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Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley

Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley

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.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Monastère de Gherart et la Haute vallée de l’Azat

Le monastère de Gherart abrite un certain nombre d'églises et de tombes – pour la plupart troglodytes – représentatives de l'apogée de l'architecture médiévale arménienne. Cet ensemble de bâtiments médiévaux situé au milieu des escarpements, à l'entrée de la Vallée de l'Azat, s'intègre à un paysage d'une grande beauté naturelle.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

دير غيرارت والوادي الأعلى في أزات

يحوي دير غيرارت عدداً من الكنائس والمقابر التي هي في غالبيتها لسكان الكهوف والتي تمثّل أوج الهندسة المعمارية الأرمنية الخاصة بالقرون الوسطى. وتندمج هذه المجموعة من مباني القرون الوسطى الواقعة وسط انحدارات وعرة على مدخل وادي أزات في منظر طبيعي خلاب.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


格加尔德修道院由许多教堂和坟墓组成,大部分建筑物都矗立在岩石之中,代表了亚美尼亚中世纪建筑的巅峰之作。这些中世纪建筑群周围环绕的便是阿扎特山谷(the Azat Valley)入口处的悬崖绝壁,与美丽的自然景观浑然一体。

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Монастырь Гегард и верховья реки Азат

Древние церкви и могилы монастыря Гегард, часть которых высечена прямо в скалах, представляют собой шедевры средневековой армянской архитектуры. Ансамбль монастырских построек органично вписан в великолепный природный ландшафт верховьев реки Азат, и окружен скалами, напоминающими своими формами башни.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Monasterio de Geghard y valle alto del Azat

El Monasterio de Geghard alberga varias iglesias y tumbas representativas del apogeo de la arquitectura medieval armenia, que en su mayoría están excavadas en la roca. Ubicado en las escarpaduras de la entrada del Valle del Azat, el conjunto de edificaciones monásticas se adapta perfectamente a la gran belleza del paisaje natural de este sitio.

source: UNESCO/CPE
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: NFUAJ

Het klooster van Geghard en de hogere Azat-vallei

Het Geghard-complex is een uitzonderlijk compleet en goed bewaard gebleven voorbeeld van een middeleeuws Armeens klooster. Het ligt in een afgelegen, maar prachtig natuurgebied aan het begin van de Azat-vallei, omgeven door torenhoge kliffen. Het klooster van Geghard werd opgericht in de 4e eeuw en was beroemd vanwege de aanwezige relieken. Het Geghar-complex bestaat uit een aantal kerken en graven – de meeste gesneden in een rots – en de bouwstijl vormt het hoogtepunt van de Armeense middeleeuwse architectuur en decoratieve kunst. De vele innovatieve kenmerken hebben grote invloed gehad op latere ontwikkelingen in de regio.

Source: unesco.nl

Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley contains a number of churches and tombs, most of them cut into the living rock, which illustrate Armenian medieval architecture at its highest point. The complex of medieval buildings is set into a landscape of great natural beauty, at the entrance to the Azat Valley. High cliffs from the northern side surround the complex while the defensive wall encircles the rest.

The monuments included in the property are dated from the 4th to the 13th century. At the early period, the Monastery was called Ayrivank (Monastery in the Cave) because of its rock-cut construction. The monastery was founded, according to tradition by St. Gregory the Illuminator, and was built following the adoption of Christianity as a state religion in Armenia (beginning of the 4th century AD). The main architectural complex was completed in the 13th century AD and consists of the cathedral, the adjacent narthex, eastern and western rock-cut churches, the family tomb of Proshyan princes, Papak’s and Ruzukan’s tomb-chapel, as well as various cells and numerous rock-cut cross-stones (khachkars). The Kathoghikè (main church) is in the classic Armenian form, an equal-armed cross inscribed in a square in plan and covered with a dome on a square base, linked with the base by vaulting. The east arm of the cross terminates in an apse, the remainder being square. In the corners are small barrel-vaulted two-storey chapels. On the internal walls there are many inscriptions recording donations. The masonry of the external walls is particularly finely finished and fitted. A gavit (entrance hall) links it with the first rock-cut church.

The first rock-cut church was built before 1250, entirely dug into the rock and on an equal-armed cruciform plan. To the east, a roughly square chamber cut into the rock was one of the princely tombs (zhamatoun) of the Proshyan Dynasty. This gives access to the second rock-cut church built in 1283. The second zhamatoun, reached by an external staircase, contains the tombs of the princes Merik and Grigor. A defensive wall encircled the monastery complex in the 12th to 13th centuries. Most of the monks lived in cells excavated into the rock-face outside the main defensive wall, which have been preserved, along with some simple oratories.

St. Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) chapel is the most ancient preserved monument outside the ramparts and is located on the western side. It is partially hewed in the rock. There are engraved inscriptions on the walls, the earliest of which date back to 1177 and 1181 AD. Residential and economic constructions were built later, in the 17th century.

The monastery of Geghard is a renowned ecclesiastical and cultural centre of medieval Armenia, where a school, scriptorium, library and many rock-cut dwelling cells for clergymen could be found in addition to the religious constructions. Historians Mkhitar Ayrivanetsi, Simeon Ayrivanetsi, who lived and worked there in the 13th century, contributed to the development of the Armenian manuscript art. It was also renowned for the relics housed there. The most celebrated of these was the spear, which had wounded Christ on the Cross and was allegedly brought there by the Apostle Thaddeus, from which comes its present name, Geghardavank (the Monastery of the Spear). The spear was kept in the Monastery for 500 years. Relics of the Apostles Andrew and John were donated in the 12th century and pious visitors made numerous grants of land, money, and manuscripts over the succeeding centuries. 

Criterion (ii): The Monastery of Geghard, with its remarkable rock-cut churches and tombs, is an exceptionally well preserved and complete example of medieval Armenian monastic architecture and decorative art, with many innovatory features which had a profound influence on subsequent developments in the region. 


The Geghard complex is an exceptionally complete and well preserved example of a medieval monastic foundation in a remote area of great natural beauty. There have been no changes on the components of the inscribed property since the time of inscription. In addition, the property is surrounded by a substantial buffer zone, established in 1986, within which there are strict controls over any form of development and change.

However, its location in an active seismic zone, the pollution of the surrounding environment, the risk of rockslides, as well as the active tourism route are the main threats to the integrity of the site. 


The Monastery of Geghard, with its remarkable rock-cut churches and tombs, is still preserved in its natural setting. The authenticity of the group is high, not least because the property has been in continuous use as a monastery for many centuries. All constructions included in the property, as well as the landscape, are not threatened in spite of restorations carried out during course of time. To meet conservation challenges, scientific research, renovation, fortification, design and preventive measures have been undertaken in order to ensure that authenticity is retained. Due to the passage of time, a part of the wall adjacent to the auxiliary construction collapsed and was renovated in 2006-2007, keeping the original materials. The designs for water isolation of the rock-hewn part and comprehensive interventions for Geghard Monastery were drafted in order to strengthen the complex. 

Protection and management requirements

The property is under the ownership of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church. Notwithstanding the ownership, the monuments are protected by the Law “On protection and usage of the historical and cultural immovable monuments and historical environment” of the Republic of Armenia, and by the regulation “On State registration, study, protection, fortification, restoration, reconstruction and usage of the historical and cultural immovable monuments”. Additional articles exist also in Civil, Administrative, Land, and Criminal Codes of the Republic of Armenia for the protection of monuments.

The Ministry of Culture of Armenia, with its specialized units acting as authorized republican bodies, and the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church with its specialized units and the diocese as owner, as well as non-governmental, nature protection units and people interested in Armenian heritage conservation are engaged in the protection of the monastery complex.

Issues concerning conservation, rehabilitation and use of the sites are discussed at specialized councils formed by the Ministry of Culture of Armenia (methodological and architectural councils) and the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin, where representatives of both sides are equally represented.

The Government of the Republic of Armenia enforces consistent policy to comprehensively study the technical condition of the component parts of the property. The Agency for the Protection of the Historical and Cultural Monuments of the Republic of Armenia is responsible for the maintenance and protection of the buffer zone on behalf of the national government.

The budget of the property is composed of allocations from the State budget, entrepreneurial activities and private donations.