Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 78, Geghard Monastery, Armenia (3)

We are now off to the Geghard Monastery....

Named after the holy lance that pierced Christ's side at the crucifixion, Geghard Monastery stands in a steep scenic canyon.
The spear itself was once kept here but as we know it is now housed in the holy treasury at Echmiadzin.

Legend has it that Geghard Monastery was founded in the 4th century. The most ancient of the cave churches, St Gregory's, dates back to the 7th century. Once called Ayrivank (Cave Monastery), Geghard was burned by invading Arabs in 923.

As we approach the monastery, we see monastic cells built by monks.

Let's go there...I want to say a prayer/make a wish and tie a strip of cloth to a tree, and hope that it will come true. The trees here are all dotted with strips of cloth..obviously many people have sent their wishes out into the Universe....

Inside the monastery walls, Geghard's two main churches date from the 13th century. The principal structure, Surp Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) was built in 1215. The adjoining vestibule, larger than the church itself, with an intricate carved ceiling and nine arches, dates from 1215 to 1225.

Outside, above the south door, is a coat of arms of the family of the Zakarian prince who built it. The theme is a common Near Eastern one, with the lion symbolising royal might.

On the right-hand side of the vestibule are two entrances to chapels hewn from the rock.I am going to the chapel on the left hand side.the one that dates back from
the 1240s. Why??Because it contains a miraculous basin with spring water believed to be lucky or holy. Splashing some of this water on your body is said to keep
your skin youthful!! Forever young ;-) C'mon girls....ok Feroz you too!

Outside, steps on the left lead up the hill to a 10m passage into another church that has been carved out of the raw rock. The proportions in this room are nothing short of extraordinary, considering it was carved from the rock around it. The acoustics of the chamber are also quite amazing!!

So Sita, why is this a UNESCO site?
Because the monastery of Geghard contains a number of churches and tombs,most of them cut into the rock, which illustrate the very peak of Armenian
medieval architecture.The complex of medieval buildings is set into a landscape of great natural beauty, surrounded by towering cliffs at the entrance to the Azat Valley.

There is a wonderful legend about how the monastery was built. A brother and a sister from a noble family, who wanted to build a church, asked God to help them to decide the exact location. One morning they saw their hoe stuck on the top of the mountain. Soon after they built a splendid temple in the rock. Till the end of their lives they lived with faith, served the temple and died there.

Ok, Nopi, Marti, Sita.....I hope that you enjoyed your little UNESCO sites tour of Armenia.....let's hope our prayers that were written on the pieces of cloth come true, and we retain our youthful appearances after washing our faces with holy water..............good bye Armenia.........

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