Geghard is a masterpiece of skilled craftsmen and brave architects of Medieval Armenia. It is located on the right bank of the upper stream of Azat River in Kotayk Marz and it is a unique two-storey monolithic monastery complex which, besides being one of the liturgical, spiritual and cultural centers of Armenia, also included, a library, writing houses, school and numerous cave chambers for monks. As the famous monastery was built on the mountain slope, it was otherwise called Ayrivank or the Monastery of the Cave in those days.
In the 13th century this cave monument was renamed into Geghard in honor of saint spear kept in this monastery. A spear is a type of a weapon that consists of a long wooden shaft with a sharply pointed trident iron head. According to the legend, the Roman centurion soldier stabbed crucified Christ’s rib with this very spear and this weapon later became a relic of the Christian world. Both Armenian and foreign sources mention that the monastery was founded at the beginning of the 4th century, early years of the proclamation of Christianity as a state religion in Armenia.
The chapel carved from the cave with 12-13 centuries inscriptions on the walls is placed outside of the oldest monument enclosure. A major architectural monument complex was created in the 13th century, which includes the main church / Catholic / with enclosed narthex, two cave-carved churches, chapel and a sepulcher and chambers of various sizes. All these are surrounded with vertical and unparalleled cliffs on the north, whereas they are encircled with eclosures on the other remaining sides.
Later, in the 17th century, different residential and other service buildings were built next to the enclosure. The main church, according to the inscription made on the facade, was built in 1215 during the reign of the Zakarians. The most important second period for the construction of Geghard began in the 13th century, when the prince Prosh started the construction of buildings after buying the monastery from the Zakarians. The first church, located on the northwest side of the narthex of the main church, was founded in the 13th century and it took 20 years to build it. The architect’s name Galdzag is inscribed on the square of the domed church.
The foundations of the second church and its narthex were drilled in 1283 and in the direction of the entrance axis there was carved a head of an ox holding two chained lions and underneath there is a picture of an eagle with sprawled wings and with a lamb in its claws. It is believed that this sculpture is the Proshyans’ coat of arms. Prosh’s son Papak and his wife Ruzukani’s chapel and sepulcher which is a centralized beautiful construction with 4 separate columns were built in 1288, Geghardavank majestic monastery complex is a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage