Notes From Hairenik
August 17, 2007

I have finally gotten around to posting some photos that I took a few weeks ago when I went to Mastara, located in the Shirak region not very far from Gyumri. Mastara is a monastery that is off the beaten tourist path--it's not part of the common tour trips that are offered here for some reason. It's strange because the architecture is quite unique, unlike that of any other Armenian church I have seen.

According to an informational plague nailed to the exterior church wall presented by the Armenian Library and Museum of America:
Dedicated to St. Hovhannes (St. John), this seventh-century church is an impressive sight in the midst of the village of Mastara, towering above its surroundings. Several inscriptions carved on its walls indicate that it was erected by the Monk grigoras in the the seventh century since, fortunately, one inscription mentions Bishop Theodore of the notable Armenian feudal family named Gnuni who ruled at that time. In addition, the architectural details of Mastara, as it is known, resemble seventh-century construction. At the same time, an interesting inscription on the south wall written in Greek, and the large foundation walls similar to those of earlier Armenian churches are clues that this church probably replaced a larger church built here in the fifth century.


Its unusual design is echoed in other seventh-century churches which are referred to as belonging to the "Mastara type." Three hundred years later, the tenth-century church of the Holy Apostles at Kars, now in Turkey, was erected by King Smbat using the same design.

Also nearby is what is considered to the the largest freestanding khachkar (stone cross) in Armenia, if not the known universe--a fantastic piece of craftsmanship. Mastara is definitely worth the one-hour trip north.

Photos copyright Christian Garbis 2007


Blogger Asha Stephen said...
You write beautifully. And passionately! Your thoughts are a treat to peruse!