Aghjots Vank, Ararat Province, Armenia
Aghjots Vank (Monastery) is located in Ararat Province of Armenia, 7 km south of Geghard. According to legend in the beginning of the IV century Grigor Lusavoritch (Illuminator) founded a monastery on the burial place of Stepanos priest who escaped from persecutions of King Trdat III, so why the other name of the church is Surb Stepanos.
The present monastic complex consisting of two churches and a vestibule was built at the beginning of XIII century. The main Surb Stepanos church was built in 1212-1217 by Father Superior Abel under sponsorship of Grigor Khaghbakian (Khachentsi). The church is cruciform inside with two-storey side-chapels in each corner. The dome of the church was destroyed during the earthquake. The vestibule (1217-1234) is attached to the church from the west. Only a few walls and thick blocks of stones remained. Its vault once was comprised of two pairs of intersecting arches.
Vaulted St. Peter and St. Paul church is joining the Surb Stepanos church from the north. It was built in 1270 under Father Superior Eremia by Prince Vasak Khaghbakian. There are side chapels on both sides of the altar. The portal of a roofless nave is flanked with two full-length 14th-century reliefs of Apostles Peter and Paul. This peculiar stylistic element, commonly found in Romanesque and Gothic Churches, is not typical for Armenian architecture.
The walls of the church are inscribed with vegetable and geometric ornaments and sculptural carvings of the scenes from Old and New Testament (Day of Judgement, Daniel in the lions` den etc.).
A number of manuscripts were created in Aghjots Monastery in XV century. Relics of St. Stepanos and St. Aristakes I (Partev) were kept there. At the beginning of XVII century, during shah Abbas invasion, the monastery was ravaged and the relics of St. Aristakes were stolen and taken to Tabriz. Later an Armenian merchant redeemed them and returned to Aghjots Monastery. Now these relics are kept in St.Echmiadzin.
Aghjots Monastery like many others was destroyed by 1679 Garni earthquake. Later it was restored and served till the middle of XVIII century. After the last Lezghin invasion the monastery was abandoned.
By Natalia Ghukasyan, www.building.am