Karvajar (Kalbajar) province

    Mighty system of fortifications distinguishes the fortress of Handaberd not only among other fortresses of the Tzar principality, but also among the strongholds of Artsakh and the entire Eastern Armenia in general. It is situated between the villages Chapni and Ghanlikyand, 600 m south of the right bank of the Lev River, on the summit with almost steep woody slopes, on the altitude of 1665 m, about 280 m above the riverbank. A narrow path passing through the rocks under the southwestern wall, which approaches to the main entrance in the north provides the only access to the fortress, standing on almost vertical rocks.
    As a fortress with glorious historical background Handaberd is mentioned in a number of Armenian chronicles. As witnessed by Kaghankatvatsi, "this fortress of Hand was erected by Atmerseh, the son of Sahl Smbatian, descendant of Armenian Aranshahik princely dynasty" presumably at the second quarter of the IXcent.76
    As far as Atrnerseh died in the seventies of the IX cent, and Samara - residence of the Arab Khalifas was taken by commander Bugha in 854, we assume that the fortress was build before 854. It deserves mentioning that invesiigation of the wall masonry revealed that initially Handaberd was a small fortification with irregular perimeter walls and a single entrance in the eastern side. Its interior dimensions were 19x16 m. This section of the fortress later turned to the citadel, showed apparent signs of an earlier structure, presumably of Vcent., which was expanded by the prince and fortified anew by massive walls and reliable accommodations necessary for long defense under the siege (water pits cut deep in the rocks, false entrances,8 counterforts for the purpose of strengthening the walls, etc.)
    In conformity with the inscription on one of the Dadi-Vank khachkars, in 1142-1182 Handaberd belonged to Hassan Vakhtanghian, the prince of Upper Khachen. It is mentioned again in 1250 in the History by Gandicaketsi."
    As one of the strongholds of Dopian principality Handaberd is recorded once more in the colophon of the New Testament of the Khachakap Targmanchats Church.
    Handaberd (and its small citadel) was enlarged after the constructive changes made by Atmersch. Inner dimensions of the fortress are 92x60 sq. m It was planned as an irregular quadrangle, with walls slightly bent eastwards. Medium thickness of the walls was 1.30 m and the maximum height preserved - 8 m. Besides 5 or 6 deep pits cut in the rock (their depth reached 5 m, even though they were partially filled with the debris of the fallen masonry), there were the ruins of an oblong building within the fortress. Both of them - the small building and the whole complex of the fortress were built of the coarse local stone cemented with lime mortar. Right under the northwestern tower, on the edge of the narrow rocky path leading to the fortress, in one of the perpendicular rocks facing westwards there was a small semi-circular room with smooth floor, wholly cut in the rock, which might have served a shelter for the guards, or a chapel for praying.
    In the beginning of this century mine engineer Aghabalian discovered an inscribed khachkar in the fortress. Its inscription was published by M. Ter-Movsissian. It contained 17 lines carved under the cross wings and continued on the northern rib of the stone.
    Unfortunately this khachkar bearing the only inscription of the site is now missing.
    As a part of mighty defense system Handaberd was associated with walchtowers, which patrolled the vicinity from the mountain peaks. One of such watchtowers was situated on the altitude of 2018 m above the sea, on lop the mount Pahak 'Guard' (or Turk Gharaul), wherefrom it could signal to the north-eastern tower of Handaberd. The distance between Handaberd and this watchtower is 2.4 km. The watchtower was planned as a quadrangle and built in the same technique as the fortress - with coarse stone cemented with lime mortar. Its external dimensions were 4.30x3.30 m. the walls were 70 cm wide and the maximum height of preserved walls was 3m.
Handaberd. The mount seen from northeast and southwest. Section of the fortress wall. Counterfort in the western wall.
    The mounts Tzaghikants (altitude 2267 m) and Jomard (altitude 1876 m) with the fortress of identical name are situated southeast of the watchtower and mount Pahak.

Handaberd.False gateway see from the south.
    Ruins of an ancient monastery lie 0.8 km east wards of Handaberd and 0.5 km south of the right bank of the Lev, in the centre of a spectacular valley surrounded by thick woody mountains. Architect M.Hasratian measured this complex f or the first time in 1985. He also copied the two inscriptions found in situ.
    The monastery consisted of a domed church and a chapel linked to it. The bell-tower stands a little to the north. Compositionally this complex resemble the old church of Kichan Anapat (Desert) (cross-planned, but without a dome). The resolution of the church vault represented particular Interest with its so-called octagonal "false dome" in the centre (similar to Khatravank the bell-tower and the temple of Dadi Vank) of which little has remained. There were traces of frescoes on the interior walls of the church. The fragments of ceramic roof tiles among the ruins testified that once the roof was covered with tiles. The complex was built of coarse or semi-squared stones cemented with lime mortar. Inscriptions, which might spread some light on the history of this particular monument, and Artsakh as a whole, are preserved in situ.     It deserves mentioning that during the whole history of the Albanian catholicosate subject to the Armenian church there were 5 catholicoses named Stephanos (Stephanos A, before 1079. Stephanos 1129-1131. Stephanos 1155-1195, Stephanos D 1262-1323. Stephanos E - mentioned in 1476). Taking into consideration the palaeographic peculiarities of this inscription, it seems that this should be the tombstone of Stephanos D, Head of the Albanian church during 1262-1323.
    To the cast and southeast of Handaberd, in the valley of the River Lev or on the slopes of its gorge there are traces of ancient settlements, later (in the XIX or XXcent.) reinhabited by Kurdish or Turkish tribes. These are the current Ghanlikand (as translated Blood village), Elyasalilar or Ella Zallar, Maraldam, Babashlar. Takyadam or Takyaghaya and Bozlu. All of these villages, particularly, Bozlu, where double crosses were carved on the surface of the rock buried in the centre of the village, have preserved the traces of earlier Armenian presence. Judging from the execution technique and stylistic peculiarities these crosses date back to the XII or XIIIcent.
    2 km southeast of Bozlu, at the altitude of 1950m above the sea, on the southern slope of the mountain there is the village Babashlar, and in 1.5 km to the southwest - village Maraldam (presumably this is a calque of the Armenian toponym Eghjeruenik). Between these two villages, right on the edge of the gorge there is an uninscribed khachkar lying on its back, with modest ornaments characteristic of the XI-XIIcent.
    The church situated in the northern outskirts of the village Takyaghaya, at the left bank of the Lev, not far from Handaberd, stands out tor its peculiarities." It is exceptionally compact and executed with high feeling of architectural style, This church may be rightfully called the most characteristic and peculiar sample of the Artsakh school of architecture and carving Although the vault of has totally collapsed its eastern facade covered with ornamented crosses really impressive. The church itself was built of coarse semi-processed stones connected with lime mortar. Its external dimensions were 7.46x5.58 m. The walls were thicker than usual (the width of the western wall is 117 cm). An important peculiarity was its quadrangular altar apse. The cross fastened into the tympanum is a real masterpiece. Though there are no inscriptions on the preserved walls of (he church, stylistic and technical peculiarities of the crosses are characteristic of the XIII-XIVcent. Dating of the structure may be done with more certainty owing to the discovery of an inscribed khachkar fragment, which exactly imitated the motifs of crosses carved on the tympanum of the church. The resemblance was so strong that one might assume that the same craftsman carved both crosses.
    Having discovered the fragment of the upper part of the khachkar (dimensions: 69x71x21) we searched for the other part hoping to find it, but reached no results. However the dating of the khachkar enables us to date the church by the end of the XIII or the beginning of the XIV cent.
The church in Takyaghaya

Northwestern elevation

Part of the western wall
    The area adjoining the church from the north and south is an old cemetery, with 5 or six finely decorated khachkars. Neither of them was inscribed.
    An old village on the bank of the Lev is called Keshishkend. Prof. Haykuni (Eghishe senior priest Gueghamian) described this settlement for the first time in a report published in 1885. He wrote:
"We saw the historical ruins of the village called Keshishkand, which (they said) had many inscriptions..." "The second author, M. Ter-Movsissian provided somewhat occasional information about the village seen from the distance: "Keshishkand - a ruined village known by this name was also situated at the bank of the Levonaget, in the point of its confluence with one of the foamy tributaries, streaming down through the steep gorge. There were only three Ayrum households and an old church - absolutely undestroyed, I watched the structure from the distance. Because of the falling dusk I could not stop and read the inscription, moreover that being tired of intolerable roads, an insignificant building made of coarse stone did not particularly attract me. It was a simple village church, quite like those, which I saw later in other places".
    It is difficult to insist, though taking into account the description of the place, it seems that the author was speaking about the village of Takyaghaya and its church.
    The deserted village Chapni with its numerous medieval monuments is situated 2.5 km North-East of Handaberd, at the left bank of the Lev, on the altitude of 1430-1440 m. The village consisted of two - large and small dwelling quarters. The ruins of a church, a chapel, a tomb and a vast cemetery abound in khachkars, are situated in the northern side of Large Chapni, in the upper pan of a sloping ground between two streams.
    The complex of Chapni is one of the rare sites, which had been investigated earlier. Visiting the village in the middle of XIXcent. S. Jalaliants wrote: "Its tragic ruins show the richness of the past and witness only to their enviable glory".1" Briefly describing the standing structures Jalaliants copied two epigraphic inscriptions: the first was on the wall of the tomb, and the second - on the back of the khachkar erected on the same tomb.
The main church seen from south Inscription within the area of the compound The tomb seen from northeast
    Other investigators of this site, M. Ter-Movsissian, in the beginning of the present century and S. Barkhudarian" - in the sixties have added practically nothing. It seems, the latter hadn't been at the site and wrote merely hypothetically: "almost nothing has been preserved in this village former inhabited by Armenians." And what did really preserve, when we visited the site during the expeditions of 1984 and 1993?
    First of all we saw a partially destroyed church in the southwestern end of the complex with a quadrangular altar and two sacristies in the northern side. It was a vaulted structure built of coarse stone and mortar, of which the northern part has remained, while the southern section was almost totally collapsed. There were no Inscriptions on the preserved walls. The length of the church was 5.50 m, width of the walls - 80 cm. The planning was exactly identical to that of Otzka Vank (the monastery near the village Ptretsik), which was doubtlessly built In the XIII cent.
Chapni. Khachkars of the XIII-XIV Cent.
    About 24-m northeast of the church there was a vaulted tomb with a khachkar still standing on it. Fortunately the former investigators (Jalaliants and Ter-Movsissian) have provided the detailed description of the tomb, owing to which we may now reconstruct its initial form: "A double-storied tomb with a khachkar inside. Its lower floor Is rectangular, with the height of 2.5 m. the facade is open, and three other sides are built of finely processed stone. The second floor consists of four one-piece pillars crowned with a small dome. Under the dome and between the columns there is a beautiful cross with rich ornament, and deficient inscription", D. Akhundov has published the photography of the tomb, taken probably in the sixties. "Currently, except the pillared dome, under which the khachkar was erected, other parts of the tomb are almost totally preserved, though badly worn. By some magic the fallen dome didn't damage the cross.
    3-4 m north of the tomb there was a small vaulted chapel, still standing though mostly buried in the ground. It was also built of coarse stone and lime mortar. Like other structures of this area it had the same constructive and stylistic peculiarities, characteristic of the XIIIcent.
    Besides the above mentioned constructions there were remainders and traces of other buildings in the site, about twenty wholesome or fragmented finely carved khachkars, some of them with inscriptions. Among the ruins we discovered a few inscribed stones of the facing.
    The content of khachkar inscriptions is mostly quite traditional. It contains the name of the deceased, name of the builder and remembrance prayer. What is most important, they provide the dating for the complexes, which by some reasons lack building inscriptions. In such cases the available data of the contemporaneous khachkars may enhance the dating of the entire complex.
    Thus a khachkar (dimensions: 143x66x17) fallen on its back 15 m southeast of the tomb provides only the date:

IN YEAR 1249.

    5-6 m to the south of the church there is a khachkar half buried in the soil, in situ, facing westwards (135x74x27cm). On both sides of the rosette there is a small inscription.
    About 50 m south of the church, on the side of a beautiful khachkar fallen on the back, there is an inscription containing 16 lines and continued under both wings of the cross (200x90 cm).
    Another finely carved inscribed khachkar (190x61x22) fallen on its back is about 35 m west of the tomb, in the cemetery, spread over the hill.
    Another khachkar inscribed on Its rib stands on top the hill to the east of the tomb (130x63x25).
    Both fragments of a broken khachkar (40x38x9) situated to the west of the tomb constitute an inscription of one line.

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