Akhtala is a 10th century fortified monastic comlex located in the village of Akhtala in the marz of Lori, 185 kilometers (114.885 miles) north of Yerevan. The fortress' territory is surrounded with rocky deep canyons from three sides, and the north side joins the plain. 

Akhtala monastery is one of a few orthodox monasteries in Armenia. Its erection coincides with Armenian Renaissance, which surpassed European Renaissance for several centuries. Here for some time was treasured such an important relic as the St. Cross, by which, according to Christian tradition, St. John had baptized Jesus Christ. 

From the ancient times silver and non-ferrous metals were extracted from this region. Georgian king Herakles took Greeks here for works from Trabzon. Then, French bought Akhtala deposit, and Greeks took the Alaverdi one. With this very event Armenian people tells the legend as if Charles de Gaulle was born in Akhtala who would later become a president of France. It is very likely that soon in this village the statue of Liberty would appear, since the original one French people molded of Akhtala copper and after made a present to United States. 

In 1887-1889 French archeologist engineer and geologist Jacque de Morgan, discovered rectangular stone sepulchers near Akhtala, dating back to the 8th century, with valuable cultural items made of clay, bronze and iron. A crypt from III millennia B.C. was found here, when people had been burring in sitting position. "œThis region is of special interest in the study of the origins of metals. Older than Europe and Greece, it still retains the traces of those civilizations that were the cradle of our own",- wrote Jacques de Morgan. 

The monastery of Akhtala is not only a harmonious synthesis of Armenian, Georgian and Byzantine cultures, but it is also a kind of thermometer to measure historical and cultural situation of the time. 

It is supposed that Kyurikids founded the fortress and the church of Akhtala in X century. At the end of XII century the influence of Zakarian feudal family increased among the Armenian princely dynasties. Following their political purposes, Zakareh remained a member of the Armenian Apostolic Church, while Ivaneh accepted the Greek Orthodoxy. 

The walls of St. Astvatsatsin church are covered with the beautiful, well-conserved frescoes, and only the face of Holy Virgin had been damaged by Tamerlane hordes. Next to the fortress there is a rock named for Tamerlane and probably one of his wives is buried beneath that rock. 

The frescoes are painted in XIII century right after conversion of church into Chalcedonic. And if the colorings are drawn them near Byzantine mural paintings, the themes of frescoes are quite Armenian. People of the village are telling that once the bright and vivid colors of frescoes had been distracting the visitors from the mass and the priest, infuriated, ordered to cover them by lime. 

The Greeks call the monastery "œMeramani". September 20-21 are the days of pilgrimage and many Armenians, Greeks and Georgians come together at this sacred place. 

Akhtala monastery with its architecture, picturesque landscape, breathtaking frescoes and mysterious legends inspired "œPasolini" of Armenian cinematography Sergey Paradjanov, who filmed some scenes of "œThe color of pomegranate" exactly on this place.So, Akhtala monastery testifies once again that Armenian people have been creating the values exceeding the limits of national. Akhtala with its architecture, carvings and frescoes is one more vivid reflection of Armenian art. 


04 October 2017




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