and 1.5 km SW are ruins of two more. There is a carved votive to Saints Peter and Paul, set up by Prince Elikum Orbelian in 1291, one km S of town.

The road improves markedly at Herher, (719 p) with its Surp Sion Monastery one km NE on a hilltop, first attested in the 8th c. There are S. Sion and Astvatsatsin churches. On the interior S wall of the latter, an inscription reads: "By the will of Almighty God, this is the memorial inscription and the indelible monument of the glorious Baron Varham, son of Vasak, grandson of the great Magistros, and of his pious wife Sandoukht and of their handsome offspring Ukan, and of the powerful and great general Varham, and of his Christ-loving mother Mamkan, and the well-born lady wife of Gontza, who built this church with much toil and ornamented it with rich plate for my long life and that of my wife and our children Ukan ... An offering to the Holy Monastery in 732/AD 1283."

In the village itself is a 19th c. S. Gevorg church and, just S, Grigor Lusavorich shrine (1296), with S. Gevorg or Chiki Vank of 1297; SE 1 km is the small Kapuyt Berd ("Blue Castle") on a summit; various other ruins nearby, including a ruined village with 14th c. khachkars. In the 13th c, Herher was fief of the Orbelian vassals, the Shahurnetsi family. The Herher road rejoins the main Yeghegnadzor-Goris road about 6.5 km E of Vaik.

Yeghegnadzor and Environs -- Tanahat, Boloraberd (Map P)

Aghavnadzor, (1939 p) has 13th c. Aghjkaberd fort 1 km E; S. Astvatsatsin Church of 12th c. 4km NE, with funerary monument of 1009; ruined caravansaray 4 km NW; and 4 km N the Ul Gyughi 13-14th c. church.

<A HREF=armo5_yegh.html>Yeghegnadzor</A>, (7724 p), historically Yeghegik, an ancient seat of the Orbelian family, until 1935 Keshishkend, from 1935-57 called Mikoyan. Turning left up the main road into town, bear left to pass the hotel (60 rooms, bleak), then bear right. 100 m beyond on the left is a white building with round doorway destined to be the Museum, once funds are found to set up the exhibits. A small display room in the basement shows interesting medieval pottery, while the storerooms contain everything from fossils to spinning wheels. At the west side of town is a 17th c. church of S. Sargis, still in use. Immediately beyond it is a fortified mound surrounded by a cyclopean wall. Yeghegnadzor's cannery, cheese factory, rug factory are moribund.

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Tanahati Vank + Gladzor University ruins

Continuing N up the road past the Museum, one reaches the village of Gladzor (2095 p) until 1946 Ortakend; inhabitants came from Soma, Iran in 1830. There is the so-called Vardani berd of the 9th c. on SW edge, with khachkars; also 1692 S. Hreshtakapet (Archangel) church. Continuing, the road reaches Vernashen, (1170 p, historical name Srkoghovk, known till 1946 as Bashkend) site of the Masis shoe factory. Inhabitants came from Salmast in 1829. In village, S. Hakob church of 17th c. built with earlier carved blocks, has been converted into a museum for the Gladzor university. There are photographs and maps charting the existence of educational institutions in Armenia, and the influence of Gladzor and its pupils. Outside the door are seven modern khachkars representing the trivium and quadrivium, the 7 branches of medieval learning. <A HREF=armo5_gladzor.html>Tanahati Vank</A>* (or Tanade) =75= (40 44.37n x 044 52.09e), the actual site of the university is 7 km SE continuing along the same narrow paved road. The S. Stepanos church was built 1273-79 by the Proshian family (family crest of eagle with lamb in its claws carved in S wall, with the Orbelian crest of lion and bull near it). Here is the story of S. Stepanos, as told by Kirakos Gandzaketsi (tr. R. Bedrosian):

At this time, in the year 222 A.E. [= 773], Step'annos, the court priest, who was recognized as an eloquent man, attained mastery of all scholarly and grammatical knowledge, with spiritual virtue. In Armenia there were select, enlightening vardapets then, [among them] lords Ep'rem, Anastas, Xach'ik and Dawit' Horhomayets'i, and the great scholar Step'annos Siwnets'i, a pupil of Movses, whom we recalled above. Step'annos was a translator from the Greek to the Armenian language who, beyond his translations, wrote spiritual songs of sweet melody, sharakans, kts'urds (anthems), and other songs. He also wrote brief commentaries on the Gospels, on grammar, on the Book of Job and [the hymn] "Lord, that the edge of night..." (Ter et'e shrt'ants'n gisheroy). It is said that from childhood, the blessed Step'annos was versed in the writings of holy men. Aspet Smbat, a Diophysite, was antagonistic toward Step'annos. So Step'annos left him in disagreement and went to Rome where he found a certain orthodox hermit with whom he stayed and learned from. Now when Smbat heard about this, he wrote to the Byzantine emperor [informing him] that Step'annos was a heretic who anathematized the emperor's confession, and that he was [66] staying with a certain hermit named such-and-such. The emperor became furious and ordered Step'annos to court. But the hermit first advised him to say about himself: "I am a beggar and a wanderer". When the emperor heard this, his angry rage subsided. Becoming bold, Step'annos entreated the emperor to open the trunks of sacred writings for him. Finding there a book with golden letters containing an account of the faith, he showed it to the emperor. [The latter] upon reading it, sent Step'annos to the city of Rome to bring thence three similar books about the true faith, so that the country be converted to that religion.
Now Step'annos, heedless of the autocrat's order, took the books from Rome and went to the city of Dwin in order to enlighten his country with them. And lord Dawit' ordained Step'annos bishop of Siwnik', at the request of K'urd and Babgen, princes of Siwnik'. After occupying the episcopacy for only a year, [Step'annos] was slain by a whore from Moz district. His body was taken to a chamber in Arkaz; from there they laid it to rest in the monastery of T'anahat. The venerable Step'annos brought the writings to the bishopric of Siwnik'; three ranks for the bishops of Armenia were established. Now a certain cenobite named Noah (Noy), saw a vision in which Step'annos' breast was covered with blood as he stood before the Savior, saying: "Behold this, Lord,for Your judgements are righteous". Notifying the cenobites in the district about the coming wrath, he admonished them to pray. Then behold, from On High an impenetrable darkness enveloped the borders of Moz, and the place shook for forty days. Ten thousand people were buried [in the earthquake], for which reason the place was named Vayots' Dzor [Valley of Sighs], as it still is today. For those in pain, and those who are ill, there is much healing in Step'annos' relics, for those who seek the intercession of the blessed man. In this world God glorifies those who glorify Him, while in the next world, He gives them good things He has prepared, [things] "which eye has not seen, which ear has not heard, and which the heart of mankind has not experienced" [I Corinthians 2, 9].
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Arkazi S. Khach Church

Varaga S. Nshan shrine of 13th c adjoins S. Stepanos Church. South of it, among the ruins of the educational buildings, are foundations of a small 5th c. basilica. The site was excavated in 1970 by I. Gharibian. Gladzor University flourished from 1291 till the 1340s and was a bastion of Armenia's theological resistance to Uniate Catholicism. About 3 km E of Tanahati Vank is <A HREF=armo5_arkazi.html>Arkazi S. Khach</A> (Holy Cross) Vank =30= (39 46.80n x 045 25.30e), a church completely rebuilt in 1870-71, still a significant pilgrimage site particularly on October 8 or 11. According to legend, a piece of the true Cross, given by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius to the wife of Burtegh, ruler of Syunik, was buried in the walls.

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Boloraberd
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Spitakavor Vank

<A HREF=armo5_boloraberd.html>Boloraberd</A>* or Proshaberd =40= 39 49.83n x 045 22.53e), is 6-7 km N of Vernashen on a poor jeep track (L just beyond Gladzor U. Museum, then left at dead end upon another dirt road. Right just before the first house you reach, and go a long way until a small black and white sign where you take your final right. Soon, Spitakavor Monastery will appear on your left, then the fortress atop the huge rock outcrop on your right. Don't try this in wet or muddy conditions.) The fortress was built in 13th c. by Prince Prosh, namesake of the Proshian family; shrine to E. About one km distant is the <A HREF=armo5_spitakavor.html>Spitakavor S. Astvatsatsin church</A>* =70= (39 49.75n x 045 21.87e), built in 1321 by the Proshians, with a bell tower of 1330 and rich sculptural decoration similar to that of Noravank and perhaps by the same artists. There are traces of a ruined 5th c. basilica. {Along a short path below the picnic area is a spring} In the yard of the monastery are buried the earthly remains of the famous Turk-fighter Garegin Nzhdeh, brought secretly to Armenia in 1983. Nzhdeh, born Garegin Ter-Harutyunian in 1886, the son of a village priest in Nakhichevan, led an Armenian band fighting alongside the Bulgarians in the 1912 First Balkan War. He then led a combined Armenian-Yezidi volunteer detachment against the Turks in WWI. In the 1919-21 battles for Armenian independence, Nzhdeh led the Armenian irregular forces in Zangezur (now S. Syunik Marz). Forced into exile with the Sovietization of Armenia, Nzhdeh pursued fruitless negotiations with Nazi Germany in hopes of redeeming the lost Armenian lands of Eastern Turkey. He died in a Soviet prison in 1955.

Some 150 meters E past the main turnoff into downtown Yeghegnazdor, a paved road goes S toward Agarakadzor, (1204 p), just across the Arpa. Immediately after crossing the bridge, turn right and follow the dirt road downstream about 2 km to the well-preserved 13th c. bridge* which served once the road to Julfa. There is a 13-15th c. graveyard 2km E of town. On the N bank of the Arpa somewhere nearby is the abandoned site of Erdes with a ruined medieval castle and a small church.

Moving East to Vayk (Map P)

Some 3 km E beyond the large and active village of Malishka (4204 p with brand new church), a dirt road right leads to the sparse remains of Moz, the original city of Vayots Dzor, ruined by earthquake in the 8th c. There is a Bronze Age burial ground, an early fort and church of the 7th c. Other smaller sites in the Malishka region reportedly include Ghaluchay fort 2 km SE, 13-15th c.; Solyani fort in Doshalti. A once-paved road about 4 km E of Malishka crosses the Arpa and ends at Zedea (160 p) formerly Zeita, a small mountain village with a few khachkars amid bleak but interesting scenery.

Vayk (5458 p) (originally Soylan, from 1956-1994 Azizbekov, named for one of the few ethnic Azeris among the famous 26 Baku commissars, vanguard of Azerbaijan's largely ethnic Armenian proletariat, whose short-lived Bolshevik government of Baku was deposed as the Turkish army approached. Fleeing to Turkmenistan, the 26 were detained and finally executed in September 1918 by jittery local authorities after the British refused to take them), on the Arpa r.; Tigran Hotel, restaurants. One km E is a bridge rebuilt by General Paskevich in 1827.

Somewhere N above Vaik is Arin (240 p) formerly Daylakhlu, founded in the mid-19th c. on an older site. South from Vaik is Azatek (565 p), with a 17-18th c. church and ruins of a castle locally called Smbataberd; residents came from Salmast in 1828. Two km S is S. Hakop shrine of 1072, with S. Marinos shrine nearby. The disused village of Por has a 19th c. church and a medieval cemetery.

Southern Vayots Dzor (Map P)

Crossing the second bridge after leaving Vaik puts one on the paved road to Zaritap (1333 p), (until 1935 Pashaghu, then until 1957 Azizbekov), with 13th c. khachkars, a modern church, and traces of an old fort. A regional tobacco center. Continuing straight past Zaritap, one takes the unmarked left fork to reach the newer section of Martiros village (656 p). At the military barracks, turn left and bear left again to reach in 2 km the older part of Martiros, founded, as a huge khachkar still attests, in 1283 at the command of Prince Prosh and his son Paron Hasan. Opposite the khachkar is a basilica built in 1866 and extensively rebuilt in the 1980s, including half-finished buildings for a future theological academy. A local woman named Taguhi Zeldian saw a vision here, and inspired the All-Holy Trinity Second Jerusalem church.

Just before entering this part of Martiros, a dirt road forks right, around the hill and across a flat field. Stop at the far edge, and follow the slope around to the left (E) toward a lone khachkar with several tumbled monument bases. A rough track SE follows a water channel around to a small dam in the gorge. Cross it, and climb about 100 m to a little door in the rock leading to the <A HREF=armo5_martiroscavechurch.html>rock-cut S. Astvatsatsin church</A> =30= (39 35.17n x 045 31.28e) and side chapel, founded by Matevos vardapet in 1286 at the behest of the Proshians (who also built the rock-cut Geghard). There is an underground passage, now blocked, to the stream, and caves below left of the church.

The right fork in new Martiros leads to Sers (221 p). The right fork closer to Zaritap on the Zaritap-Martiros road leads to Khndzorut (515 p, 19th c. church), until 1946 Almalu (Turkish name also means "apple-ish"). Somewhere NW of Khndzorut is the abandoned site of Horadis, with a church of 1668. Gulistan village near Khndzorut has a ruined fortress S. Bardzruni village further E has a small church used as a shop.

Turning E through Zaritap, a left fork leads to Akhta, populated by Azeris until 1990, now with a single occupant. The cemetery has ram and other animal-shaped tombstones. The right fork leads to Gomk, (260 p) formerly Gomur, with a 17th c. church and an important shrine/khachkar of 1263. The inscription reads, "In 712 of the Armenian era, under the pious Prince Prosh, Mkhitar, Arevik, son of Khoidan, set up this cross and chapel. In the village there was not even a church; we have built this church with our own means with much trouble, for us and our parents. You who read, remember us in your prayers." Kapuyt has various khachkars and inscriptions of the 10-15th c.

Jermuk and Eastward -- Gndevank (Map P)

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Gndevank

Continuing on toward Jermuk, in the gorge of the Arpa river, below the village of Gndevaz, (960 p, Astvatsatsin church of 1686, water channel of 11th c.), is <A HREF=armo5_gndevank.html>Gndevank</A>* =65= (39 45.53n 045 36.69e) This monastery was founded in 936 by Princess Sofia of Syunik, who reportedly boasted that "Vayots Dzor was a jewelless ring, but I built this as the jewel on it." Inside the S. Stepanos church of 936 is a wall-painting of Mary and the Christ child, thought to be contemporary with the church. The gavit, built during the time of Abbot Kristapor, dates to 999, but the monastery circuit wall is late medieval. The monastery is surrounded with high walls. in the southern and western parts of the precincts are rows of domestic buildings for the use of the monks. The restoration works on the church and the jhamatun, damaged by earthquakes, were undertaken between 1965 and 1969 thanks to financial aid from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, in Lisbon. Gndevank can be reached by taking the narrow road on the W side of the river (this "old Jermuk road", though in disrepair and narrow, is a very scenic route and unless you don't mind a serious hike, much easier as you can drive right up to the monastery which is across a little bridge on the right. The whole old road has nice natural surroundings and a stream and is perfect for camping, hiking, and dirt biking), or by taking the main Jermuk road, turning left till the far lower edge of Gndevaz, and walking about 2 km (?). The village of Kechut has three ruined churches of the 7th, 13th and 17th c. Khachkars from there were used to build a later bridge over the Arpa.

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Jermuk Waterfall

<A HREF=armo5_jermuk.html>Jermuk</A> =70= (39 50.38n 045 40.25e), (5146 p) on the Arpa r., 2080 m elevation. Named for the hot springs (up to 65 C), source of the famous fizzy water. There is a picturesque waterfall, interesting walks, a rock formation in the shape of Vardan Mamikonian, and the possibility of a cure of most human ailments at one of the many sanatoriums, where, for about $10, you can soak in a bathtub of piping hot mineral water for exactly 15 minutes before the Soviet nurses begin frantically warning you that you are going to "overdose" on the medicinal water if you do not get out right away. There is a nice tiny roadside pool across the river from the waterfall if you prefer to relax uninterrupted for free. The entire resort area has undergone massive renewal and is once again a popular destination. A rich village in medieval times, its remains are under the modern buildings.

A right turn (S) at or just after the main turnoff for Gndevaz and Jermuk leads to Artavan (425 p), with 18th c. bridge, cemetery, probably a fief of Tatev. Continuing on takes one to Saravan (317 p, till 1956 Darb, Azeri until 1988), with a 17th c. church and some medieval gravestones, and Ughedzor, formerly Kochbek, on the Darb river. At the summit of the pass, one enters the Marz of Syunik (Map K).

The Orbelian Princes
By Brady Keisling

The Orbelian lords of Syunik were a fascinating family, documented in inscriptions throughout Vayots Dzor and Syunik, and recorded by the family bishop Stepanos in his 1297 History of Syunik. They traced their legendary origin back to China (or at any rate somewhere east and exotic), but from the 4th through 12th century were a major feudal family in Georgia, with their home base the fortress of Orbet in or near Abkhazia. In the late 12th century, their leader Ivane led his whole extended clan on the losing side in a power struggle between the deceased king's young heir, Ivane's protege Demetre, and the king's brother Georgi. Ivane sent his brother Liparit and nephews Elikum and Ivane to the Persians in Tabriz for help, but this new army came too late, after Ivane had been blinded, his family strangled, and young Demetre blinded and castrated.

Liparit died in exile. One son, Ivane, returned to Georgia when the situation cooled down; his descendants, on their dwindled estates, stayed prominent in Georgia and even the USSR. Honored by the Persian atabek, other son Elikum stayed and became an important official, converting (half-heartedly and maybe not at all) to Islam and dying in one of the atabek's wars. He left behind a widow, sister of an Armenian bishop of Syunik, and a young son Liparit. These quickly became, involuntarily, the wife and step-son of a Muslim notable in Nakhichevan.

In the year 1211 a combined Georgian and Armenian army under Ivane Zakarian wrested control of Syunik from the Turks. Remembering the Orbelians -- whose dominant role in Georgia the Zakarians had since filled -- Ivane made a search, located Liparit thanks to the bishop brother-in-law, and established him as feudal lord of Vayots Dzor. Bolstered by marriage alliances with its feudal relations the Khaghbakians or Proshians and others, the Orbelians flourished, building or supporting a network of fine monasteries, historically important manuscripts, and inscribed khachkars. Every medieval monastery in Vayots Dzor bears inscriptions recording their patronage.

The Mongol arrival imposed the need for fast footwork. In 1251 and 1256, the prudent and multi-lingual Orbelian prince Smbat made arduous pilgrimages to Karakorum, armed with a splendid jewel and divine blessing, and persuaded Mangu Khan, son of Genghis, the Mongol ruler, to make Syunik and its churches a tax-exempt fiefdom under Mangu's (or at least his Christian mother's) direct patronage. The family expanded its influence, helped by an apparently genuine and reciprocated liking and respect for the Mongols, at least until the Mongols converted to Islam. In 1286, the scholar of the family, the historian Stepanos, made the pilgrimage to the Western Armenian kingdom in Cilicia and was made Metropolitan -- presiding archbishop --of the newly amplified See of Syunik.

The fiefdom was divided in three from 1290-1300, then reunited by Burtel, who ruled a flourishing principality and was ultimately named Mayor/Amir of the Mongol capitals Sultania and Tabriz. This close cooperation with the Mongol rulers had its price. Several Orbelians died on the Khan's campaigns far from home, and one spent 12 years a captive in Egypt before being ransomed. The Orbelians survived the arrival of Timur Lenk and his Turkmen hordes in the 1380s, but in the collapse of Timur's empire into warring factions, Smbat, the last firm Orbelian ruler of Syunik, chose the wrong side and, on the capture of his stronghold of Vorotnaberd (S of Sisian) in 1410, decamped for Georgia where he died. Orbelians managed to retain property in Vayots Dzor throughout the 15th c, though many of them emigrated to their relatives in Georgia.