Tsaghkadzor and Kecharis Monastery
In every corner of the world, there is something to admire. Armenia, certainly, is one of the luckiest countries that has many corners to discover. Hearing the word “flower” creates a flower image in one’s mind. But, hearing “valley of flowers” makes people more imaginative thinking of a lot of flowers in a valley that has different colours and lots of attractions. And, this magical view exists and its location is in Armenia. Tsaghkadzor or “The Valley of Flowers” every year greets tourists from all over the world. The impression they have is irreplaceable. Many places to visit: sculptures, historical constructions etc. One of the nicest historical constructions is Kecharis Monastery. Every day many people visit there to see the old and great heritage of Armenian churches. Every detail of it proves how much significance churches had in Armenian lives.
The History of Kecharis Monastery
The group of monuments of Kecharis Monastery is in Akhtar district’s Tsaghkadzor town. The monastery is 57 km northwest of the capital of Armenia, Yerevan. But, it has permanent bus traffic thoroughfare.
On a little platform of Tsaghkunyats mountains valley, in the edge of a coulee, surrounded by forests and flowery valleys there is the town. Before, Tsaghkadzor town had a name of Kecharis or Kecharuq, being a part of Varazhnuniq province of Ayrarat. Varazhnunyats princes had the ownership of it. Afterwards, people called the monastery by the town’s old name.
The Name and Residents of Kecharis
So, some questions arise. When did residents displace here? Why was the name Kecharis? But unfortunately, there is no exact information about that. The only fact, that it could be a 5th-century monastery, is a church’s ruins, which has a construction very similar to the 5th century. So, this is a very simple fact that the town existed in the 5th century.
Because of the breakdown of Varazhnunyats dynasty and ministery, for the establishment of Bagratunyats Ani kingdom, Bagratunyats dynasty take Varazhnuniq province. One part of the province they present to Pahlavuni princes.
Vasak Pahlavuni made their political centre Bjni village. His son Grigor Prince or Grigor Magister established St Astvatsatsin temple in Bjni.
Grigor Magister, the 5 states that he had in Varzhnuniq, including Bjni, Kecharis etc, in 1045 devoted to Byzantine emperor Romanos. And instead of that, he got new estates and magister title.
After that, Seljuks occupied Armenia with Varazhnunyats or Tsaghkunyats province.Ivane and Zaqare Zaqaryan brothers at the end of 12th century, occupying the northern part of Armenia from Seljuks, including Tsaghkunq, and getting an ownership allowance from Tamara queen, they distribute the regions among Armenian princes. As studies proved, they gave Kecharis to Proshyan princes.
Because of Mongolian invasions in the 13th century and Turk-Mongolian wars, Armenia was in a destruction and poverty. As a result, many residences were desolate, including Tsaghkadzor village.
According to historical sources, in the 12th century in Ayrarat province there was a city with a name of Kechror. Some topographers concluded that Kecharis is the same Kechror as there is a similarity between these words.
However, the thorough research didn’t find out any remnants of the residence, that would remind it was a town.
After occupying Eastern Armenia, in 19th century Russians sent a group of denominational families. Afterwards, the Russian government made Tsaghkadzor a summer residence. Regardless of all of these, before the Sovietization, Tsaghkadzor was a small village which name firstly was Jnjrlu then Darachichak.
Kecharis-Jnjrlu-Darachichak village, currently Tsaghkadzor, developed and flourished very quickly during Soviet Union years, becoming one of the most beautiful towns of Soviet Armenia.
Inscriptions of Kecharis Monastery
The group of monuments of Kecharis Monastery belongs to the Armenian architectural monuments. The historical sources contain vague information about Kecharis Monastery. This fact creates a confusion and contradiction at topographers.
Only the inscriptions on the monuments give some information. Studying those inscriptions carefully, especially those that contain information about its establishment, it is clear that the initial construction of the monastery is St Grigor’s temple, which was established in 1003.
The thing is, that the topographers didn’t read in a right way the date of the inscription on the St Grigor temple’s southern door.
That inscription refers to the establishment of St Grigor Temple, by Grigor Magister in 1003 (in Armenian alphabet every letter has its corresponding number, in this case, 1003 converted into the letter is ՆԾԲ). All the philologists read Ձ instead of Ծ. Both of them have different numbers and it created confusion in knowing the actual establishment date.
In 12-13th centuries Kecharis Monastery developed and reached to economic capacity, becoming one of the largest religious centres of feudal Armenia. It had its ecclesiastical school, where Khachatur archimandrite Kecharetsi was popular.
There is less information after the 13th century.
During the years of Soviet Union, the committee of protection of Historical Monuments did great work for renovating, cleaning the monastery. All the walls are renovated, there is a fence made of stones which have metal poles.
There is a museum in the monuments where visitors can see texts, photos and drawings of Kecharis and nearer monasteries.
The description of Kecharis Monastery Monuments
Thus, the group of Monuments of Kecharis Monastery consists of four churches, one parvis and few mausoleums.
1. St Grigor Church
It’s the main church of the monastery. According to the inscription of the stone of southern door, Grigor Magister established it in 1003. Moreover, this monument compacts the features of 10-11th-century Armenian architecture.
2. The parvis
It is on the western side of St Grigor church.Unfortunately, it is unknown when and by whom it was built. The inscription on its northern wall, with the date 1206, shows that the date of the establishment was 1206, probably in 12th century.
3.St Nshan church
It is in the southern part of St Grigor church. Again, there is less information about the date of the establishment of this church too. The structural form is typical of 11-12th centuries. Comparing to other monuments, it may be built at the end of 11th century and at the beginning of 12th century. This is a beautiful little building that has entrance only from the western side.
4. Katoghike church
It is on the southern side of St Nshan church. According to the inscription on the front wall and voussoir, Proshyan Khaghbak’s son Vasak established the church, in the 13th century.
5. St Harutyun
This is the fourth church of the monastery. It is on the western side of the group of monuments. According to the inscription on the front wall and voussoir the establishment date of the monument is 1220.
So, as it is obvious from abovementioned, Kecharis Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries of Armenia. It contains a great history of famous historical people and events. Even more, Kecharis Monastery greets all the visitors with deep archives.