Gandzasar or the Mount of Treasures

December 7, 2015 - Travel to Armenia

Oh no… do not think you are going to read about gold, silver or diamonds hidden in the bowels of Gandzasar Mountain or money placed in a box buried deep down in the ground…

It is the treasures of exceptional Armenian architecture and Holy relics hidden inside the Monastery of Gandzasar that we recommend to see… («Գանձասար», Gandzasar is translated from Eastern Armenian as a “Mountain of Treasures”).

The Monastery of Gandzasar

Monastery of Gandzasar
Photo by Daniel Yan

The Monastery of Gandzasar, one of the most visited touristic and pilgrimage sites, sits in the village of Vank in Martakert region of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh and was built long ago in 1238 A.D. by Prince Hasan Jalal who in the beginning constructed the main church of St. John the Baptist. According to the tradition, this church bears relics of such Saints as St. John the Baptist, St. Gregory Illuminator, St. Zachariah (Father of St. John the Baptist), St. Pantaleon, etc. Therefore, it is considered to be a very powerful and significant site in Artsakh. Many visitors get “wow”-ed after they explore this exceptional place. Mount Gandzasar is a possessor of priceless treasures and welcomes anyone willing to have a spiritual union here.

The main pilgrimage day devoted to this holy place

Vardavar, a feast of transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ during which in Armenia people downpour water on each other, is the main pilgrimage day devoted to this holy place. In 1240 A.D. on Vardavar the church was consecrated and since that time Vardavar counted to be a special pilgrimage day for Gandzasar. This feast is usually celebrated in July. During Vardavar people not only downpour water on each other but also let the doves free, which symbolizes the global flood, the rescue of Noah’s family and Noah’s dove.

Tip: When inside the monastery, find the stone located on the base of the altar, on the right side of the altar, just under the last stair! You will notice that it is a different one by its design. Go closer and examine it to see straight horizontal and parallel lines in the center, four circles with crossed lines within, five smaller circles… It is believed to be a mysterious stone. Have you ever seen Jerusalem pilgrim’s cross? Well, if yes, you will definitely visualize it within this stone. By the way, that cross was also a symbol of crusaders in the medieval times.

Gandzasar stone Artsakh
Photo by Lilit Grigoryan

The Jerusalem or pilgrim’s cross is comprised of five crosses: one big cross that symbolizes Jesus, and four small crosses that amount to the number of evangelists. According to another hypothesis the five crosses symbolize the number of wounds that Jesus got when crucified.

…Charles Diehl, a French historian and a professor of Sorbonne University on Byzantine art considered Gandzasar to be a masterpiece of the Armenian architectural art.

Anatoly Yakobson, a member of the scientific council of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg considers Gandzasar Monastery to be an exceptionally wonderful monument that one can see in Armenia…

Dome of Gandzasar
Photo by Lilit Grigoryan

Well, Gandzasar conquered the hearts of many travelers to Artsakh, and you might fall in love with this unique monastery as well. If so, leave a comment for us and tell us more about your impressions. 

› tags: Artsakh / church / day-tour / hiking / history / monastery /

  • Astghik Vardanyan

    Thank you for interesting article. I was in Gandzasar a few years ago, but this article reminded me my feelings I had when I was in Gandzasar. Don’t miss a chance to visit Gandzasar!

    • Great to know you liked the article dear Astghik! Thank you for your comment!