History

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“Khachkars”

The Cross-stone Monuments of Armenia

the symbols of history and identity of the Armenian Apostolic Church

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A khachkar (in Armenian: խաչքար), is a cross-stone, a symbol of the history and the identity of the Armenian Church. It is a combination of the words: խաչ (cross) + քար (stone). A khachkar is an outdoor monument, a vertically erected flat stone, which is positioned in relation to the four cardinal points of the world. It is a carved, memorial stone bearing a cross, decorated often with additional motifs such as rosettes, interlaces, and botanical motifs. Khachkars are characteristic of the Medieval Christian Armenian art. The khachkar both stimulates and reflects the unique development of the Armenian Church and the Armenian religious culture. Khachkar is one of the most characteristic symbols of Armenian identity. With its marvelous carvings, savior symbolism of the cross, and the notion of eternity, the khachkar has become one of the most respected religious monuments of the Armenian Church.
As early as in the 4th century, Armenians used Khachkars as monuments to immortalize their military victories and the important historical events. At the same time, cross-stones were an inseparable part of churches, monasteries, chapels, sources, bridges and other historical buildings. They were used in cemeteries as gravestones On khachkars, were usually written important facts and information about Armenia, the Armenian Church, and the people.
The most common khachkar feature used to be a cross, surmounting a rosette or a solar disc. The remainder of the stone face was typically filled with elaborate patterns of leaves, grapes, pomegranates, and bands of interlace. Occasionally, a khachkar was surmounted by a cornice, usually containing biblical or saintly figures. In most cases, local materials were used, and priority was given to yellow-reddish tuff.
Most khachkars fall under the basic definition of a cross carved onto a stone. A few of the highly detailed and elaborate khachkars are called “lacework” khachkars. Khachkars which stand as freestanding crosses are called “tevavor” or “with arms” khachkars. Finally, there are some examples of totem-pole style khachkars. The cross is usually the standard Armenian cross with two triple-loops on each arm of the cross, though sometimes it can be much simpler.
In their earliest form, khachkars first appeared in the 9th century, during the time of the Armenian revival, after the liberation of Armenia from the Arab rule. The oldest khachkar with a known date, was carved in 879 (though earlier, cruder, examples still exist). Erected in Garni, it is dedicated to Queen Katranide I, the wife of King Ashot I Bagratuni.
Perhaps some of the most intricate known Khachkars were designed by the great architect Momik, in the 14th century. Momik is also credited with the architectural design of the Areni Church and Noravank monastery. A khachkar in Geghard monastery, dated from 1213, was carved by masters Timot and Mkhitar. The Holy Redeemer khachkar in Haghpat monastery, was carved in 1273 by master Vahram. A khachkar in Goshavank was carved in 1291 by master Poghos.
The peak of the khachkar carving art was between the 12th and the 14th centuries. It is an art that declined during the Mongol invasion at the end of the 14th century. It revived in the 16th and 17th centuries, but the artistic heights of the 14th century were never achieved again. Today, the khachkar carving tradition still exists, with hundreds of khachkars still being carved by local masters in Armenia.
About 40,000 old khachkars survive today. Most of them are free standing, though many of them were built into monastery walls. A number of good examples have been transferred to the Historical Museum in Yerevan, as well as beside the Cathedral in Echmiadzin. The largest surviving collection of khachkars is located in Armenia, at Noraduz, on the western shore of Lake Sevan, where more than 900 khachkars, from various periods and of various styles still exist. The largest number of khachkars was formerly located at Julfa, in Nakhichevan. In 2005, Azeris destroyed the entire medieval Armenian cemetery, a crime of cultural cleansing, the cultural genocide from Azeris and Turks, that the Armenian nation faces until this date. Since 2010, khachkars, their symbolism and craftsmanship, are inscribed in the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Below, there is a collection of the most prominent and well known khachkars existing throughout Armenia. Khachkars that have been erected and still standing inside the Armenian historical Monasteries, as well as adjacent to many of the Armenian historical churches. Khachkars that can be found spread in every corner of the Armenian world.

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Armavir Province


»   Etchmiadzin Cathedral,   Vagharshapat

40.161769°N 44.291164°E


UNESCO World Heritage site since 2000

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Aragatsotn Province


»   Hovhannavank,   Ohanavan

40.339428°N 44.388653°E


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»   Saghmosavank,   Saghmosavan

40.380536°N 44.396599°E


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»   St. Sarkis Monastery,   Ushi

40.347584°N 44.360089°E


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»   Tegher Monastery,   Tegher

40.345092°N 44.240544°E


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»   St. Gevork Monastery,   Mughni

40.315001°N 44.371628°E


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»   Karmnavor church,   Ashtarak

40.299628°N 44.365417°E


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»   St. Hovaness church,   Voskevaz

40.275833°N 44.297222°E


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Shirak Province


»   Harichavank,   Harich

40.606459°N 43.999422°E


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»   Marmashen,   Vahramaberd

40.842689°N 43.755781°E


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Lori Province


»   Odzun church,   Odzun

41.050850°N 44.616416°E


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»   Horomayr Monastery,   Horomayr

41.035039°N 44.628039°E


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»   Sanahin Monastery,   Alaverdi

41.087222°N 44.665998°E


UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996

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The Sargis khachkar

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»   Haghpat Monastery,   Haghpat

41.093889°N 44.711944°E


UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996

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»   Akhtala Holy Trinity Monastery,   Akhtala

41.150578°N 44.763919°E


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Tavush Province


»   Berdavan church,   Berdavan

41.202778°N 45.003333°E


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»   Makaravank,   Achajur

40.973819°N 45.127233°E


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»   Samsonavank,   Acharkut

40.974700°N 45.036400°E


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»   Goshavank,   Gosh

40.729878°N 44.997725°E


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»   Haghartsin Monastery,   Haghartsin

40.768489°N 44.890875°E



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Gegharkunik Province


»   Sevanavank,   Sevan

40.563917°N 45.010808°E


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»   Hayravank,   Hayravank

40.432728°N 45.107869°E


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»   St. Grigor Doputs Vank ,   Noratuz

40.373931°N 45.181233°E


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»   Shoghagavank,   Dzoragyugh

40.169444°N 45.198611°E


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»   Vanevan Monastery,   Artsvanist

40.146494°N 45.515513°E


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»   Makenyats Vank,   Makenis

40.125060°N 45.613259°E


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Kotayk Province (North)


»   Kecharis Monastery,   Tsaghkadzor

40.532358°N 44.719644°E


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»   Makravank,   Hrazdan

40.527500°N 44.737222°E


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»   Mayravank,   Solak

40.463611°N 44.708611°E


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»   Holy Mother of God,   Bjni

40.459444°N 44.648611°E


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»   Neghuts Monastery,   Arzakan

40.456778°N 44.584795°E


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Kotayk Province (South)


»   Karenis Monastery,   Karenis

40.391670°N 44.607222°E


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»   Dzagavank,  Arinj

40.235900°N 44.595000°E


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»   Qosaghbyur Monastery,   Jrvezh

40.182000°N 44.586000°E


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»   Mashots Hayrapetats church,   Garni

40.119444°N 44.737900°E


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»   Geghard Monastery,   Geghard

40.140425°N 44.818511°E


UNESCO World Heritage site since 2000

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Ararat Province


»   Havuts Tar,   Havuts Tar village

40.122981°N 44.768874°E


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»   Khor Virap,   Lusarat

39.878333°N 44.576111°E


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Vayots Dzor Province


»   Noravank,   Amaghu

39.684061°N 45.232872°E


UNESCO World Heritage nomination list since 1995

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Medieval khachkars of Noravank monastery,traditional christian a

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»   Gndevank,   Gndevaz

39.758846°N 45.610599°E


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Syunik Province


»   Vorotnavank,   Vaghatin

39.495599°N 46.122200°E


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»   Tatev Monastery,   Tatev

39.379367°N 46.250031°E


UNESCO World Heritage nomination list since 1995

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»   Vahanavank,   Kapan

39.217778°N 46.331944°E


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Artsakh Republic


»   Dadivank,   Artsakh

40.161391°N 46.288013°E


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»   Gandzasar Monastery,   Artsakh

40.056839°N 46.531233°E


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Historical Armenia


»   Ani Cathedral,   Ani

40.506207°N 43.572970°E


UNESCO World Heritage site since 2016

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»   Horomos Monastery,   Ani

40.519689°N 43.629158°E


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»   Holy Cross,   Akhtamar island,  Lake Van

38.341670°N 43.035278°E


UNESCO World Heritage nomination list since 2015

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