Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley

The Geghard complex is an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a medieval Armenian monastic foundation in a remote area of great natural beauty at the head of the Azat valley, surrounded by towering cliffs. It contains a number of churches and tombs, most of them cut into the rock, which illustrate the very peak of Armenian medieval architecture and decorative art, with many innovatory features that had a profound influence on subsequent developments in the region. It was founded in the 4th century, according to tradition by St Gregory the Illuminator, who is the patron saint and first official head of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He was a religious leader who is credited with converting Armenia from paganism to Christianity in 301. Armenia thus became the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion. The monastery and spectacular towering cliffs surrounding it which are part of the Azat river gorge, are included together in the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing  “Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley”.