ARCHITECTURAL MONUMENTS OF THE NAGORNO KARABAKH REPUBLIC
Church of St. Grigoris, Amaras Monastery
Photo by Hrair H. Khatcherian
Archbishop Pargev Martirosian,
Prelate of the Artsakh Diocese of the
- Nagorno Karabakh, 2001-
Amaras Monastery is among the world's oldest Christian monuments and is the place where the inventor of the Armenian alphabet, St. Mesrob Mashtots, founded a school where the newly invented script was first probated for teaching purposes. The monastery is located near the town of Soss in the Martuni region of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.
Amaras was established in the 4th century by legendary St. Gregory the Illuminator, who baptized Armenian king Trdat III in the year 301, making the Kingdom of Armenia the first nation in history that adopted Christianity as a state religion. However, one hundred years later, the monastery was wrecked by Persian conquerors, who sought to bring pagan practices back to Armenia. In the 5th century, Amaras was restored by Artsakh's king Vachagan II the Pious. When the Arabs overran Armenia in 640, Amaras was plundered again and, in the 9th century, was rebuilt under the patronage of Yesai, Prince of Dizak. In the 18th century, Melik-Shahnazar, Duke of Varanda, restored the buildings of Amaras and mounted massive fortress walls along the perimeter of the monastery.
The oldest and most important part of the monastery is the 4th century underground mausoleum of St. Grigoris, St. Gregory the Illuminator's grandson. A text inscribed in Armenian on a piece of his tombstone reads: "The tomb of St. Grigoris, Catholicos of Aghvank, grandson of St. Gregory; born in 322, anointed in the year 340, martyred in the year 348 in Derbend, by King Sanesan of the Mazkuts; his holy remains were brought to Amaras by his pupils, deacons from Artsakh."