Selim (Soolemay) caravanserayi (inn)
Selim caravanserai (also known as Orbelyans’ Inn and Selim’s Inn) is situated on Yeghegnadzor-Martuni highway, in the area of Aghnjadzor village in Syunik, on the southern slope of Selim mountain pass. It was built in 1332 during the reign of the Prince Chesar Orbelian, when present territories of Vayots Dzor and Syunik provinces were under Syunik supervision, governed and owned by Orbelians’ rich dynasty. At this time, when Mongols invaded Armenia in the mid-13th century, Syunik suffered little owing to its hidden location in the mountains. Moreover, due to cunning and diplomatic actions carried out by Orbelian brothers, Armenian lands were not only successfully taken back from Genghis Khan’s grandson, but the brothers were freely engaged in internal affairs, particularly in the field of construction. In those years, the trade between East and West became more activated and Syunik appeared to be in the commercial center of the roads, hence the necessity to construct a passable road became essential and vital.
Caravanserais which were seemingly underlining the international trade routes were built to protect caravans from bad weather conditions. This caravanserai is one of Armenia’s best-preserved inns of the Silk Road in the RA territory, which served as a night shelter for loaded caravans headed to Europe and East. In the middle ages most of the buildings were built along the trade routes, which was more convenient for travelers. It was quite a new development for Armenia in the 14th century in combineation with a new construction solution. A 35.5 m long structure was built of polished basalt with a pitched roof covered by a large stone tiles and professional skills were required to accomplish all these.
The building has a basilica type of architecture, which has a lot in common with rural residential houses. This particularly refers to the planning of the main three-nave hall with double pillars, illuminated by three skylights. Nearby 64 horse crib were also built among the pillars.
The entrance to the caravanserai is a sample of new architectural style of medieval Armenia being formed in cities of that period. The architects were concerned about the appearance of the structure to be good as well as to be different from neighboring buildings and to attract attention even from a distance. Therefore, the design of a facade with various decorative means was distinguished from the other structures. Sculptures of animals were put by the two sides of an entrance of the medieval hotel where a bull was placed on the eastern part and a snake attacking a human faced lion with the crown of the head was placed on the western part. Selim Caravanserai was destroyed in the 15-16 centuries, yet it has been fully renovated in 1956-59. Nowadays, these two sculptures placed highly on the facade of the building are coat of arms of Orbelian dynasty.