Amaras monastery


Amaras Monastery has played a strong role in the propagation of the Armenian alphabet when it was newly created. According to old Armenian manuscripts, Grigor Lusavorich founded a monastery here in the beginning of the 4th century, which was completed by his grandson Bishop Grigoris (buried there). It the 330’s, this had already become the seat of the bishop, and remained an important religious center until the 19th cc. Its long history of destruction and reconstruction began soon after it was complete. The monastery was destroyed the same century it was built, probably during the battle of Vardanants. At the end of the same century Hayaghvank's King Vachagan Barepasht completely repaired the temple. When Mesrop Mashtots came to eastern Armenian regions, he began teaching the new Armenian letters in Amaras, and opened the very first Armenian school there.

During the first period of Arabic invasions, Amaras was again destroyed. Rebuilt again in the 9 c under Dizak's Prince Yesayi Abu-Muse's patronage, and prospered once again. In 1223 Tatar-Mongols looted the wealth of Amaras. Among the robbed treasure were St.Grigor's crosier and a golden cross ornamented with 36 stones left from 4c. Again in 1387, like dozens of Artsakh's churches, Amaras was leveled by the forces of Lenk-Temur. Legend has it that he lined his soldiers from Amaras to river Araks and ordered them to throw the throw the stones of the destroyed walls into the Araks River, passing them down the approx. 35km chain. But, again as legend has it, the invaders had hardly left, when the monastery was rebuilt.

Further work was done on the monastery in the second half of 16c by Bishop Petros efforts, and a summer-temple was built for it in Herher Village. Ramparts were added in the 18th cc by Varanda’s Prince Shahnazar. These ramparts consisted of many rooms, cells and other auxiliary constructions. In 1858 Amaras was completely restored by efforts of the people of Shushi, causing a loss of many of the old inscriptions.

A khachkar found in the Matchkalashen village's old grave-house, near Amaras, which is an excellent example of medieval stone-work was carved in 1091 by «Kazmogh» Ghazar. Rising on a pedestal, this khachkar with grape and pomegranate carvings is a good example of medieval Armenian ornamentation.

In the second quarter of the 19c Amaras served as a customs house. Caravans going from the orient stopped here en route to Russia or to other European countries. The monastery at one time owned many lands, water-mills and summer-cottages.

The martyr St.Grigoris' underground mausoleum, which is situated under the stage of the present church, was built from trimmed stone brought from Khazaz Mountain’s stone-mine.

The present three-nave basilica (13.5 x 23.2m) church of Amaras was built in 1858. The convent is in the center of 5m high ramparts (85x59m) with round towers at each corner. Into the ramparts are built many rooms for dwelling and auxiliary uses. In the center of the west yard is St.Grigoris church.

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