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Akhtala 3: Complex


The fortress was built on an elevated rocky outcrop surrounded by deep canyons from three sides forming a natural barrier. The accessible parts between the cliffs are reinforced by towers and walls. The only entrance to the compound is on the northern side protected by walls with round, cone-shaped towers. The walls and towers of the fortress are built from bluish basalt using lime mortar.

The 13th c. tower (2), a three-story construction stands as the main entrance to the fortress and is built into the fortress walls (1); the main church St. Astvatsatsin (8) is the most prominent building in the monastery; its portico (7) with small chapel (9) where, according to the medieval historians Vardan Areveltsi and Kirakos Gandzaketsi, Prince Ivaneh Zakarian and his son Avag are buried.

To the north of the main church are ruins of cells or rooms (3) attached to the walls and a two-story friary or dining hall (5), which may also have housed the fortress guards. The two-story building used part of the fortifications for its eastern wall, and a wooden roof. Some of the walls remain, enough to show the large size of this dwelling, which included a community room and dormitory style sleeping chambers. The structure had an entrance to a tunnel, leading to the river gorge, a bath (6) and underground storage vats.

Near the main church are the remains of a 13th century single nave church (4) partially enclosed by a ditch. It had a semicircular apse protruding from the eastern wall, a common layout beginning in the 5th-6th centuries.

Akhtala was a major defensive and spiritual center, as the numerous 10th-13th cc fortifications, churches and chapels in the village show. On your way back to the main highway you will see on your right, perched on top of a needle stone, the monastery of St. Yerordutiun (Holy Trinity), two inter-connected churches, a chapel, gallery hall and subterranean rooms.

Others are the St. Arakelots (Holy Apostles) or St. Gevorg Church, and a 13th c. spring monument, built on a Vishap stone from the Bronze Age, a pair of hall churches and the Barseghian chapel. Northwest of the main complex is a Russian chapel, built at the end of the 19th century.

Original text edited by International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)-Armenian National Committee and the Holy See of Echmiadzin.