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Yeghegis 1: Yeghegis (Alayaz). Map legend.

Yeghegis (Alayaz)

Medieval Yeghegis was one of the richest cities in Armenia and seat of the Orbelian (Proshian) family in the 13th-14h centuries. The Orbelians and their kinsmen the Proshians ruled most of Zangezur (present-day Vayots Dzor, Siunik, Gegharkunik, Ararat and Kotaik) but by the 15th century they were a spent force, defeated by the armies of Timur lenk (Tamerlane; Timur the Lame), Turcomen and Persians. Ruined during earthquakes, the city was abandoned by Armenians forced into exile into Persia and renamed Alayaz by later inhabitants. Refugees from Sumgait (Azerbaijan) populated the village in 1988, renaming it Yeghegis after its original name.

Sites include:
On entering the village, you pass two monuments (1). The one on the right is the covered 12th-13th century great khachkar (stone cross), encased with a peak roof. The khachkar is faded, but the top frieze shows an enthroned Christ flanked by two saints. Another khachkar is on the left, opposite the stone mill.

Just after, there is a walled yard with gravestones and khachkars (2) commemorating the Orbelian family. Two khachkars standing side-by-side are topped with an elaborate tympanum, possibly from a now missing chapel. The carvings are dated 12th-14th cc.

The triple nave Astvatsatsin basilica (3) was rebuilt in 1703 using stone blocks from earlier periods. A window casing on the west wall has quatrefoil (like four petals of a flower) arching that frames an old khachkar. The archway over the door has two crowned sirens on either side of the arch. The siren was popular in the Medieval Period, the crowned figures possibly symbolizing royalty. Behind each figure are branches for a Tree of Life symbol.

The 13th century St. Karapet (4) is a well preserved domed cruciform church. The small building is fronted with a collection of khachkars and tomb stones, some very old. A half buried khachkar facing the entry to the yard has the Armenian letters “Թ Վ Չ Ծ” (“in the year 750”), dating it to the year 1301 of the modern era. One in particular stands out for its dating. Written in large Armenian letters in the corner spaces between the cross wings are “Թ Վ Ղ Ը” (“in the year 98”) which places the cross in the year 699. Others are dated to 1301, 1381, 1325, 1342, 1345 and 1349. Inscriptions attribute the building to Nerses Nahatak.

Zorats Church (5) is located at the east end of the village. The village center has the scant remains of an ancient katoghikeh (cathedral), dating to the 10th c, but bearing marks of being made from an older building.

Across the river, reached by taking a lower road to the site across the bridge is Yeghegis Jewish cemetery (6). The 13th century graves attest to a vibrant community in Yeghegis at the height of Orbelian-Proshian power.



Map Legend

1. Khachkar
2. Orbelian Graves
3. St. Astvatsatsin
4. St. Karapet
5. Zorats Church
6. Jewish Cemetery