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Marmashen Monastery, Vahramaberd, Armenia

Marmashen Monastery is situated in Shirak distict of RA, in 2 km. south-west from Vahramaberd village, on the left bank of Akhourian River. Marmashen is a bright illustration of the Armenian medieval architecture of the late 10th century. One can draw a parallel between Marmashen and Ani Cathedral.

The monastic complex consists of 3 churches and a vestibule (now ruined). The main church of the monastery Katoghike (Cathedral), according to the inscription on the southern wall, was built by prince Vahram Pahlavouni in 988-1029. Famous Trdat (Tiridates) is supposed to be its architect. Katoghike built of red tuffa stone is a domed hall. Interior proportions of the church was changed at the expense of cutting the eastern branch of the cross and approaching the altar apse with adjacent side chapels to the under cupola square. Owing to this the dome occupied the central position and the building, decreased in length, came closer to the type of centric constructions. A cruciform facade is framed with vaulted niches creating light and shade effect. 12-hedral drum crowned with umbrella roof is decorated with bunches of semi-columns.

The second church of the monastery is to the north from the main one. Its architectural design and interior are similar to Katoghike (probably they were built at the same time). The third church situated to the south of Katoghike is a rectangular outside and cruciform inside with side-chapels in each corner. The fourth church being round four-apse domed construction with 4 side-chapels was found during the excavations in 1954-1956. The base is all that remains of the church.

The ruins of 4-pillar vestibule which served as a burial vault of Pahlavouni princes are found on the territory of the monastery. Vahram Pahlavouni killed during the battle near Dvin in 1045 was also buried there. There is a cemetery, ruins of different constructions, khachkars and gravestones on the territory of the monastery.

The monastery was ravaged during the Seljuks invasion in the 11th century. Katoghike was turned to a fortress and the territory around it — to a village. Only in 1225 Zakarian princes (according to the inscription on the northern wall) returned the monastery to Pahlavouni. Vahram Pahlavouni`s grandsons archbishop Grigor and his brother prince Gharib restored the monastery.

In the 13th century Marmashen monastery was ravaged again this time during the Tatar-Mongol invasion. In the 30-s of the 19th century after the Russo-Turkish war a group of Armenians from Kars moved to Marmashen. Katoghike was turned to parish church. In 1870 Mkrtich Jalalian restored the monastery and opened a school there. During the earthquake of 1883 the northern church of the monastery was damaged. In 1900 the monastery was restored under the initiative of Catholicos Mkrtich I Vanetsi. In 1923 after establishment of Soviet authority in Armenian the monastery was closed. In 1988 it suffered a lot from the Spitak earthquake.

By Natalia Ghukasyan,


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