Noratus (Noraduz) is an old residence, with monuments from Bronze and Iron age. The date of the establishment of the village is 1829, it’s 1934m above from sea level. In middle ages, the Noratus was a burgh. There is a traditional belief that this is a fortress-township of Gegharqunik, that establish Gegham Patriarch, which he called “Noratuns”- new houses.
Until the 19th century, Noratus was the administrative centre of Tsmak province. In 13-14th Noratus was Zaqaryans’ property and the residence of their governor: in inscriptions, the governor has names of demetar or meporel, which means leader. Melik Barik from Azaryans-one of the four ruling houses of Gegharqunik- moves his residence from Gandzak to Noratus in the 16th century.
There are other monuments in the village and surrounding areas.
St Astvatsatsin delipidated Church
So, in the center of the village, there is Astvatsatsin church. Sahak Prince of Gegharunik established the church in the 9th century. There are many khachkars and tombstones in the yard. The oldest inscriptions from 996 A.D is now in the Armenian History Museum.
St Grigor or Dopunts Monastery
This church is on the southern edge of the village. Though people say it is from the 13th century, the inscriptions and architecture prove that it is from the 10th century. On the western wall of the monastery, there is the inscription of Herakl Havnuni prince. According to Catholikos Simeon Yerevantsi, the monastery was a nunnery having a name of Dopunts.
The oldest khachkar in the village was for the establishment of the bridge (1211).
The chapel is about 2km far from the village, on the northwestern hill. Only the lower walls survived till now. The oldest inscription is from the 1560 year.
Noratus village is popular with its cemetery. Its old part included about 800 khachkars established in 9-17th centuries.
Noratus cemetery is the 2nd after historical cemetery of Jugha (Nakhijevan). Azeris were destroying about 2500 khachkars there in 1998-2005. After the destruction of Jugha Cemetry Noratus is the biggest khachkar complex in the world.
The History of the Development of Khachkars Art
Khachkar ( khach= cross, kar=stone) is the unique disclosure that Armenian created in worldwide heritage. Based on the traditions of memorial art, khachkars art developed in the early Christian period. There are wonderful examples of different periods in Horatus.
The sources start from the pre-Christian periods when people were making monuments with names of “dragons” to worship the water. People found them in Geghama mountains, on the slopes of Aragats, in Vayots Dzor and other places. Some of the most famous monuments are in Zvartnots, Garni and Van ( now in Turkey). Monuments from the Hellenistic period are mainly in pagan places of worship and on the roads of the villages.
When Christians were turning Pagan Temples into Churches, they were raising crosses as symbols of their new religion.
According to the facts Grigor the Illuminator raised wooden crosses on the place where Hripsime and Gayane were martyred. According to the tradition, there are wooden crosses in Sevan island, Sanahin, and other places till Georgia.
In- 5-7th centuries stone were used instead of wood. That time those creations had a name of “winged crosses”. The further development of “winged crosses” and quadrilateral monuments created a new type of monuments-khachkars.
In 9-10th centuries developed the art of Khachkars.
In Armenia, the tradition of putting tombstones appeared in 1-2th centuries. At first, they were smooth rectangular slabs.
In Noratus cemetery appeared cradle stones. The upper part of them was edgy or round. On the smooth tombstones, there were people images. Cradle stones are richer. Specialists made the stones according to the hobbies and the way of living of the dead person. In them it is easier to guess what position the person had in the life: the peasant is with his plough, a musician with his/ her musical instrument, the nobleman during hunting. The tombstones that were smaller in size were mainly for children.
Tombstones and Their History
This is a cradle stone with exquisite sculptures. This tombstone is dedicated to Khachatur, who brought water to the village in the 17th century. On the tombstone, there are lines of water, under which there four sculptures. Each of these sculptures has a little cross in the central part- they represent the Tree of life.
On the northern surface of the tombstone, there is a dramatic sculpture: a cavalier, whose horse’s rein holds his servant. Above the servant’s head appears an angel looking to the cavalier. On the left part is the most interesting sculpture: eternity sign or wine cup and tandoor with barbeque skewer. There is one of the oldest and holy symbols of Armenia, the symbol of Sun. To the left, an image of a musician is appearing, who plays Baglama. The variation of the scenes and the exuberance of the sculptures proves the gratitude of the villagers that showed towards the man who took water to them.
Tombstone in the memory of the Villager
Like other tombstones, there are wonderful sculptures on this tombstone too. On the southern surface of the stone, there is a villager whose name is unknown. He is with a plough. If one looks carefully at the stone, he/ she will notice two oxen pulling the plough and the villager.
Noratus Cemetry West End
This part of the cemetery is special because the burials were done according to the lineages. There are other monuments that are important to mark a work of craftsman or a development of a historical period.
This four adjacent khachkars on two pedestals are remarkable with sculptures and images. It is especially notable, that on a khachkar here are symbols of Sun and Moon.
Six khachkars in a row, resting upon a single pedestal built from three large blocks of stone. All six are works of a famous master Kiram. Local lore has it the top of stones C, D and E represent Lake Sevan and the two peaks of Mt. Ararat.
Harutents patrimonial graveyard
This row of 24 khachkars was erected for the Harutents family (dynasty) in the 14th century and includes a number of finely carved stones and imagery. Note the stone with white facing (a natural phenomenon from the elements) and the different ways the artists carved the Tree of Life below the central crosses. There is also variety in the top sides of the cross, which varies from plain surfaces to crosses, fennel seeds (a traditional motif) and other imagery.
A Legend about Noratus Khachkars
In Armenia, one can see khachkars not only under the walls of the cathedrals but also on the roads and on the bases of the mountains.
Before, very often Armenians were putting them in the memory of Armenian heroes. In Noratus cemetery there hundreds of such khachkars. They say, that before those khachkars helped to win in wars and fights against the enemies.
This happened when Seljuk Turks invaded Armenia. They always assailed suddenly. For instance, if they were going to raid to a village, they were choosing burial or wedding days, though, in all world, the fights stopped at that time.
Once, Turk potentate Melik Shah knows that in Noraduz village king Geghham would deplore his friend’s death. His armed protectors are less in number. Other are villagers that have no weapon, women and children. In the evening he learnt that the huge army of Melik Shah was coming against him.
How did King Gegham Defeat Them?
But Gegham found a way to avoid defeat. He decided to use the military rig. All the soldiers, obeying his command, dressed the khachkars in their clothes. Then he stood in front of the khachkars with his army. And, at night, when Turk soldiers appeared behind the cliffs they saw a scary scene. On the hill were standing the powerful equestrians with the guidance of king Gegham. So, thinking the stones as soldiers, Turks escaped. But king Gegham reached to them with his army and massacred.
Except for the graveyard there other monuments in the village.