To the North-East of Garni, higher up the gorge of Azat river, is the monastery of Geghard. In its originality, no doubt, reflected the nature surrounding the monastery, harsh and majestic nature: a picturesque gorge with sheer towering each other by high cliffs, very tortuous, and, with the cool twist down the road, suddenly opened the monastery. In the 1950-ies, this turn set pointer — a lioness on a high pedestal, turn of the head, pointing the way.Her figure is stylistically connected with the decoration of the monastery, in particular, with images of figures of animals on the family coat of arms of princes Prosanov.
The date of Geghard’s Foundation is not precisely determined. In one of the caves of Geghard-Dzor since ancient times functioning a key source of water, which was considered, in pagan times, the sacred. According to tradition, he continued to read, and after the spread of Christianity in Armenia. In this regard, in the beginning of IV century, was founded the monastery called ayrivank, ie «cave monastery». The modern name comes from the thirteenth century, when it was transferred to the legendary spear — Geghard, which was killed by the crucified Christ (now kept at the Echmiadzin Museum).
From the structures of ayrivank nothing left. According to Armenian historians IV, VIII and X centuries, in the monastery, apart from religious buildings, there were well-appointed residential and service installations. Ayrivank suffered greatly in 923 from Nasr, Governor of the Arabian Caliph in Armenia, who plundered valuable property, including unique manuscripts, and burned the beautiful buildings of the monastery. Considerable damage was caused by the earthquake.
The existing ensemble dates back to the XII-XIII centuries, the time of flourishing of national culture, especially architecture. When the princes of Zachary and Ivane was erected the chapel of Gregory the Enlightener — the most ancient building of the monastery, the main temple with its vestibule and the first cave Church. In the second half of the XIII century the monastery was bought by princes Proshyan. In the short term they built, which brought Geghard well-Merited fame, cave constructions — the second cave Church, the family burial vault of the one and Rusukan kind of, you know, a hall for meetings and classes and numerous cells.In one of the cave cells there lived, in the XIII century, the famous Armenian historian Mkhitar Ayrivanetsi. Located on the perimeter of the monastery yard, one — and two-storey residential and service structures, has been updated several times.
The chapel of Gregory the Illuminator, erected previously, in 1177, is located high above the road, a few hundred meters from the entrance to the monastery. It partly hewn in the rock; its composition, appears to be largely dictated by the form that existed here, caves. The chapel, rectangular in plan, with a horseshoe-shaped apse, surrounded from the East and North-East passages and aisles, carved on different levels and even on top of each other. Preserved in vaults, traces of plaster with remnants of dark frescoes the tone suggests that the chapel’s interior was painted.Inserted into the exterior walls and hewn on the adjacent rock surfaces, khachkars with various ornaments, enliven the outward appearance of the chapel.
The main monuments of Geghard take up the middle of the monastery courtyard, surrounded on three sides by walls with towers, and from the fourth, Western — vertical cliff, which gives the ensemble a unique identity. Implemented within a short period of time, the monuments make up a single architectural and artistic whole, in which ground structures are compositionally and stylistically connected with the premises hewn into the rock.
Built in 1215, the main Cathedral (Katoghike) of the planning and bulk composition belongs to the popular in the X-XIV centuries in Armenia — outside rectangular, inside the cross structure. The architectural form of the building is proportional, harmonious.
I wonder the sculptural decoration of the temple. Decorative elements are combined successfully with large images of animals. Pretty realistic sculptural group of the southern facade, a lion attacking an ox, the symbol of princely power.
To the West of the main temple is located adjacent to the rock vestibule built between 1215 and 1225.
Architectural forms and ornamental decoration of the rocky areas of the Geghard monastery testify to the ability of the Armenian builders are not only build from stone, but carving into rock, highly artistic works of art.
Located North-West of the porch, the first cave Church or Avazan (pool), carved by architect Alzaga on the site of an ancient cave with a spring in the 40-ies of the XIII century. The proshyans and the second cave Church of Astvatsatsin situated East of Avazan carved in 1283, presumably by Alzaga.
The poor lighting made for the sharp profiling, adorning the walls of the reliefs. In primitive relief on the Northern wall, above the arched openings. In the center — the bull’s head, holding in his mouth a chain, which covered the necks of two lions facing to the viewer’s heads. Instead of the tail tufts there are heads of upward looking dragons-symbolic images which date back to pagan times. Between the lions and below the chain — eagle with half-spread wings and a lamb in its claws. I believe that the relief depicted the coat of arms of the princes Prosanov.
Not less picturesque reliefs of the Eastern wall. The entrances to a small chapel and the Astvatsatsin Church have rectangular frame combined with two relief crosses. The bottom placed in the frame, and the upper, lying on the door frames of horizontal branches, surrounded by rosettes of geometric pattern, such as were carved on the faces of the closed arched complete the interior.On the portals of the chapel are carved, are very common in the ornamentation and book miniatures of the XIII century, images of the Sirin, a fantastic bird with a female head in the crown and the Church — human figures with bent at elbows with hands in a long robe and with a halo around his head. There is a possibility that these figures belong to the members of the princely family related to the construction of the premises.
The one kind of, you know, and Ruzukan hewn in 1288 in the second tier, North of the tombs Prosanov. It is accessible via a steep external staircase and a narrow corridor in the rock, on the South side of which are carved numerous crosses.
In rock massifs surrounding the main cave structures and bounding the Western side of the monastery grounds, at different levels, carved over twenty different shape and size of the premises, which is located in the Western part of the complex is intended for household needs, and the rest are small rectangular chapels.