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Exterior de la Iglesia de San Pogos y Petros en el Monasterio Tatev

Exterior de la Iglesia de San Pogos y Petros en el Monasterio Tatev


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Mapa de Tatev

Tatev es un monasterio ubicado en lo alto del borde del desfiladero de Vorotan, cerca del pueblo de Tatev, en la región de Goris, en el sureste de Armenia. Vorotan es el desfiladero más grande de Armenia con una profundidad de 850 metros.

El monasterio de Tatev se estableció durante el siglo IX. Tatev se construyó en una posición estratégicamente ventajosa. Dos lados del complejo están delimitados por altos muros defensivos y los otros dos lados están protegidos por valles escarpados.

Historia de Tatev
El complejo del monasterio de Tatev fue una vez la capital política del principado de Syunik. Durante el siglo X tenía una población de 1000 personas. El monasterio de Tatevi Anapat se estableció durante el siglo XVII. Está ubicado al fondo del valle. Una cantidad considerable de destrucción fue causada por el terremoto de 1931.

Monumentos de Tatev
La Iglesia de Pogos y Petros establecida en 895-906 es el principal monumento de Tatev. Contiene una basílica típicamente abovedada del siglo VII. La delicadeza arquitectónica única y los fascinantes detalles del exterior de la iglesia llaman la atención de todos los turistas. Las paredes interiores fueron decoradas con frescos, que con el tiempo se han ido deteriorando. La Iglesia Grigory ubicada al lado de la iglesia principal fue construida en 1295.

El monumento de Gavazan es un ejemplo único de la fascinante excelencia arquitectónica del país.

En Tatev se fundó una escuela establecida en el siglo X. Aquí se enseñó a los alumnos ciencia humanitaria y manuscritos ilustrados.


El regreso a casa

Un último tramo de escalones de piedra se burló de mí, el único obstáculo entre mí y las ruinas de Kobayr, un complejo de iglesias del siglo XII. ¿Qué estaban pensando mis antepasados ​​medievales, construyendo iglesias en lo alto de los picos de las montañas? ¿Estaban tratando de acercarse lo más posible a Dios, quien rara vez parecía responder a sus oraciones? Quizás, porque cuando llegué a las ruinas y me paré frente a los frescos descoloridos de Cristo y sus discípulos pintados en la mitad restante de la cúpula de la iglesia, fue como estar en el cielo.

Mi esposo, Harry, y yo, junto con nuestros amigos Nora y su esposo Thomas, y mi hermana Arda y su esposo, Roland, finalmente nos dimos cuenta de nuestro deseo de visitar Armenia juntos desde hace mucho tiempo.

Mis raíces son profundas en Hayastan, como llamamos a nuestro país. A finales del siglo XIX, mis abuelos paternos huyeron de la persecución otomana en lo que hoy es el este de Turquía (pero que históricamente eran territorios armenios) y se establecieron en Egipto. En 1915, mis abuelos maternos escaparon de las masacres turcas de armenios y también empezaron de nuevo sus vidas en Egipto.

A los 15, pasé un mes en un campamento de verano en Armenia antes de regresar a El Cairo, mi lugar de nacimiento. Ese viaje me dejó una impresión imborrable, y mis recuerdos de las montañas salvajes del distrito de Lori en el norte de Armenia eran tan vívidos que llamé a mi primera hija Lori. Todavía vivo en Egipto y formo parte de la diáspora armenia de 4 millones.

"Oh, ha cambiado mucho, tienes que verlo", dijeron amigos que visitaron Armenia después de su independencia de la Unión Soviética en 1991. Los cambios serían fascinantes, estaba seguro, pero también quería ver la patria que había conocido brevemente en mi juventud.

Ahora, casi tres décadas después de mi primera visita, estaba de regreso en Lori. Mi memoria no me había engañado. Las montañas se desplegaron hasta donde alcanzaba la vista. Las cabras pastaban en la boca de una cueva en una cresta un poco más abajo del pico desde donde yo estaba parado, y el río Debed serpenteaba a través del valle hacia Georgia, donde desembocaría en el Mar Negro.

Desde donde me encontraba, la vista era serena, y ocultaba una historia de desastres tanto naturales (un terremoto de 1988 mató a 25.000 personas) como provocados por el hombre.

Volamos a Ereván, la capital, a través de Viena. Fue la mejor conexión que pudimos encontrar desde El Cairo, pero nos puso en la ciudad a las 5 de la mañana. Estaba medio dormido cuando tomamos un taxi hacia la ciudad, pero mi primera vista del monte Ararat despertó mis sentidos. La montaña es sagrada para los armenios, quienes creen que el Arca de Noé se posó allí. Hoy cae dentro del territorio turco. Sin embargo, Ararat está tan conectado con nuestra identidad que durante los próximos días a veces me volvía a buscarlo como para reforzar el hecho de que finalmente estaba en mi tierra natal.

Thomas, que había visitado el país con regularidad desde principios de los noventa, era nuestro "jefe de misión" y había planeado nuestra estadía de 12 días con su enfoque profesional habitual. Él y Nora, que era nuestra experta en comida y entretenimiento, nos ayudaron a alquilar un apartamento en Ereván, desde el cual teníamos una vista magnífica del monte Ararat.

La cultura del café ha cambiado a Ereván, una ciudad que ha crecido rápidamente hasta llegar a unos 1,2 millones de habitantes. Donde antes había parques y paseos, ahora hay bistrós donde los clientes se sientan hombro con hombro para socializar.

Disfrutamos de una agradable velada en el restaurante Amrotz, que tiene una vista espectacular de Ararat. Comimos khorovatz, o cordero o cerdo a la parrilla, y bailaba al ritmo de la música armenia y bebía vodka ruso.

Otra noche probamos el Paplavok Jazz Café, que también tiene música en vivo. Mientras observábamos a la bulliciosa multitud, para nuestra sorpresa vimos a nuestros primos de los EE. UU. Sentados a unas pocas mesas de distancia.

La escena artística de Ereván también se extiende a las calles, donde encontrará numerosas esculturas y obras de arte: la abrumadora estatua gigante de Mayr Hayastan (Madre Armenia) vigilando Ereván desde lo alto de una colina en Victory Park, el gato de Botero, al pie del área de Cascades y , en metal, la inquieta figura de Garaballa, la vendedora de flores de la calle Apovian.

Los armenios hacen un buen uso del metal y la piedra. Aunque los edificios de los años 70, de la era soviética, son horribles cajas de cerillas, los edificios más antiguos de la ciudad tienen una austeridad clásica. La arquitectura más reciente hace uso de los indígenas duf, una piedra teñida de rosa, que al jugar con las fachadas de vidrio le da a la ciudad un aire contemporáneo.

Durante el día saldríamos de Ereván para explorar el campo. Alquilamos una minivan con conductor y, al final de nuestra estadía, habíamos explorado gran parte de las aproximadamente 11,490 millas cuadradas de Armenia.

Aunque ninguno de nosotros se describiría a nosotros mismos como cristianos devotos, pasamos la mayor parte de nuestro tiempo en iglesias y monasterios, lo que nos permitió conocer mejor nuestra tierra natal y sus 3 millones de habitantes.

Armenia se convirtió en la primera nación cristiana del mundo en el año 301 d.C., de la cual los armenios están inmensamente orgullosos. Para acomodar su fe ardiente, y tal vez para brindar protección a ciudades y pueblos, construyeron iglesias en casi todos los rincones de este país que se encuentra hoy en la intersección de Turquía, Georgia, Azerbaiyán e Irán.

Debido a su posición en la encrucijada de Europa y Asia, Armenia ha sido rodeada, invadida y ocupada por muchos vecinos hostiles. Romanos, bizantinos, persas y otras potencias regionales cruzaron las tierras armenias. Algunos, como los árabes en el siglo VII, se quedaron ocupando la tierra durante casi tres siglos.

A principios del siglo XVI, los turcos otomanos se apoderaron de gran parte de la Armenia histórica, la mayor parte de la cual se encuentra hoy dentro de las fronteras de Turquía, y los soviéticos controlaron el país durante más de 70 años. En los años transcurridos desde 1991, Armenia y Azerbaiyán se han enfrentado y miles han muerto en ambos bandos.

Así como nuestros antepasados ​​estaban motivados para construir iglesias en lugares estratégicos, nosotros también teníamos nuestras razones para colocarlas de manera tan prominente en nuestro itinerario: tocaríamos una parte poderosa del pasado de Armenia mientras disfrutamos de la belleza natural del campo, sus pueblos y aldeas.

De los 40.000 monumentos religiosos estimados en el país, la mayoría tiene una característica arquitectónica única o una historia interesante sobre la historia de Armenia y sus hilos entrelazados de fe y política.

En el sur, por ejemplo, desafiamos las malas carreteras (o lo hizo nuestro conductor) y los tortuosos senderos montañosos de la región de Syunik para llegar al monasterio y la fortaleza de Tatev del siglo IX, encaramados en un acantilado sobre la ciudad de Tatev, a unas 170 millas de Ereván. .

Desde la distancia, pudimos ver la cúpula típicamente cónica de la iglesia con la cruz, y debajo de ella una cascada que se precipitaba por el cañón. Las paredes internas de su iglesia principal, Pogos y Petros, o Paul y Peter, estaban decoradas con frescos que recientemente habían sido parcialmente restaurados. Khachkars - losas rectangulares de piedra talladas con cruces intrincadas - adornan los muros exteriores de la iglesia y el patio del recinto. En el cenit del monasterio, entre los siglos X y XIII, vivieron y estudiaron aquí hasta 1.000 monjes.

Una de las cámaras del monasterio tiene una inmensa abertura arqueada que da al cañón. De manera típica de usos múltiples, Tatev se usó como una fortaleza para protegerse de los ejércitos invasores y como un centro religioso que nutrió la fe cristiana y propagó y enriqueció la cultura armenia. Los monjes crearon manuscritos en miniatura, ahora conservados en el museo Madenataran de Ereván, que documentan sus estudios en historia, lengua, ciencia y artes, como parte del esfuerzo por mantener viva su identidad armenia.

Otro día visitamos los complejos monásticos del siglo X de Sanahin y Haghpad, construidos alrededor de la ciudad de Alaverdi, a unas 110 millas al norte de Ereván. Cada uno tiene numerosos edificios, dispuestos asimétricamente, y sus iglesias principales son del tipo de cúpula de alas cruzadas que prevalece en la arquitectura religiosa armenia.

Los dos sitios tienen campanarios de tres pisos coronados con campanarios de columnas. En los pisos de la biblioteca de cada uno había escondites subterráneos para esconder tesoros o documentos importantes. Los símbolos islámicos y zoroástricos (una antigua religión persa) decoran las paredes de Haghpad y Sanahin, quizás para apaciguar o confundir a los enemigos.

El apreciado poeta Sayat Nova, cuyas románticas canciones del siglo XVIII todavía forman parte del léxico musical de Armenia, trabajó en una celda monástica en Haghpad, mirando desde el altiplano hacia espectaculares vistas de montañas y valles, sin duda una inspiración.

La vista más inspiradora que encontramos fue desde el monasterio de Khor Virab, a 34 millas al oeste de Ereván en la frontera turco-armenia. Aquí es donde el santo patrón de los armenios, Gregorio el Iluminador, fue encarcelado hace 1.700 años por el rey Trdat III (o Tiridates) por predicar el cristianismo. Fue puesto en libertad 13 años después de convertir al rey, que proclamó el cristianismo como religión estatal de Armenia. El pozo claustrofóbico en el que Gregory estuvo cautivo es accesible por una escalera.

Era un día claro como el cristal y el monte Ararat se extendía por el horizonte.

"Subiremos allí algún día, ¿no?" Hovsep, nuestro conductor de minivan, preguntó mientras contemplábamos la montaña.

Quizás, pensé. Pero incluso si no lo hacemos, Ararat está con nosotros como símbolo de la lucha armenia. Llegamos a esa cumbre, en sentido figurado, con solo haber sobrevivido 3.000 años.

Una de las herramientas de nuestra supervivencia fue la música y el canto. Cuando íbamos camino al monasterio de Keghart, a 30 millas al este de Ereván, tres músicos callejeros nos acompañaron. Tan pronto como los músicos se acomodaron en el asiento trasero, comenzaron a tocar canciones de amor armenias y a cantar en voz alta.

Nora se rió a carcajadas. “Había oído hablar de llevar una radio o un reproductor de CD, pero ¿conducir con una banda en vivo? ¡Esto solo puede suceder en Armenia! " ella dijo.

Los dejamos en un área de picnic donde actuarían para los visitantes a cambio de algunas monedas.

El Monasterio de Keghart es un impresionante complejo de edificios fundado en el siglo IV por Gregorio el Iluminador y ampliado en el siglo XII. Según la leyenda, aquí se trajo la lanza que atravesó a Cristo, aunque hace tiempo que desapareció.

Partes de las numerosas iglesias interconectadas están talladas en roca en la ladera de la montaña. La acústica dentro de una sala es tal que una sola persona tarareando, que Thomas nos demostró, suena como un coro.

Pero para escuchar un sonido verdaderamente celestial, escuche los cantos de la liturgia armenia. En la antigüedad, el uso de imágenes elaboradas estaba prohibido en la iglesia. Algunos dicen que las canciones de la liturgia armenia, como para compensar, son sofisticadas en comparación con otras religiones ortodoxas. El domingo asistimos a misa en Echmiadzin, la Sede Madre de la Iglesia Apostólica Armenia. Su Santidad Karekin II, Patriarca Supremo y Católico de todos los armenios, estuvo allí, como suele estar.

No pasamos todo el tiempo en el interior o entre las ruinas. Un día hicimos un picnic en las laderas del monte Aragats, a unas 30 millas al noroeste de Ereván. Mares de lavanda, flores silvestres amarillas y blancas se encuentran a la sombra de las ruinas de la fortaleza de Amberd del siglo XI, que se cierne majestuosamente en el borde del valle.

También incluimos una parada en el lago Sevan, cuyas aguas turquesas y playas de arena te hacen olvidar, aunque solo sea por un tiempo, que Armenia es un país sin salida al mar.

Había un último lugar que teníamos que visitar antes de salir de Armenia: Tsitsernakaberd, el monumento en Ereván construido en honor a los cientos de miles (los armenios dicen que hasta 1,5 millones) asesinados por los turcos a partir de 1915.

A través de las aberturas entre las losas de piedra que se elevan alrededor de la llama eterna que arde en el centro del monumento, pude ver el pico nevado de Ararat. Una anciana ayudada por su hija se acercó a la llama y me pregunté en quién estaría pensando.

Mis pensamientos volvieron a las montañas, a una patria milagrosa que ha cambiado fronteras, banderas, capitales, incluso desapareció como entidad política durante 500 años, pero no ha perecido. Aguanta y me da fuerzas. Sé que volveré.

Desde LAX, El servicio de conexión (cambio de avión) se ofrece en Aeroflot, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, British, United, American, KLM y Air New Zealand. Las tarifas de ida y vuelta restringidas comienzan en $ 999 hasta el 13 de octubre, luego $ 800 hasta el 11 de diciembre.

Llamar los siguientes números desde los EE. UU., marque 011 (el código de marcación internacional), 374 (código de país para Armenia) y el número local.

Marriott Armenia Hotel, Republic Square, Ereván 1-599-000, fax 1-599-001, https://www.marriott.com/EVNMC. Dobles desde $ 139.

Hotel del Congreso, 1 Italia St., Ereván 1-580-095, fax 1-522-224 https://www.congresshotelyerevan.com. 126 habitaciones. Dobles desde $ 108.

Hotel Ani Plaza, 19 Sayat-Nova Ave., Ereván 1-589-500, fax 1-565-343, https://www.anihotel.com. 194 habitaciones. Dobles desde $ 102.

Mer Tagh, 21/1 Tumanian St., Ereván 1-580-106. Su especialidad es lahmajun, una masa fina cubierta con carne picada y horneada en el horno a 80 centavos cada una. Khachabouri, un hojaldre georgiano con queso o carne, cuesta $ 1,50 cada uno.

Aragast / Paplavok, 41 Isahakian St., Ereván 1-545-500. Estos dos restaurantes dan a un estanque y sirven platos armenios y occidentales, pero ve allí por la música, no por la comida. El primero cuenta con un violinista y el segundo es famoso por su jazz en vivo. Entradas alrededor de $ 5.

Guía: "Edge of Time: Viajando en Armenia y Karabagh". Los autores Matthew Karanian y Robert Kurkjian ofrecen información útil sobre cómo viajar en coche por Armenia y Karabaj.


Ciudad de Echmiadzin

Con Ereván como base, puede visitar fácilmente la ciudad santa de Echmiadzin (que significa 'el lugar donde descendió el Hijo Unigénito de Dios'), el centro espiritual y administrativo de la Iglesia Apostólica Armenia, un lugar de peregrinación para los cristianos armenios de todas partes. mundial, famosa por sus numerosas iglesias, monasterios e interesante arquitectura con fondos pintorescos.

los Catedral de Echmiadzin es el punto culminante de la ciudad, una de las iglesias cristianas más antiguas construida en el siglo IV, que cuenta con un museo, que conserva pinturas y artefactos religiosos verdaderamente valiosos. Hay una leyenda interesante sobre esta iglesia, que dice que San Gregorio, conocido como el Santo Iluminador porque iluminó al Rey Trdat y lo llevó al cristianismo en 301, tuvo una visión de Cristo bajando de las nubes y golpeando el suelo en Echmiadzin. con un martillo de oro, designando así la ubicación de la nueva iglesia. Es uno de los sitios más visitados de Armenia que atrae a los visitantes tanto por su exterior como por su interior.

Foto de tweettravelers.com

Atractivas son también las iglesias de St. Gayane (640-41 cc. A.D.) y St. Hripsime (618 d.C.), ambas obras maestras de la arquitectura armenia y sitios del Patrimonio Mundial de la UNESCO que nunca dejan de sorprender a los turistas con sus proporciones armoniosas e interiores solemnes. Iglesia Shoghakat es otra maravilla arquitectónica añadida mucho más tarde a la colección arquitectónica de la ciudad. Mientras esté en Echmiadzin, asegúrese de probar un manjar local llamado kyufta, con un sabor auténtico que realmente apreciará.


Atracciones turísticas de Armenia: que ver en Armenia

Las atracciones turísticas de Armenia son notables para el viajero interesado en la historia. Los más conocidos son sus numerosos y antiguos monasterios e iglesias. Pero el país también tiene paisajes interesantes y bellezas naturales.

Entre los atractivos turísticos más importantes de Armenia se encuentran los sitios que la UNESCO ha incluido en el elanco del patrimonio mundial de la humanidad: los Monasterios de Haghpat y Sanahin (1996, 2000), la Catedral y las Iglesias de Echmiatsin y el sitio arqueológico de Zvartnots. (2000), el Monasterio de Geghard y el Alto Valle de Azat (2000).

LOS MONASTERIOS DE HAGHPAT Y SANAHIN

Los Monasterios de Haghpat y Sanahin: Son dos monasterios bizantinos ubicados en la región de Tumanian, en el norte de Armenia, fueron importantes centros de conocimiento durante la dinastía Kiurikian (siglo X-XIII). Estos dos monasterios representan el nivel más alto alcanzado por la arquitectura religiosa armenia, cuyo estilo único es una mezcla de elementos bizantinos y arquitectura tradicional de las regiones del Cáucaso. Ambos monasterios fueron fundados en el siglo X, a pocos kilómetros el uno del otro. Los edificios están ubicados en una posición dominante en el profundo valle formado por el río Dzoraget. Es un paraje natural idílico y maravilloso.

LA CATEDRAL Y LAS IGLESIAS DE ECHMIATSIN

La Catedral e Iglesias de Echmiatsin (Ejmiatsin) y el sitio arqueológico de Zvartnots: La Catedral e Iglesias de Echmiatsin (Ejmiatsin) y el sitio arqueológico de Zvartnots, representan la evolución y desarrollo del tipo de iglesia típica del país con plan de cruz y cúpula central. La catedral de San Echmiadzin, construida en el siglo V, es ahora la sede de los católicos armenios. También es interesante el museo ubicado dentro de la catedral, que exhibe tesoros de arte armenio, reliquias y restos arqueológicos.

EL SITIO ARQUEOLÓGICO DE ZVARTNOTS

Zvartnots, es un complejo de estructuras muy sugerente, construido a mediados del siglo VII cerca de Echmiatsin (Ejmiatsin). En el momento de su construcción era la catedral más importante de Armenia. El complejo de ruinas está formado por la catedral de San Giorgio (Zvartnots) y el palacio de Nerses III.

OTROS MONASTERIOS E IGLESIAS

Monasterio de Geghard y el Alto Valle de Azat: El Monasterio de Geghard, ubicado a pocos kilómetros al norte de Garni, contiene numerosas iglesias y tumbas. La mayoría de los cuales están tallados en la roca y representan el pináculo de la arquitectura medieval armenia. El conjunto de edificaciones medievales se ubica en un paisaje de gran belleza natural, rodeado de acantilados a la entrada del Valle de Azat. La iglesia excavada en la roca más antigua del monasterio, la de San Gregorio, data del siglo VII. Mientras que la estructura principal del conjunto, la iglesia de la Virgen, de planta cruciforme, data del siglo XIII.

Otros lugares interesantes para visitar en el país son el Monasterio Haghartsin, que se encuentra cerca de la ciudad de Dilijan. Este monasterio está formado por una serie de construcciones monásticas que incluyen tres iglesias y varias capillas. La iglesia principal es la de San Astvatsatsin, construida en 1281, mientras que la más antigua es la de San Grigor, que data del siglo XI.

Otro edificio interesante es el Monasterio Tatev, fundado en el siglo IX. Este monasterio se asienta sobre un acantilado rocoso estratégicamente ubicado para dominar un cañón debajo. El edificio más importante del monasterio es la iglesia de Pogos y Petros (Pedro y Pablo) construida entre los siglos IX y X. En el interior, todavía se pueden ver algunos frescos del siglo X.


Arquitectura

Según el historiador armenio Vardan Areveltsi del siglo XIII, Gharghavank fue construido entre los años 661 a 685 por el príncipe Grigor Mamikonian. La iglesia es un tipo tetra-caracol de pasillo centralmente planificado con ocho ábsides semicirculares que irradian desde el espacio octogonal interior. Los exteriores de los ocho muros del ábside se alternan con ocho paneles rectilíneos que contienen amplios nichos triangulares que dividen cada uno de los ábsides. Los gruesos muros del ábside y las pechinas sostenían un tambor y una cúpula encima. La mayor parte del tambor y la cúpula se han derrumbado desde entonces. Alrededor del local se pueden ver fragmentos de la decoración geométrica.

Hay dos portales que conducen a la estructura. En el dintel de uno, está tallado un diseño khachkar cruciforme. En las esquinas de los nichos triangulares del exterior, se encuentran decoraciones de columnas. Se pueden ver otros diseños alrededor de las sillas de montar sobre las ventanas, los aleros y cornisas, y alguna vez hubo elementos decorativos alrededor de los portales. Alrededor de las ventanas se aprecia un relieve de follaje, mientras que el relieve geométrico se encuentra en los aleros y cornisas. También hay huellas de relieves pintados en el interior de la iglesia. El relieve decorativo que se encuentra en la iglesia se asemeja al de la iglesia de Zvartnots del siglo VII en Ejmiatsin.

El trabajo de restauración se realizó en el lado norte de la iglesia en 1948. Se pueden ver algunas barras de refuerzo a lo largo del área donde una vez estuvo el tambor.


Exterior de la Iglesia de San Pogos y Petros en el Monasterio Tatev - Historia

Durante agosto de 2003, Abba Seraphim y el padre Simon Smyth fueron invitados del arzobispo Pargev Martirossyan, el prelado de la Diócesis de Artsakh (que cubre Nagorno-Karabagh y los territorios liberados adyacentes del histórico Artsakh) de la Iglesia Apostólica Armenia. Estuvieron acompañados en todo momento por el Dr. Manuk Hergnyan, Director Ejecutivo de Vem Armenian Radio.

Partimos hacia Artsakh en la encantadora compañía del Dr. Eduard Danielyan, director del grupo de investigación que estudia la historia armenia antigua y medieval temprana en la Academia Nacional de Ciencias de la República de Armenia y director de la Cátedra de Estudios de Área en Lingüística del Estado de Ereván. Universidad, donde enseña Estudios de Área de Gran Bretaña e Historia de Armenia. Eduard era un fondo absoluto de información y todas las preguntas que planteé sobre la historia de Armenia fueron respondidas con gran profundidad y precisión académica. Mi interés genealógico en las antiguas dinastías principescas de Bagratids y Artsrunids obviamente lo deleitó y nos desviamos hacia la discusión de los armenios. diásporaasí como nuestros propios orígenes familiares. Manuk sabía que sus antepasados ​​habían emigrado de Bayazit en las laderas occidentales del monte Ararat (ahora en el este de Turquía) en 1828, durante una de las muchas guerras ruso-turcas.

Poco después de salir de Ereván, cruzamos la gran llanura de Araratian, que estaba dominada a nuestra derecha por el lejano pico nevado del monte Ararat-Masis (5.165 m), elevándose sobre nubes brumosas como la Nueva Jerusalén que bajaba del cielo. No fue difícil entender por qué Ararat-Masis tiene un control tan emocional y simbólico en los sentimientos armenios. Reflexioné sobre la vulnerabilidad estratégica de este núcleo de la Armenia histórica mientras imaginaba el paso de los ejércitos invasores: romanos, bizantinos, mongoles, persas, tártaros, selyúcidas, otomanos y turcos kemalistas, cada uno de los cuales destruyó la frágil independencia de la nación armenia. Mientras viajábamos hacia el sur y luego hacia el este hacia la provincia sureña de Zangezur (Syunik) en Armenia, la carretera serpenteaba a través de las majestuosas colinas de las montañas Zangezur. El nombre de Zangezur deriva tradicionalmente del nombre geográfico Dzagedzor, el dominio de un patriarca armenio Dzagik. Según la etimología popular, el nombre significa "la campana que no se puede escuchar", que deriva de una leyenda sobre la campana en una antigua iglesia construida en la garganta del río Vorotan. La enorme campana se podía escuchar a una distancia de hasta sesenta kilómetros y servía para advertir a unas seiscientas aldeas del acercamiento de enemigos, permitiéndoles huir a las colinas boscosas y abrirse camino hacia la seguridad del inexpugnable monasterio de Tatev. Se cuenta que los invasores árabes en el siglo VIII intentaron en vano destruir la campana hasta que finalmente encendieron una fiera hoguera debajo de ella, haciendo que el badajo se derritiera contra el costado.

Después de la caída de la Rusia Imperial, esta área resistió la prueba del tiempo. Las reclamaciones de la República de Azerbaiyán (apoyadas por Turquía) a las regiones armenias de Nakhijevan, Zangezur y Karabagh encontraron una feroz resistencia de los armenios y se convirtieron en un centro de conflicto. En junio de 1918 durante el asalto de las tropas turcas contra la República de Armenia invadieron la región de Nakhijeven pero fueron derrotados por el regimiento armenio dirigido por el general Andranik Ozanyan (1865-1927). A finales de julio, las fuerzas turcas apoyadas por los musulmanes azerbaiyanos capturaron Nakhijevan, pero después de la derrota en la Primera Guerra Mundial Turquía tuvo que retirarse de los territorios ocupados, incluido Nakhijevan (diciembre de 1918). Los musavatistas ocuparon la región, pero en mayo de 1919 las fuerzas militares de la República de Armenia liberaron a Nakhijevan. En julio de 1920, Nakhijevan fue ocupado por los regimientos del XI Ejército Rojo y allí se estableció el poder soviético. Según el Tratado de Moscú (16 de marzo de 1921) firmado por la Rusia soviética y la Turquía kemalista, Nakhijevan se unió al Azerbaiyán soviético. Así, la Turquía kemalista conquistó de Armenia el distrito de Kars y la región de Surmalu (Surb Mariam - St. Maria) por un lado y ayudó al Azerbaiyán soviético a anexar Nakhijevan, que en febrero de 1924 fue reestructurado en Nakhijevan (el nombre estaba mal escrito Naxçivan ) República Autónoma Socialista Soviética que asciende a la República Socialista Soviética de Azerbaiyán. Gracias a los esfuerzos del general Andranik y luego del célebre comandante armenio Geregin Nzhdeh (1886-1955), Zangazur siguió siendo armenio y no sufrió la misma suerte que Nakhijevan. Sin embargo, si Zangezour hubiera sido cedido a Azerbaiyán, Azerbaiyán habría rodeado tan firmemente a Karabaj que nunca habría obtenido su independencia. Durante los años del poder soviético, los gobernantes azerbaiyanos realizaron la política de deportación de los armenios, la población aborigen de Nakhijevan. Fue acompañado de vandalismo: destrucción de monumentos históricos armenios, especialmente de la época cristiana (iglesias y khachkars, cruces de piedra).

Después de dejar la carretera principal y seguir una carretera secundaria por un desfiladero empinado creado por un afluente del río Arpa, llegamos a Norovank ("Nuevo monasterio"), que, como la mayoría de los sitios monásticos antiguos, está dramáticamente situado en la cima de un acantilado. Como puede conducir hasta el monasterio, había una gran cantidad de turistas en Norovank, incluida una familia amistosa de armenios estadounidenses que me entrevistó para su película casera, pidiendo deliberadamente mi opinión sobre si pensaba que Armenia era un lugar seguro para los turistas. .


Compuesto por tres iglesias, el complejo ha sido restaurado a su antigua gloria en 1998 gracias a la generosidad de una familia armenia canadiense. Este era el señorío de Vayots Dzor ("el desfiladero de la aflicción") o la región de Syunik, una vez el territorio de la familia Orbelian. Súbditos originalmente feudales de los príncipes Zakarid, a Smbat Orbelian se le concedió inju Estado por el Gran Khan Monge en 1252 y se hizo directamente dependiente de los mongoles, fomentando su política de dividir y gobernar. La nobleza feudal armenia parece cercana en espíritu a los clanes escoceses y, en común con la tradición celta, cada clan tenía su propio obispo, a menudo un vástago de la familia del jefe del clan. Stepanos Orbelian, que murió en 1304 y está enterrado aquí, fue tanto metropolitano de Syunik como un distinguido historiador.

Fundada por el obispo Hovhannes, abad de Vahanavank, en 1205 en el sitio de una iglesia anterior (siglo IX) se convirtió en el centro del obispado de Syunik. St. Karapet es un edificio de una sola nave con un patio al sur, que fue descubierto por excavaciones en 1982. En el lado norte, adyacente a St. Karapet's se encuentra la Iglesia de San Esteban el Protomártir construida por el Príncipe Libarit Orbelian entre 1216- 1222 y consagrada en 1223. Tiene un interior cruciforme con sacristías de dos pisos en cada esquina y una cúpula, que fue destruida por un terremoto en 1840 y no se restauró hasta los años ochenta. En el lado norte de San Esteban se encuentra la iglesia-mausoleo de San Gregorio. Diseñado por el arquitecto Siranes, fue construido por el príncipe Tarsayich Orbelian en 1275 sobre la tumba de su hermano, el príncipe Smbat el Grande. En 1251 y 1256 había emprendido dos peligrosos viajes a la corte del Gran Khan en Karakorum para persuadirlo de que concediera la exención de impuestos a la región de Syunik. Una losa de la tumba incisa, que representa un león extrañamente antropomórfico, cubre la tumba del hijo del príncipe Tarsayich y hermano del obispo Stepanos, Elikum, que murió en 1300. gavit, que se describe mejor como una versión más grandiosa del nártex occidental, en el oeste, que data de 1261, sirve como el mausoleo de los príncipes orbelianos. Las paredes externas de la gavit tiene una escultura en relieve especialmente rica y todo el complejo es rico en khatchkars. Una representación particularmente sorprendente de Dios el Padre en una tímpano sobre una ventana, lo representa sosteniendo la cabeza de Adán en su pecho mientras el Espíritu Santo desciende sobre ella en forma de paloma, mientras que en otra tímpano sobre la puerta de abajo, la Virgen María y el niño Salvador se sientan entronizados en medio de un follaje ricamente entrelazado.

En el lado este del complejo se encuentra la Iglesia de la Santa Madre de Dios (Astvatsatsin), construida en 1339, y a veces llamada "Bourtelashen" en honor a su constructor, el príncipe Bourtel Orbelin. Fue diseñado por el gran artista, pintor, escultor y arquitecto medieval Momik. Tiene dos pisos de altura, pero tiene una cripta profunda excavada en el lecho de roca, a la que se puede llegar desde el nivel del suelo a través de la entrada principal. Solo se puede ingresar a la capilla del primer piso subiendo escalones externos empinados a cada lado de la entrada principal. El vértigo del padre Simón lo mantuvo en el suelo, pero aunque comprensivo, me alegré de haber hecho el ascenso, ya que la gloria de la capilla es la luz que se filtra a través de la rotonda de doce columnas. Hasta 1997, la iglesia solo tenía un techo a cuatro aguas, pero en 1997 se restauraron el tambor y el techo cónico sobre la base de fuentes fragmentarias.

Dejando Norovank, fuimos en busca de Gladzor, un sitio menos impresionante, pero de gran importancia en la historia cultural armenia. El monasterio de Gladzor fue fundado por Nerses Mshetzi en 1282 y sirvió como universidad con al menos nueve profesores y unos quince profesores. Aquí se educaron destacados eclesiásticos, científicos y el historiador Mons. Stepanos Orbelian. It was known as the ‘glorious second Athens’, ‘the seat and school of our holy doctors’ by contemporaries and students came from all over Armenia and even from Cilicia. It was famed for its ancient manuscripts and became an outstanding school of miniature painting, many of which are preserved in Armenia’s great manuscript collection housed in Yerevan’s Matenadaran. To avoid the Mongol advance the university eventually transferred to Vostan Gavor after Nerses’ death in 1338, when the monastery rapidly declined and the site was subsequently sacked and left in ruins. Its prestigious reputation ultimately led to the foundation of the Gladzor Management University in Yerevan in 1991, the Gladzor Bank and Gladzor Brandy, a blend of the ubiquitous Armenian spirit.

The site today, known as Tanahati Vank (or Tanade) is along a serpentine road and halfway up a deserted hillside The small Church of St. Stepanos, built of slate coloured stone between 1273-79, boasts external carvings of the Proshian and Orbelian heraldic devices, the latter consisting of a lion and a bull. The university ruins are further down the hill and revealed a small fifth century basilica when excavated in 1970. Below this a large area has been concreted to serve as a car park when coach loads of pilgrims come for occasional services.

A single hawthorn tree, twisted into grotesque shapes by the winter winds, offered shade from the fierce sun and unbelievably, a small modern drinking fountain provided a constant stream of clear, fresh spring water. Here we stopped and refreshed ourselves with sweet apricots and delicious sandwiches of local bread filled with cheese and sprigs of fresh garlic.

Retracing our steps some seven kilometres, we came across the Museum of Gladzor University, established in the seventeenth century Church of St. Hakob in the little village of Vernashen. Outside the entrance seven handsome modern khatchkars have been erected, representing the trivium (grammar, rhetoric & logic) and cuadrivio (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music) of mediaeval education. There are also a number of handsome, ancient khatchkars. Inside the little museum offers displays on educational institutions in Armenia, maps illustrating the spread of Gladzor’s influence and reproductions of famous manuscripts created at Gladzor.

While navigating these serpentine roads Eduard recounted the history of Karekin Nzhdeh (1886-1955), a celebrated Armenian nationalist who distinguished himself leading a band of Armenians volunteers alongside the Bulgarians against the Turks in the First Balkan War of 1912 and then went on to lead the Armenian regulars against the Turks and Soviets during 1919-1921. Through his efforts Zangezour stayed Armenian and did not suffer the same fate as Naxçivan. From 1921-1944 Nzhdeh lived in exile in Bulgaria, but, like so many exiles, he was enticed back to his homeland, only to be imprisoned by Stalin until his death. He died in prison in Vladimir and the Soviet authorities rejected his brother’s request that his body should be returned to Armenia. However, in 1983 a group of Armenian intellectuals secretly removed his remains a symbolic portion was interred on the slopes of Mount Khustup while the rest were reburied in Spitakover churchyard, some seven kilometres north of Gladzor, at peace now in an independent Armenia.

We left the main road (A317) shortly before reaching Goris as the next stage of our pilgrimage was to take us to the monastery of Tatev, high up in the thickly wooded mountains. For some ninety minutes we drove on meandering roads which hugged the ridges like the contour lines on a map. As we climbed higher the views became awesome and the abyss, deep down below, daunting. The occasional burnt out chassis, glimpsed fleetingly as we zig-zagged ever onwards and upwards, became unnerving. Manuk drove skilfully, nonchalantly steering round recurring hairpin bends with a rhythmic regularity which revived my latent acrophobia. I sat petrified, pointlessly yet resolutely, gripping the handle above me with ivory knuckles in a sort of premature rigor mortis. After attaining the first summit there was no time for respite before we plummeted down identical roads in a mirror image of the uphill drive, the whole journey being repeated like some fairground roller-coaster. Following the Gorge of the Vorotan river, we eventually arrived at Tatev monastery, and the effort was not a disappointment but, like all good pilgrimages had not been without some exertion.

The fortified monastery had also served as the seat of the bishops of Syunik. It was named after St. Eustathius, one of the LXX disciples, who accompanied the Apostle Thaddeus to Armenia and was martyred here. The original church dates from the fourth century and served a community of hermits. In 844 Bishop David of Syunik persuaded the local princes to grant land and villages as endowments for the monastery and between 895-906 Bishop Ter-Hovhannes built the main church dedicated to Saints Poghos and Petros (Peter and Paul). Bishop Stepanos Orbelian noted that it housed six hundred monks, philosophers “deep as the sea”, able musicians, painters, calligraphers. St. Gregory’s Church was added in 1046 and the surrounding walls. In 1138 an earthquake destroyed Sr. Gregory’s Church and the dome of SS. Petros and Poghos, which were reconstructed by Stepanos Orbelian in 1295. In the 1250s the monastery was restored by Smbat Orbelian. In eleventh century the Tondrakian heretics probably supported the peasantry of Syunik in an insurrection against the monastery. Sacked at the end of the first quarter of fifteenth century by Timurids. The monastery was seriously damaged by an earthquake in 1931.

We parked just outside a solid round tower which stood beside the main entrance. On our right were steps leading up to the little domed Holy Mother of God Church which was added in 1087. The walls were alive with tiny lizards, vigorously going about their business in the afternoon sun.

The large grassed enclosure had stone buildings around every side, through whose cool, dark and deserted chambers one could wander at will. On the east side the drop was sheer and elegant barrel-vaulted chambers framed vistas of breathtaking grandeur. Somewhere beneath, high above the steep wooded slopes, the stillness was broken by the sound of a waterfall crashing into the gorge below. For a more panoramic view we climbed up to the tiles above, where centuries of accumulated neglect had produced a lush and verdant roof-garden.

A huge crane stood beside the main church with its last load of concrete slabs still suspended above the ground, though the rails on which it had once moved back and forth were long since rusted and overgrown. Restoration had started in 1974 but probably ground to a halt in 1998. We later learned from the resident caretaker that the Catholicos had visited only the day before, probably with a potential philanthropist who would complete the reconstruction.

Built against the south wall of SS. Petros and Poghos is a large rectangular stone sarcophagus with a pitched roof. At each end there are two small turban-topped finials, reminiscent of those found on the end of the tombs of Ottoman sultans, whilst in the centre rises a miniature tower surmounted with a cross. The whole is covered in elaborately carvings and khatchkars commemorating priests and bishops. It became clear only later that this structure, which could only be entered from the main church, housed the tomb of S. Grigor of Tatev.

A monument, called ‘Gavazan’ or ‘Rocking Pillar’, which had been erected in 904 in the open, was an unusual combination of Armenian architecture and engineering. It comprised an octahedral pillar, built of small stones, eight metres high and crowned with an ornamented cornice, the whole surmounted by an open-work khatchkar. Its purpose was to warn of seismic tremors, and it is said that even at the mere touch of a hand, the pillar, hinge-coupled to a stylobate, would tilt and then returns to its initial position. Now bound with metal ribs to preserve it from perishing, it can no longer function and may one day fall victim to the very event against which it was intended to warn.

Inside the huge Petros-Poghos Church there were remains still visible of ancient frescoes and the simple marble slab, marking the tomb of St. Grigor where we prayed and lit candles. There were already a few burning when we entered and the approach of a family car just as we were leaving strongly suggested that there is a steady trickle of pilgrims throughout the day. The fairly recent marble floor, which had been laid during an earlier restoration, had no place in the planned future and was now foredoomed, as being neither authentic nor in keeping with the more sensitive renovations currently being undertaken.

Our way to Karabagh meant that we first had to retrace the ninety minute drive to the main road, by which time I had become a more intrepid mountaineer if not blasé about heights. Just outside Goris we stopped for a rest and a meal. In the bend of the trunk road was a dilapidated hut used both as a home and as a wayside restaurant. Behind it, only feet from the passing traffic, was a simple haven of tranquillity: a natural spring, plump chickens mercilessly attacking the grass and a home-made bower, where we consumed freshly barbecued meat and strong coffee. Goris is the first place since leaving the Araratian plain where one can get a mobile phone signal and also the last before entering Karabagh.

Soon after leaving Goris the road noticeably changed and we were now on a sleek modern carriageway gently descending in large circuits as we crossed from Armenia to what had been Azerbaijan only a decade before. This had been paid for by the Armenian diaspora at the cost of $125 million. Yet the border marking our entry into the Republic of Nagorno-Karabagh was little more than a small police checkpoint and we were waved on without any formalities.

The Republic of Mountainous Karabagh’s independence is unrecognised by the international community, its status being akin to the Republic of North Cyprus. In reality, although it retains the semblance of government and statehood, its defence and economy is tied to Armenia, from whom it receives financial and political support.

Under Imperial Russia administrative areas largely followed the ethnic distribution of the population, so that Karabagh formed part of the Elizavetpol Governorate. Following the Russian Revolution and the short-lived Transcaucasian Republic, the newly declared Turkish satellite Republic of Azerbaijan laid claim to Karabagh and Yengezour. At that time Karabagh had a population of 72% Armenians. In the aftermath of the 1915 Genocide, the Armenians of Karabagh naturally preferred to declare their independence, which they did in July 1918. The Azeri response, in September 1918, was for Turkish troops to enter Baku and massacre some 30,000 Armenians as well as destroying hundreds of villages in the governorates of Baku and Elizavetpol (now known variously as Ganja, Gandža, Ganzak and Gəncə). A month later Turkey admitted defeat in the Great War and surrendered to the Allied powers. Britain now became the significant power and offered support to Azerbaijan, which it saw as crucial to its anti-Soviet policy. It firmly supported the Azeri claim to Karabagh and its threats to impose hegemony by force if arms. Unable to resist this, the Congress of the Armenians of Karabagh accepted “to be provisionally within the borders of the Azerbaijani Republic till the final solution of the problem at Peace Conference in Paris.” However, to forestall Azeri occupation, the Armenian population of Karabagh rose in revolt and between March-April 1920 fierce fighting followed and some 20,000 Armenians were slaughtered in Shushi. In 1920 the total population was 60,000 of which 47,000 (over 78%) were Armenians.

Although Karabagh was liberated by Armenia in April 1920, this coincided with the incorporation of Azerbaijan into the Soviet Union, which merely perpetuated the old Azeri territorial claims. To forestall the threat of invasion by combined Russian and Azeri forces, the Armenians of Karabagh declared themselves as Soviet, although a brief uprising declaring an independent Artsakh was fiercely suppressed by the Soviets between January-April 1921. At first it appeared that Russia favoured Karabagh’s incorporation into Armenia but, by July 1921, Stalin had arbitrarily resolved that whilst it should have wide regional autonomy as an oblast it should be incorporated within the Republic of Azerbaijan. Throughout the 1960s there was sustained pressure from Karabagh to be transferred to Armenia but only in 1988 was the pressure for independent resumed through massive protests and public demonstrations. From 1991-1994 a fierce war was fought, leaving an estimated 30,000 dead. Combat ended with a cease-fire but no peace treaty has yet been signed and the two countries are still officially at war.

Since the time of the cease-fire in 1994, one fifth of Azerbaijan is still ‘occupied’ by Karabagh or, as Eduard and Manuk corrected me, ‘liberated’ territories. One of these is the Lachin corridor, down which we had just driven, previously a pass in the Karabagh Mountain range, where the Azeri territory formed a narrow bottleneck between Armenia and Karabagh. It is now no longer an “umbilical cord” linking the two territories but a new province of Kashatagh, stretching to the Araks river (on the borders of Iran) in the south to the Murovdag mountains in the north, comprising some 2,000 square metres, all of which has been resettled by Armenians, who now number 12,000.

At Lachin (renamed Berdzor), a town sprawling over the hillside as the road climbed up the valley, we saw the shells of a few homes destroyed in the war, but the population (which now number 5,000) looked tranquil and relaxed strolling about in the early evening. A new church, built in traditional style, sits on the edge of the valley and offered a peaceful view across this hotly disputed track of land.

From here we drove a further thirty kilometres to Shushi, by which time it was already dark. The episcopal residence is across the road to the west of the Cathedral and we were warmly received by Archbishop Pargev Martirossian of Artsakh. He was born in Sumgait, just north of Baku, which is the third largest city in Azerbaijan, and studied at Etchmiadzin and Leningrad before his consecration to the episcopate in November 1988 and appointment to the diocese of Karabagh in 1989. The Communists had suppressed the diocese of Karabagh in 1930 and arrested Bishop Vrtanes, who was exiled and imprisoned. Thereafter Karabagh had no bishop, although there was a centre based in Baku, until 25 December 1989 when Azeri extremists burned down its Armenian Church. Bishop Parkev, accompanied by three priests, established himself in Stepanakert which, being a Soviet city, had no churches at all. He was unable to move to Shushi into its liberation in 1994. Inevitably he played a hugely significant rôle in the conflict, which earned him the respect and affection of the people of Karabagh. In 1989 there were no Armenian churches functioning in Karabagh, whereas today there are twenty-two. Although aged only forty-nine, the strain of the past momentous decade and a half are reflected in his grey beard, the deep lines of his face and the fact that in 2001 he underwent a triple heart bypass. His manner is gracious and modest, yet his speech is vigorous whilst his eyes twinkle with intelligence and good humour. He speaks good English, which markedly improved with practice, and jokes that he learnt his first words from listening to the Beatles’ lyrics in his youth. Among his latest enterprises is Vanakan Mineral Water, whose label declared discretely, in both English and Armenian, that it came with the blessing of Bishop Parkev. It tasted good, although much of the effervescence seemed to escape on opening.

That night we were accommodated in the comfortable Shushi Hotel, a twelve-roomed enterprise recently built by eight Armenians and one Lebanese at the cost of $160,000.

In the morning, when I wandered out on my balcony overlooking Shushi’s Cathedral, glistening white in the early morning sunshine, and the incipient garden which covered what looked like the foundations of bombed buildings, it was a tranquil scene. Below me some men were engaged in not very pressing repairs on an ancient car whilst an elderly man was weeding the front garden of the hotel. In the distance, through the cool morning haze, the green hills of Karabagh towered over the horizon. Over breakfast with Bishop Pargev we talked about the state of the church in Karabagh. The impressive Amenaprkich Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, although built between 1868-1887 suffered heavily at the hands of the Azeris. In the 1940s it was used as a granary and by the 1950s much of the exterior dressed stone had been removed to use elsewhere, the impressive pointed top to the cathedral dome had been decapitated and high apartment blocks erected all around to begun to conceal the cathedral from sight. In the 1970s explosives were placed in the foundations of the massive pillars but failed to bring down the vault. The structure was neglected and ruinous and during Karabagh’s war of liberation it was used as a depot for thousands of Grad missiles, knowing well that the Armenians would never attack the cathedral. These were used to rain down some fifteen thousand rockets and missiles in the bombardment of Stepanakert, vulnerable in the valley below. Other churches and cemeteries in Shushi and around were systematically vandalised or destroyed.

Eduard stayed behind to discuss his research with Bishop Parkev, and we set off again in our faithful Lada. As we left Shushi the marks of war were clearly visible. Shushi was in fact the last Azeri stronghold to fall on 9 May 1994 and its capture marked the cease-fire. A few doors from the bishop’s house there are the ruined shells of houses, whilst half-occupied blocks of flats show the marks of war. After 1920 the Azeri population of Shushi steadily outnumbered the Armenians, who comprised only two thousand out of seventeen thousand before Karabagh’s liberation. After 1994 the population was exclusively Armenians and numbered five and a half thousand but now, because of lack of employment, there are little more than 3,000 people.

Stepanakert, the republic’s capital, is a pleasant, clean, well-ordered city with broad tree-lined streets. Fighting here was fierce but all obvious signs of destruction have been removed and the atmosphere is calm and relaxed. We had driven down from Shushi on good roads but as we neared the northern outskirts of the capital the road suddenly became a building site. Hardcore had been laid and lorries and machinery were everywhere engaged in work on the next stretch but the road ended abruptly. It was actually being constructed as we watched ! However, unlike British sites, cars were permitted to drive on the unmade road. Our progress now slowed down rapidly as we manoeuvred across the rutted surface whilst simultaneously trying to keep our distance from large trucks going about their lawful business. As we drove on, the activity became less, then ceased completely and the road reverted to a wide dirt track running north alongside a deserted railway line, which had once served both Azerbaijan and Karabagh. At Aghdam, occupied by Armenia since July 1993, two roads headed towards Azerbaijan but we stayed close inside the present border on the road to heading to Martakert.

This borderland showed the extent of the destruction wreaked by war. Ruined portions of walls stood starkly where once entire villages had been, the whole revealing a desolate and sombre landscape. In places even the encroaching vegetation had been burned and the earth was parched and blackened. To the sides faded signs warned us that we should not stray from the road as the areas were still mined, though one notice declared that it had been cleared by the Halo Trust, though this unimpeachable charity has been stigmatised as an enemy of the state by Azebaijan for “supporting” Karabagh.

The region of Martakert was the scene of a successful Azeri offensive in the summer of 1992, which resulted in the occupation of over 80% of its territory, triggering the flight of the Armenian population. However, a successful Armenian counter-offensive in February 1993 reversed the situation, culminating in the liberation in June the same year of the town of Martakert. It was not until after the cease-fire that refugees began to return to their homes but six out of the district’s sixty towns and villages remain under Azeri control. We stopped at one of the many ramshackle wooden shops which lined the road here. The enterprising locals made no attempt at specialisation, one shop offering tin foods and female fashions, whilst another appeared to be purveying outsize water melons and spare car parts. We bought some bottled water and ice lollies. Whilst we sheltered in the meagre shade of a couple of small trees and hastily consumed these rapidly melting refreshments, an overweight army officer pulled into the shop with his car radio pumping out what Manuk disparagingly referred to as Turkish belly-dance music, something which no self-respecting Armenian should tolerate.

From here we followed a steadily deteriorating track to the west, leaving the war-torn desolation and driving through beautiful rural scenery with the Mrav mountains in the distance to the north. Descending from the hills we reached the Sarsang Reservoir before travelling alongside the steady flowing Tatar river, which fed it. At that point a wide flood plain showed a complete absence of human habitation. The car bumped its way bravely until it came to a sudden halt where the track disappeared into an impassable slough some thirty feet across. It hardly seemed possible that we had gone so far only to reach a dead end. One could easily navigate the obstruction on foot but as the terrain sloped down to the river on our right, and an embankment of rock loomed up on the left, it seemed unavoidable. As we were pondering the problem a pair of local rustics appeared from nowhere. Relieved, Manuk hailed them and asked their advice, though their reply didn’t seem to impress him. It appeared that their accents were so thick that their response was barely intelligible whilst Manuk’s metropolitan Armenian was probably just as unfamiliar to them! However, the gist of their advice was to drive straight through it. None of us was convinced that this was sound counsel, especially as stones cast into the murky water seemed to sink a long way down. Just at that moment I spotted a distant lorry lumbering along in our direction. As it would be faced with the same problem we would see how they would resolve matters. When it got nearer, however, it temporarily vanished from view among the trees only to reappear on what must have been a parallel road on a higher level. Manuk enquired again of our rustics about this road, but they shook their heads sagely, warning that the higher road was worse than ours and that we would still be better to drive on. Unconvinced, we returned to the car, reversed with some difficulty and then retraced our way to where the higher path joined our road, all the while being watched suspiciously by our yokels, who appeared to view us as mildly unhinged. As we continued our journey on this road Manuk uncharitably suggested that too much inbreeding had doubtless affected their intellects, whilst I surmised that they might be a species of local wrecker, whose livelihood probably depended on the misfortunes of unwary and too trusting travellers.

The next stop on our pilgrimage was Dadivank, sometimes called Khutavank (‘monastery upon-the-hill), situated on the edge of a steep gorge amidst heavily wooded hills, on the left bank of the Tartar (Trtu) river. Before liberation it stood on the very edge of Mountainous Karabagh, overlooking Azeri territory. Traditionally founded at the end of the first century by the martyr, St. Dadi, another disciple of St. Thaddeus Dadivank was first mentioned in mediaeval chronicles in the 9th century. The monastic complex of Dadivank consists of the Memorial Cathedral (Katoghiké), Church of the Holy Virgin, Chapel, Memorial Bell-Tower and several auxiliary buildings.

The Katoghiké was erected in 1214 by the Queen Arzou of Haterk and Upper Khachen.. The interior walls are richly decorated with frescoes. Part of a large inscription in Armenian, which covers the entire entrance wall of the Cathedral proclaims: “I, Arzou-Khatoun, obedient servant of Christ … wife of King Vakhtang, ruler of Haterk and all Upper Khachen, with great hopes built this holy cathedral on the place where my husband and sons rest in peace … My first-born Hassan martyred for his Christian faith in the war against the Turks, and, three years later, my younger son Grigoris also joined Christ … Completed in the year 663 of the Armenian calendar.” The external southern wall depicts princes Hassan and Grigoris holding up the church in carved relief, whilst St. Dadi and King Vakhtang appear in the same posture on the eastern wall. These princely families, with Arabic or Persian names (such as Hassan, Abas or Abulgharib), vividly illustrate the problem of living for generations under Persian influence.

Dadivank Monastery was reconsecrated in 1994 and since 1997 architectural restoration has made good progress. A group of architects were working in the Katoghiké plotting in detail the khatchkars set into the wall as well as all other ancient epigraphy, but generations of neglect has taken its toll and a much will still be needed to restore this historic monastery to its former glory. We encountered a group of Armenian tourists, one of whom – a rather assertive young lady with passable English – launched into an unsolicited guided tour and explanation of Armenian Church history. When I thanked her, she asked if we were Protestants. I explained that we were British and Orthodox but she was unconvinced, declaring authoritatively that all British were Protestants ! Later we sat at an old trestle table and drank some of the clear spring water which flowed freely from a nearby standpipe. Manuk chatted to the old caretaker and his wife about the problems of living on the border during the war. They admitted that the Azeris had looked after the site quite well and that their biggest problem had come from secular Armenians who didn’t treat the site with the respect it deserved. When the old man learned that we were heading for Gandzasar he asked to come with us as his wages were months in arrears and he needed to collect them !

The road to Gandzasar was probably the worst we encountered in our whole journey. My respect for the much denigrated ‘Lada’ had grown enormously as, in spite of Manuk’s careful manoeuvring around enormous pot holes with jagged edges, we heard horrible grindings from our exhaust pipe. Yet everything remained intact and reliable throughout. We lurched about until I resembled the toy dog with a bobbing head, once so ubiquitously displayed in the rear car windows of proletarian motorists. It was the sort of test drive car manufacturers show you in advertisements to prove the road-worthiness of their vehicles.

Another feature we encountered with increasing frequency were the khaki shells of burnt-out tanks at the side of major roads. At one junction we counted nine piled together, a potent reminder of the fierceness of the fighting in this area and of the human sacrifice to liberate it.

As the light began to fail we came to the village of Vank, above which towered the monastery of Gandzasar. A narrow road encircled the mountain and we drove upwards in a protracted irregular spiral until we reached the crest. Surrounded by low walls and outbuildings, the mighty stone church dominated the flat summit. We were greeted by Father Hovhannes, whom we had met briefly at Shoushi last night, whose vitality energised his great frame as he began our tour of the site. The late afternoon sun not only revealed the mellow golden pigmentation of the stone, but also accentuated the numerous and lavish architectural features in sharp contrasts of darkness and light.

A monastery stood here in the 10 th century, which also served as a mausoleum for the rulers of Khachen. The church of St. John the Baptist was built by Prince Asan-Jalal of Khokhanaberd, founder of Artsakh’s Jalalian dynasty who emerged as the most powerful Armenian feudal ruler in Eastern Armenia. Constructed between 1216-1238, it was consecrated in 1240, to house the head of the John the Baptist (St. Hovannes Mkrtich). The 13th century Armenian author, Kirakos Gandzaketsi, himself a native of Artsakh, attributes the gavit to Mamkan, Hasan’s wife (the inscription on the masonry runs: ‘Mamkan, Hasan and their son Atabeg’). The church’s architecture is based on a cross-cupola composition developed in the 10th century.

The name ‘Gandzasar’ is translated from Armenian as “treasure-mountain” (gandz=treasuresar=mountain) and there can be little doubt that the monastery is a treasure both architecturally and historically. It has also been hailed as “the encyclopædia of Armenian architecture” by the Russian scholar, A.L. Yakobson, whilst according to Professor Charles Diehl of Sorbonne, the prominent French art historian and Byzantine specialist Gandzasar is the third most important artifact of Armenian monastic architecture on the list of world architectural masterpieces.

The central Cathedral is masterly embellished with bas-reliefs depicting the Crucifixion, Adam and Eve and dozens of other stone figures, including the sculptures of the princes of Khachen holding two models of the Cathedral above their heads. According to an inscription on the wall of the Cathedral, it was completed in the year 1238. Overall, up to 150 Armenian stone-borne texts are found on the walls of the Cathedral, including a wall-large inscription made by the order of Hasan-Jalal himself.

In the thirteenth century Gandzasar became the seat of the little known Armenian Catholicosate of Aghvank or Caucasian Albania, (an independent kingdom northeast of Armenia and east of Iberia between the River Kur, the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus range) which had been established by St. Gregory the Illuminator. The Catholicosate of Aghvank or Gandzasar was a branch of the Armenian Apostolic Church and had a succession of catholicoi which survived until Artsakh was freed from Persian rule and taken under the control of Russia in 1813. The Jalalyan malikate, which had survived alongside the catholicosate, was now abolished. Two years later the Catholicos Sarkis II was reduced to the status of a Metropolitan by the Imperial Russian government. The tombs of the Jalalyan princes and the Aghvank catholicoi lie together in the glorious gavit, both awaiting the Day of Resurrection.

During the war for the liberation of Nagorno-Karabagh, especially 1991-1992, Gandzasar became a symbol of Armenian resistance and Archbishop Pargev was called ‘Ghevond erets (priest)’ who was the spiritual leader of the rebellion of the Armenian people headed by the national hero St. Vardan Mamikonyan in 451. Along with Archbishop Pargev was also Ter-Grigor Markosyan who was acting priest in fighting regiments (in Shahumyan region and near Shushi). Before battles they were baptising those fighters who had not been baptised. If it was needed, the priests were defending their native land by joining fighting regiments.

Aerial attacks, aimed specifically at destroying the monastery, came close to being successful, but – providentially – failed. Today the bullet and shell marks are potent testimony to Azeri aggression. Father Hovhannes himself had served in the war of liberation and was able to recount these events as a participant.

Against the low stone parapet, which encircles the monastery, dozens of finely carved stone khatchkars stand propped, memorials to the long history of this holy site. The enclosed space to the north of the church has a well manicured lawn and a few small hawthorn trees with branches shaped by the strong winter winds. On a vacant space behind the old monastic cells a new seminary was partially built and gave promise of the renewed vitality of the church in Artsakh. The cell and reception room of the Catholicos of Aghvank are still preserved to remind us of its former glory. As the darkness fell we dined together in a small vaulted refectory, everything was fresh and delicious: the honeycomb and buffalo yoghurt were especially toothsome! Father Hovhannes served us but didn’t eat as he had begun his eucharistic fast at sunset, which made it much longer than the nine hours we observe.

We were each allocated one of the ancient monastic cells in the block running along one side of the ‘Cathedral close.’ These were single rooms, each with a tiny window high in the wall to enable one to view the cross on the roof of the church whilst in bed. To reach the bathroom one had to cross the silent ‘close’ with the moon and stars as sole illumination. Later, when we were back in Istanbul, I made passing mention of this to Patriarch Mesrob. He recalled that when he had recently officiated at a vigil service at Gandzasar he had thought to have a short nap in one of these cells shortly before dawn. Unable to sleep, he had wandered out into the ‘close’ but was surprised to see someone’s silhouette beside the church. Thinking this was another pilgrim he strolled towards him only to discover, as he turned, that he was face to face with a wild bear. Petrified with astonishment, the Patriarch stared at his grizzly companion, while the bear possibly contemplated its breakfast. Providentially it too was fasting and, after some minutes of silent contemplation, with only a casual shrug of the shoulders, it turned and ambled off into the dark.

The next morning, having been spared any close encounters of the ursine kind, Father Simon and I recited the 3 rd and 6 th hours from the Agbeya in the church before taking our leave of Father Hovhannes and setting off on our return journey to Soushi.

We arrived in time for the Divine Liturgy, which the Archbishop had kindly rescheduled for 10 a.m. to facilitate our journeying back to the Republic of Armenia. The Cathedral is light and cool and the clergy processed unpretentiously across the road from the archbishopric, winding our way through the archway in the impressive campanile. The congregation numbered about sixty but included many young people, which was encouraging. In addition there was an able choir of about a dozen women and girls, all correctly robed and veiled, as well as some ten vested servers who assisted the priest and deacon with military precision. It was a profoundly moving Liturgy and as the bright morning sunshine poured through the sanctuary windows one realised the deep faith which had inspired those who had fought to keep this place Christian when it came so close to being lost for ever.

After the Liturgy Archbishop Pargev took us down to a large, cavernous room beneath the sanctuary, where those who intend to communicate first gather to receive a general absolution from the priest. The acoustics here are so fine that when standing at a specific central spot and looking upwards, the priest can be heard distinctly by all without having to raise his voice in the slightest.

Our short pilgrimage to Artsakh had provided an insight into the core of Armenian Church life which is profoundly necessary to one’s understanding of this ancient and proud Christian people. We would not forget it.

ABBA SERAPHIM

The Glastonbury Review, No. 109 (December 2003).

[1] Naxçivan was an oblast, or autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, but in 1990 was the first republic to declare its independence and secede from the USSR. However, its geographical isolation led it to join Azerbaijan only weeks later with the status of an autonomous republic. There is a 10 kilometre stretch of border with Turkey along the Arax (Erashk) river at Sadarak, which was opened by the construction of the Umad Kürpüsü (Bridge of Hope) and provides a vital link with Turkey.


Contenido

The origin and meaning of the island's name is unknown, but is often attributed to an old Armenian legend. According to the tale, an Armenian princess named Tamar lived on the island and was in love with a commoner. This boy would swim from the mainland to the island each night, guided by a light she lit for him. Her father learned of the boy's visits. One night, as she waited for her lover to arrive, he smashed her light, leaving the boy in the middle of the lake without a guide to indicate which direction to swim. They say his dying cries of "Akh, Tamar" (Oh, Tamar) can be heard to this day at night. The legend was the inspiration for a famous Armenian poem by Hovhannes Tumanyan.

Akdamar (meaning "white vein" in Turkish) is the official name of the island, but the original "Akhtamar" pronunciation is still used by many of the Kurds who live in the area (there is no "kh" sound in Turkish, but there is in Kurdish).


Travel in Argentina: Visit Plaza Armenia, Buenos Aires

If you visit Buenos Aires when you travel in Argentina, you’ll quickly realise that this is a city made up of many pleasant plazas. These pleasant squares are speckled around the city, and are perfect places to relax, read the paper, drink a coffee and watch the world go by.

If you head to Palermo, the coolest neighbourhood by far, you’ll realise that this area is quite different from much of the city. Things seem more peaceful, the crowds are trendier, the streets are somehow cleaner. There are a number of plazas in Palermo, and the one that is always recommended first when you travel in Argentina is Plaza Cortaza.

However, pleasant as Plaza Cortaza may be, you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Plaza Armenia as well.

Situated where the two streets Armenia and Costa Rica join together, this small and attractive square is the perfect place to visit during the week when you travel in Argentina, when all you’ll find are a few locals enjoying the peace and quiet.

If you’re a fan of people watching then this is the ideal place to stop by and engage in this favourite past time, as you can sit back and watch Argentinian daily life play out in front of you.

If you don’t fancy sitting in the plaza itself, head to one of the bars or cafes around the edges. Many of these have roof terraces from which you can sit with a beer and watch the world go by below.

Head to Plaza Armenia on the weekend, however, and things are quite different. This is a hotspot for residents of Palermo, and if the sun is shining you can bet that the square will crowd out as everyone has the same idea.

A busy market selling homemade arts and crafts springs up out of nowhere, the atmosphere becomes more intense, and you’ll be lucky to find a seat in any of the cafes, let alone on one of the terraces.

In the near vicinity, you can also take a stroll down Armenia to enjoy some of the Armenian culture of Buenos Aires. There are a number of Armenian restaurants, so if you’ve had enough steak during your time in Buenos Aires then this could be a good antidote.

Definitely take the time to visit Plaza Armenia the next time you travel in Argentina. It’s nothing sensational, but for a good place to enjoy watching the locals in a pleasant, authentic setting then it can’t be beaten.


Floorplan

1. a 10th century church
2. the main temple of St. Astvatsatsin, 1204
3. a rotund church of 1198
4. a chapel of the 12th-13th centuries
5. a gavit, before 1207
6. a communion bread bakery of the 13th century
7. service premises of the 11th-13th centuries
8. the main entrance of the 11th-12 centuries
9. remnants of a fence
10. a spring well of the 12th-13th centuries


Ver el vídeo: CONOZCAMOS DEL PAIS - ARMENIA - BETA POR EL MUNDO (Mayo 2022).


Comentarios:

  1. Dujind

    Creo que se cometen errores. Propongo discutirlo. Escríbeme por MP.

  2. Fenrigore

    En mi opinión, se cometen errores. Puedo demostrarlo. Escríbeme en PM.

  3. Akinotaxe

    What a fascinating topic

  4. Goltikus

    Estoy totalmente de acuerdo con usted. Esta es una gran idea. Te apoyo.

  5. Inerney

    Envidio a los que la vieron hasta el final.

  6. Gardagrel

    tema muy maravilloso



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