The Karmir (Red) Church (Mausoleum of Melik Pashayans)

Location Situated on the eastern periphery of Tsovategh village within the Martuni region, the Karmir Church complex, renowned alternatively as Melik Pashayans’ mausoleum, occupies an elevated position atop a hill (Fig. 1). Historical overview In the 19th century, scholars verified the presence of a complex ensemble of structures at this site, encompassing a church, three subterranean tombs in its vicinity, and an extensive cemetery (Barkhudareants 1895, 106-108). “Graves can be found both within the chapels and the main church, with tombstones fashioned from solid black stones, devoid of any inscriptions or carvings” (Lalayan 1897, 49). “Towards the eastern fringes of the village, atop a modest hill, lies a cluster of closely situated graves. Amidst this burial ground stands a distinctive four-nave, arched church. Among these chambers, three are situated underground, while one partially emerges from the earth’s surface, resembling an akeldama (graveyard). There is a multitude of graves, including the resting places of Melik Pasha and Bishop Sahak” (Jalayants 1858, 514). Today, only the church and the cemetery have endured the test of time. As indicated by an inscription etched onto a stone at the entrance of the church, its construction dates back to the year 1621. “The year 1621, Bishop David. This church monastery is a commemorative tribute, intended to serve as a tomb and final resting place for our forebears” (CAE 5, 160). In the year 2022, excavations were conducted within the vicinity of the church, primarily to uncover chapel tombs. These endeavors did not yield the anticipated discovery, and no such tombs were unearthed. The excavations yielded an array of findings, including fragments of khachkars spanning various epochs (Figs. 2, 3), inscription stones, and tombstones integrated into the church walls (Fig. 4). Furthermore, burials were uncovered at various locations within the church premises.

Surb Astvatsatsin church of Vardadzor

Location The Surb Astvatsatsin Church is situated on the southwestern outskirts of the village of Vardadzor in the Askeran region of the Republic of Artsakh, within the village’s old neighborhood (Fig. 1). Historical overview Surb Astvatsatsin Church was constructed in the nineteenth century. Part of the construction date was left unfinished in the construction inscription engraved on the lintel (Fig. 2). The inscription is divided into two parts and says: “The Armenian Church of the Surb Astvatsatsin was built with the financial means of Baghtasar Shamkhaleantsi and his sons Sargs and Hovhannes, Pirajamal villagers. For the souls of all the deceased. May God have mercy on all of us. Amen. Surb Asvatsatsin Church in the Armenian village of Pirajamal was also built with financial means by a Shushi citizen/Holy Land pilgrim Shahkalti Harutyuneants, in memory/and for the salvation of his late son Mirza’s soul and his parents, and was completed in the year….”. Makar Barkhudaryants’ work “Artsakh” contains information about the village and the church, which includes the following details: The village of Pir-Chamal was established on the eastern slope of a mountain. Its inhabitants are native to the area, with some having moved from Jraberd, and a few from Old Keatuk and Belukan. The land in Pir-Chamal is fragile and arid, but fertile and has a lot of gardens. The air, climate, and water are remarkable. The village church is named Surb Astvatsatsin and is a stone-built structure constructed by financial means of the pilgrim of the holy land, pious, Shahkealdi from Shushi, and the late Baghdasar Shamkhalian of Pir-Chamal. There is one priest serving in the church. The village has 146 households, with 475 males and 357 females (Barkhutareants 1895, 128). There are four 17th-century khachkars in the upper part of the church’s eastern facade (Figs. 3, 4). One inscription bears the date “(1671)”, and two others read “Cross of Khanzat”, and “Cross of Pirhamzi”.

Surb Gevorg Church of the Sarnaghbyur Village

Location Surb Gevorg church is situated on a steep slope on the western edge of Sarnaghbyur village in the Askeran region of the Republic of Artsakh (Fig. 1). Historical overview According to the lintel inscription, the church was built in 1875 by the brothers Harutyun, Tsatur, Andreas, and Jumshud Ter Harutyunyan from Pirjamal (Vardadzor) in memory of their parents Milkum and Aziz (Figs. 2, 3).

Surb Astvatsatsin church of Haterk

Location The church is located in the center of Haterk village in the Martakert region of the Republic of Artsakh. Historical overview There is no historical information available about the church, but it can be dated to the 17th century based on its construction and technical architecture. Architectural-compositional examination Makar Barkhudaryants, describing Haterk village, notes:  “…the church is Surb Astvatsatsin, constructed from stone, built on four arches without central pillars, quite old and completely unadorned, length 22 meters 75 centimeters, width 9 meters 85 centimeters…” (Barkhutareants 1895, 201). Barkhudaryants describes a dilapidated church constructed from semi-finished stones and lime mortar (Figs. 1, 2). It is a single-nave hall on the inside. The cylindrical vault rests on the arches rising from the pillars (Figs. 3, 4). The arches’ stones and pillars are polished. Simple crosses adorn the arches near the walls. The church’s only entrance is located on the south side, with plastered walls inside. The tabernacle used to be horseshoe-shaped (Fig. 5).

Surb Mariam Astvatsatsin church of Vaghuhas

Location Surb Mariam Astsvatsatsin Church is situated on an elevated site in the Martakert region of the Republic of Artsakh (Fig. 1). Historical overview Construction works of the church began in 2007. Grigori Hayrapetyan, a Vaghuhas villager and Russian resident, funded the project. Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan, leader of the Diocese of Artsakh, consecrated the church in 2012, on the occasion of the village’s 19th anniversary of liberation ( Architectural-compositional examination The church is constructed of white limestone from Artsakh, with load-bearing structures, arches, and vaults made of reinforced concrete and lined with orange tuff stone. The structure of the church is akin to Surb Hakob Church of Stepanakert, showing a slightly stretched symmetry from west to east in a cruciform design, with subtle differences in window sizes, openings, and styling. A small bell tower stands atop the tiled roof at the center of the vault intersection (Fig. 2). The condition before and after the war During the Artsakh War, the church was unscathed. Bibliography 1. The newly built church of Vaghuhas village of Artsakh was consecrated,

The Surb Astvatsatsin Church of Msmna

Location Surb Astvatsatsin Church is located in the center of Msmna village in Artsakh’s Martuni region (Fig. 1). Historical overview Surb Astvatsatsin Church was constructed in 1881. Makar Barkhudaryants provides information about the church, also stating that “The church is Surb Astvatsatsin, made of stone on two arches. The priest comes from the village of Ghavakhan (Kavahan) (Barkhutareants 1895, 108). Although the church was built at the end of the nineteenth century, khachkars and decorative fragments on the walls attest that there was a sanctuary here at least since the 12th-13th centuries (Figs. 2, 3).

Surb Astvatsatsin church of Karmir village

Location Surb Astvatsatsin Church is located in the Askeran region’s Karmir village (Fig. 1). Historical overview Karmir village, also known as Trnavarz-Drnavarz, is located in the Askeran region. According to Makar Barkhudaryan, “Drnavarz was established on the Poghrkhana Mountain’s south-eastern slope. The villagers are indigenous to the land” (Barkhutareants 1895, 85). Drnavarz was renamed Karmir Village in 1921. Architectural-compositional examination The church was built in 1841, according to an inscription on the entrance facade stone. It is a single-nave rectangular hall made of rough limestone and lime mortar. The structure’s cornerstones, the tabernacle, the entrance curbstones, arches, vaults, windows, and other openings are polished. The semicircular tabernacle on the eastern side has sacristies on both sides (Fig. 2). It is internally vaulted (Fig. 3), and it has a new double-tiled roof on the outside. The nave is supported by arrow-shaped arches that rise from two pairs of pilasters.

The Surb Grigoris church of Herher

Location The Surb Grigoris Church of Herher is situated in the center of the same-named village in the Martuni region of the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), at an elevation of 846 meters above the plain (Fig. 1). Historical overview Herher village is one of the most significant settlements of Amaras valley. It was the summer residence of the monks of Amaras monastery and the center of the Varanda and Kochezi eparchies, according to written sources and inscriptions preserved on the walls of Surb Grigoris church. This circumstance aided the architectural characterization of the church, as relics were collected here, khachkars were constructed, and there are inscriptions containing reliable information about historical events and people. According to Makar Barkhudareants, the village was established on the northern portion of the mountain ridge with the same name. He also gives data about the settlement’s climatic conditions, air, water, demography, church, and inscriptions (Barkhutareants 1895, 104-106). Jalalyants also mentioned the church inscriptions (Jalalyants 1858, 330), and Sedrak Barkhudaryan published the more complete originals (CAE 5, 164-168). According to the construction inscription on the church’s southern facade, the church was built in 1667-1676 by order of Petros the Catholicos under the leadership of Archbishop Barsegh (Fig. 2). “With Christ’s blessing, I Barsegh Archbishop, a pupil of Petros Catholichos, son of Aghay and Gul from the Varanda region, village Gish, repaired several rooms of the holy church in Amaras, surrounded it with battlement, lavishly decorated it, and had another church built as a summer residence. Named it Surb Grigoris and brought some relics there in the years of 1667–1676” (CAE 5, 164). Thus, the inscription not only informs about the time and circumstances of the Surb Grigoris Church’s construction but also the works that were done in Amaras: the construction of surrounding walls with numerous attached infrastructures, as well as the repair and decoration of the Amaras Church “repaired several rooms of the holy church in Amaras, surrounded it with battlement, lavishly decorated it.” Also, it is unclear which structure is meant by the church of Amaras, the chapel shrine of Grigoris, or a church built on or adjacent to it, the existence of which is unknown from other sources. Architectural-compositional examination The Surb Grigoris Church of Herher is a three-nave basilica with a four-aisled dome. It measures 19.2 x 13.6 meters externally (Fig. 3). It’s constructed of rough white limestone blocks and lime mortar. The entrances, columns, arches, volume under the dome, entrance edges, and parapets are all made of polished stone. The high altar is circular, with rectangular vaulted sacristies on both sides and entrances from the naves’ side of the prayer hall. There are two windows in the sacristies’ walls. The church has two entrances, one on each side, on the western and southern sides. From the exterior, the main, rectangular entrance on the west side is designed as an arched porch. It is quite deep. The wide arch is supported by impost capitals that are symmetrically arranged on both sides of the entrance. The porch’s lintel and entire facade are covered with inscriptions (Fig. 4), geometrical sculptures, and plant carvings, bearing striking similarities to the porch of the Surb Astvatsatsin Church of Tsaghkavank (Hadrut region) (Fig. 5).

Surb Astvatsatsin Church of Khnushinak

Location Khnushinak village is located in the Martuni region of the Republic of Artsakh, between the settlements of Chartar and Gish, 16 kilometers from the regional center Martuni. Surb Astvatsatsin Church, built in the nineteenth century, is situated on the high ground of the village’s western side (Fig. 1). Historical overview The main inscription of Khnushinak’s Surb Astvatsatsin Church has been preserved on the entrance facade, according to which the church was constructed in 1860 by Agha Hayrapet bek Dolukhaniants from the city of Shushi “The church was built by the will of God in Khnushinak village, thanks to the financial support of the pious, noble agha Hayrapet Bey Dolukhaniants of Shushi city, in memory of his soul and his noble spouse Bakumai Melik Beklariants, as well as the parents, Baghdasar Bey, father, and mother Nazlu Khan, in the year of 1860 ” (Barkhutareants 1895, 120). The structure’s second inscription is located on the vaulted wall and most likely refers to the construction of a small belfry on the roof, from which just four columns remain “This holy church’s upper story is dedicated to Baba Yepremean and his son Khachatur, spouse Margarit, December 22, 1894.” (Fig. 2). We learn more about Surb Astvatsatsin Church in Khnushinak from the structure’s inscriptions and the work of Makar Barkhudareants “Artsakh,” which mentions, among other things, that the church had two priests (Barkhudaryants 1895, 120). Architectural-compositional description The church is a single-nave hall with sacristies on both sides of the tabernacle. The vault, vaulted arches, and dome are all strongly arrow-shaped, giving the prayer hall a vertical stretch (Fig. 3). Except for the corner sections, entrance and windows, vaulted arches, and stage bema stones, the walls are lined with local unpolished stones. The interior of the church is plastered. The baptismal font is located on the northern wall. The structure’s length is 17.45 meters and its width is 8.80 meters. The church’s only entrance is on the south side, and there are two large arched windows on both sides of the entrance. On the eastern side, there is another large window (Fig. 4). There are six small windows in the structure, two on the north wall, two on the east wall, and one on each of the south and west walls. There are two rosettes in the upper part of the entrance, on both sides of the small window (Fig. 5), and the tabernacle bema and other parts are decorated with simple crosses.

Yeghtsadzor Church of Upper Sznek

Location The church known as “Yeghtsadzor Yeghtsi” is located on the outskirts of Upper Sznek village in the Askeran region of the Republic of Artsakh (Fig. 1). Historical overview There is no historical information available about the church. In his description of Upper Sznek, Makar Barkhudareants only mentions the village square’s church (Barkhutareants 1895, 101). Architectural-compositional examination The church is a rectangular vaulted single-nave hall with an eastern semi-circular tabernacle, a pair of sacristies, and windows built into the bema (Fig. 2). The burial arches are supported by pillars made of tombstones from the 16th and 17th centuries. A baptismal font is built into the northern wall near the bema. Reliefs on the bema, table, and curb stone at the entrance to the sacristies are also created by reusing khachkars, tombstones, and other polished stones (Fig. 3). In them, a khachkar from the 12th-13th centuries with a sculpture stands out. The church’s measurements are 10×8 meters. It is made of rough limestone and sandstone, lime mortar, and is plastered internally. The western and eastern facades each have three narrow windows. The roof is made of asbestos roofing from the years of independence.

The Surb Astvatsatsin Church of Old Skhtorashen

Location The church is located on the grounds of the Martuni region’s Old Skhtorashen rural settlement, east of the famous Platanus tree (Figs. 1, 2), in the zone of visibility and direct aiming of the Azerbaijani military. Historical overview The rural settlement of Old Skhtorashen is about 1-kilometer northwest of Karmir Shuka village. Makar Barkhudaryants claims that “…the residents of Skhtorashen are native to this land” (Barkhutareants 1895, 68). The church was built in 1731, according to the inscription on the lintel (“In the year of 1731”, fig. 3). Architectural-compositional examination It is a rectangular single-nave hall with a semicircular tabernacle on the eastern side and two windows on the northern and southern walls. It is vaulted internally, with a gable roof externally. The vault rests on arrow-shaped arches rising from a pair of columns. The dimensions are 13.7 meters long, 7 meters wide, and 6 meters tall. It is constructed of milky limestone, and the porch, outer corners of the hall, window parapets, niches, and baptismal font are all lined with large, polished stones. The western wall was reinforced internally and externally, along the width of the high altar, with a horizontal anti-seismic zone made of logs. Logs are no longer there. The porch entrance faces south and has an architectural and sculptural design typical of the time: an external polished border, sculptured entrance curbstones, and a wide semicircular lintel (Fig. 4). The lower part of the lintel’s horizontal sculptured zone continues and wraps up the decoration of the entrance curbs, highlighting its solemnity. The rest of the surface is taken up by lettered crosses embedded in the three arches, at the bottom of which the church’s construction date is engraved in large regular majuscule writing (Fig. 3).

Katoghike (main) Church of Dadivank and related structures

Katoghike, the monastery’s main church, is located at the eastern end of the northern rising ground (Fig. 1). According to the building inscription, Arzukhatun, the wife of Haterk lord Vakhtang, built it in 1214. (CAE 5, 198-199). The church has a rectangular structure outwardly (10.6×12.2 meters) and cross-shaped inwardly, with two-story vaults in each of the four corners (Figs. 2, 3). This compositional solution was prevalent in Armenia beginning in the 10th century (Haghpat, Sanahin, Kecharis) and later in 13th-century monastic complexes (Harich, Hovhannavank, Geghard).

Dadivank. About Saint Dadi and his grave

Dadivank’s current structures are not older than the 12th century. This monastery’s history is essentially a story about the Upper Khachen princely house and its spiritual activities. Excavations in Dadivank have revealed the remains of an ancient megalithic structure (whose circular burial pit constructed with tiny, irregular stones resembles a pre-Christian burial chamber) and the remains of a chapel built on it. At the end of the thirteenth century, an attempt was made to construct a large church that would include the chapel beneath the bema. However, for some reason, it was never completed. A single-nave church with a rectangular tabernacle was constructed on the southern side of this chapel, facing east, before the middle of the 12th century, and a rectangular hall-courtyard was built adjoining it from the west. The main church of Dadivank, which was built in 1214 according to the inscription, is also attached to the single-nave church with its northwestern corner (Fig. 1). About Saint Dadi The first written source about Saint Dadi and Dadivank is found in Movses Daskhurantsi’s 10th-century work “History of Aghvank,” which concerns 9th-century events: “Varaz Trdat and his son Stephanos Nerseh Philippean, as well as a relative, were murdered in Khoradzor, known as Dado monastery” (Kaghankatvatsi 1983, 340). Mkhitar Gosh has provided the next bibliographic information (end of the 12th century). When describing the raids of the Choli amira on Artsakh during the battles for Gandzak in 1145, he mentions the destruction of the Dadu monastery: “The apostolic holy place known as Dadivank” (Kaghankatvatsi 1983, 353). Mkhitar Gosh makes no mention of why the monastery is apostolic or who Dadu is. It can only be hypothesized that the monastery’s apostolic origin was already known. In addition, the author has stated on the same page that even though Choli destroyed and captured Artsakh’s fortifications a year ago, he had to attack and raid again: “…on the side of Khachin, Tandzeats, and Adakh, because not a single castle remained in his hands during the previous advance, but was liberated from him, those who had fled to cedrus forests, took their swords and fortresses from them and rebelled against Turks” (Kaghankatvatsi 1983, 353). Around this time (the early 1140s), Hasan Vakhtangyan, the elder lord of Khachen, begins his liberation struggle, which he describes in the inscription of the khachkar he constructed in Dadivank in 1182: “I, the son of Hasan Vakhtang, the lord of Haterk and Handaberd, Khachinaberd and Havakhrats, have been in seniority for 40 years. With the help of God, [survived] many wars and defeated my enemies. I gave birth to 6 sons and inherited them my fortresses and province, and came to this monastery. To Father Grigor I became a priest, and brought the khachkar of mine Aghuay, elaborately worked, and with many efforts raised it to commemorate the Holy Cross (Surb Nshan) and my soul. Thus, for the sake of your souls, you who read, remember my prayers. In the year 1182” (CAE 5, 198). We can see that the monastery is mentioned in this inscription without specifying its name. Further information is available about the end of the 12th century and the first half of the 13th century when Armenian princely houses liberated their estates from Seljuk rulers with the help of joint Armenian-Georgian forces.  This liberation struggle was regarded as a holy war, and the rapidly growing powerful princely houses replaced local saints with pan-Armenian or general Christian saints (Petrosyan 2017, 236-237). The Zakarians made St. Sargis the patron saint of the liberation struggle (especially given his powerful character and the fact that their father was also named Sargis), the Hasan-Jalalyans – Stepanos Nahavka, and Hovhannes the Baptist. Based on the similarity of his name to Saint Thaddeus-Thadeous and possibly some other local legends, the owners of Upper Khachen or Haterk recreated the image of Dado or Dade. It is worth noting that the monastery is referred to as “Dadi’s grave” in an inscription carved on the wall of the monastery’s main church in 1224 by the Lord of Upper Khachen and Tsar, son of Hassan and Dop: Grigor. The inscription says “in the year 1224. I, father Grigoris, superior of this holy convent, son of Vasak, the martyr, created this chapel for the commemoration of my soul and prayers.” (CAE 5, 201, Fig. 2) Vardan Areveltsi introduces this passage in his translation of Mikael Asori’s chronicle from the middle of the 13th century: “Some Thaddeus, from the pagans, who went to Greater Armenia and the northern lands by the commission of Thaddeus (Apostle), and upon hearing about the death of Abgar, turned and moved to Smaller Syunik and was murdered for secret preaching. The monastery was built in that place and named after him” (Asori 1871, appendix 33; Vardan likely obtained this passage from his teacher monastic vardapet (monk), where the saint is referred to as Dadiu, as it is with Mkhitar Gosh; cf. Alishan 1902, 22-23, Matevosyan 2020, 26-28). As a result, attempts were made to change the saint’s name to match that of Saint Thaddeus as additional “proof” of his apostolic origin. It can be concluded that Mkhitar Gosh and monastic vardapet (monk) breathed new life into local traditions about Saint Dadi and his grave, justifying and strengthening his image as the patron saint of the Upper Khachen princely house as a pan-Christian saint. Grave and Chapel of Saint Dadi There is no clear structure or tomb to indicate Dadi’s grave in early 19th-century descriptions and surveys. The great basilica of the north was a possible location for it, potentially because of its unusual width (which could be reminiscent of similar early Christian temples) and the extraordinarily large column constructed in the apse (which could be reminiscent of early Christian monuments, such as were also built on the tombs of saints). Modern research, however, indicates that the current structure of the basilica church dates from the late 13th century and was built by the monastery’s abbot, Bishop Athanas. The same can be said of the monument standing on the stage (Fig. 4), which is close to the anchors of the church’s pillars in terms of dimensional resolution and processing. However cross sculptures and an inscription representing the year (possibly 1361 or 1370), most likely refer to the 13-14th centuries. It is also important to note that the earlier small basilica church adjoining this basilica to the south, as well as the main church a bit further to the southeast (built-in 1214, i.e. earlier than the current building of the great basilica), have north entrances. It is a well-known fact that Armenian churches had a northern entrance only in rare circumstances, such as when it was not technically possible to open the entrance from the west or south, or when there were special ritual or religious cases. Since the technical aspect is excluded in this case (the small basilica also has an entrance from the south and the main church one from the west), the presence of the northern entrances must be related to the existence of some sacred place in the area of the large basilica, in this case, a grave attributed to Saint Dadi (cf. Ayvazyan 2015)., 52-53). It is reasonable to assume that when Vardapet Athanas began work on the new church, he had already removed the valuable relics from the ruined tomb and chapel to place them in the new structure. This is demonstrated by the proscenium, which is a unique manifestation of Armenian Church architecture, as well as the numerous sculpted niches incorporated into the walls (Fig. 3). The ruins of the grave were hidden beneath the church’s proscenium and stage. It is worth noting that S. Ayvazyan, the restoring architect of Dadivank claims that Athanas did not initiate a church and abandoned it, but instead created a unique inner courtyard around Dadi’s grave and chapel (Ayvazyan 2015, 56). This point of view, however, leaves unsolved the question of how that inner courtyard came to be formed if neither the tomb nor the chapel was visible or accessible. Indeed, as the excavations revealed, the burial pit was lined with small rough stones, and the chapel built on it was incorporated into the church’s proscenium and stage (Figs. 4, 5). Excavations uncovered the remains of a wooden palanquin (Fig. 6), an onyx wand head, and human bones dating from the mid-12th century (the first phase of excavations was conducted by Hamlet Petrosyan, see Petrosyan 2007, the second phase by Gagik Sargsyan, architect: Samvel Ayvazyan, see Ayvazyan, Sargsyan 2012, 1-11, Ayvazyan 2015, 68-73). Thus, at the end of the 13th century, Vardapet Athanas incorporated the already dilapidated structures beneath the stage and proscenium of the new church and carved several sculptured niches in the proscenium’s walls for the separated relics. Father Athanas did not complete the church’s construction, so it remained an open-air structure.

The Monuments of Shikaqar Qaraglukh: Surb Astvatsatsin Church of Khramort

It is about 1 kilometer southwest of Khramort village, on the hill of the rock mass southeast of Shikaqar fortress, on the eastern edge of Old Khramort village (Figs. 1, 2). It is a single-nave hall with a rectangular architectural plan. The semi-circular tabernacle is on the eastern side, with the two sacristies on the right and left sides. On the northern wall, the baptismal font has been preserved. The cylindrical vault is supported by the longitudinal and transverse arches that rise from the pillars (Fig. 3). The roof is pitched and earth-covered. It is built with semi-polished limestone from the area and lime mortar. The curbstones of the windows, the entrance, the arches, and the bema are made of polished stones. The only entrance is from the south (Fig. 4), and it is lit by seven windows. The church measures 16.9 meters in length and 6.73 meters in width. The date of the church’s construction, 1800, is preserved on the entrance facade. The presence of an earlier structure, however, is indicated by the khachkar typical of the 12th-13th centuries built on the south wall. The cemetery surrounds the church and contains 19th-century tombstones, some of which are distinguished by beautifully carved ornaments (Fig. 5). The monument was damaged during the first Artsakh war, and there are traces of firearm on the khachkar enchased on the southern wall.

Verin Sznek village’s Surb Hakob church, sanctuary, and khachkars

Location Verin Sznek village is located in the Republic of Artsakh’s Askeran region. Surb Hakob Church is located on the village’s western outskirts (Fig. 1). Historical overview There is no information available about the church’s history. Makar Barkhutareanats only mentions the village’s Surb Astvatsatsin church: “The church is Surb Astvatsatsin, and it is made of stones”(Barkhutareants 1895, 101). Architectural-compositional examination The church is a rectangular single-nave hall. It is made of rough and small stones, and lime mortar, and only the entrance stones, church cornerstones, and window frames are lined with polished stones (Fig. 2). The church’s only entrance is on the south facade. The church is situated on a steep hillside on the west side. The windows on the other facades are small, except for one large and wide window near the entrance. The latter is supported by the prayer hall’s longitudinal walls. It is worth noting that the door’s facade inscription stone is located on the entrance’s left wall (Fig. 3). The interior of the church is vaulted. The inscription on the lintel says, “The church’s construction began in 1882. It was built with the financial means and honest earnings of Avetis Aghabek, or Sargis Yakobian Dovlateans, a Verin Sznek villager. Bishop Grigor consecrated the church in 1885”. According to the inscription, construction began in 1882 and was completed in 1885. Since the current entrance is different and does not correspond to the lintel, the lintel inscription may refer to the older building of the Surb Hakob church, which was rebuilt. Such reconstruction could have been carried out at the beginning of the twentieth century, before the establishment of Soviet rule (Fig. 4).

Surb Hambardzum Church of Berdzor

Location Surb Hambardzum Church is located on the rocky slope of the Hakari River’s left bank, 150 meters above the river and 960 meters above sea level, on Berdzor’s southwestern outskirts, near the M-12 highway (Figs. 1, 2). Historical overview Aleksan Hakobyan, the first head of the Kashatagh district administration, initiated the establishment of the Surb Hambardzum Church in Berdzor. Construction was completed in 1998, and the dome cross was consecrated on May 31, 1998. Hrachya Gasparyan is the church’s architect. Georgi Arakelyan oversaw the construction. The church’s artistic decoration was created by sculptor Artashes Hovsepyan, painter Karo Mkrtchyan, woodworker Vano Dadoyan, and others. Priest Athanas has served as the region’s spiritual pastor since the church’s founding, and Ter Beniamin Tsaturyan has served as the region’s spiritual pastor since 2019. Architectural-compositional examination The church is a cross-shaped, central-domed structure with sacristies on both sides of the tabernacle. The dome has 12 facet drums and completes with a fan-shaped spire. On the roof of the western facade, there is a small bell tower. The interior of the church is decorated with mural art, and the exterior is decorated with bas-reliefs. The image of the Virgin Mary with the child at the entrance and the eagle breaking the yataghan of the structure’s eastern facade is particularly significant. This sculptural composition is authored by G. Artashes Hovsepyan and displays an inscription quote “Let us be buried, but not surrender” by G. Narekatsi (Figs. 3, 4). He also created three of the rosettes on the dome drum’s 12 facets, as well as other sculptures. The four donation khachkars and the sundial on the southern wall are part of the structure’s exterior decoration. The 6-line inscription is carved on the western side of the church’s northern wall. “The newly settled Kashatagh people built the Surb Hambardzum Church hoping in God (in memory of thousands of our martyred brothers). Surb Hambardzum Church was established in the Berdzor settlement in 1996 and consecrated by the will of the Holy Spirit (during the reign of Ter Garegin, Catholicos of all Armenians) with the presence of Ter Pargev bishop of Artsakh and Ter Atanas priest of the province in the year of 1998. All praise to our gracious Lord Jesus Christ. Amen”. A second large inscription, carved on the eastern upper part of the south wall, lists the names of thirty-two builders, ranging from architects to laborers. Hovhannes Mkrtchyan, a sculptor, is also one of the authors of the church ornaments. Karo Mkrtchyan painted the Holy Table’s first icon of Mary. Vano Dodoyan, a master woodworker, designed the entrance and storage room doors. Other artists also contributed to the church’s artistic decoration. Two khachkars by the sculptor H. Mkrtchyan are intact in the churchyard. The khachkar dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide (Fig. 5) was on the south side, and the khachkar dedicated to the memory of the Spitak earthquake martyrs was on the north side (Fig. 6). A small khachkar with a spring could be found on the eastern side. The Armenian community of Lebanon donated the two bells for Berdzor’s Surb Hambardzum Church.

Surb Astvatsatsin Church of Tsovategh

Location It is located in the center of Tsovategh village in the Martuni region of the Artsakh Republic (Fig. 1). Historical overview According to an inscription on the southern wall of Surb Astvatsatsin Church, above the porch, the church was renovated in 1895. It says, “This church was built in memory of Margare Bek Pashayeants’ late father. Margare Bek Pashayeants used his financial resources to renovate the church’s tin roof, gavit, and windows in the year 1895” (Fig. 2). The church is a 19th-century structure based on its dimensional and spatial solutions, as well as the sculptural decoration of the southern porch. Architectural-compositional examination The church is a rectangular single-nave hall with a semi-circular tabernacle on the eastern side and two windows on the northern and southern walls (Fig. 3). On the northern wall, the baptismal font has been preserved (Fig. 4). A metal sheet covers the pitched roof on the outside. Inwardly, the vaulted roof is supported by arches derived from the wall pilasters of the prayer hall’s longitudinal walls (Figs. 5, 6).

Surb Hovhannes church of Taghot

                                                   Location Taghot village is located in the Republic of Artsakh’s Hadrut region and is currently occupied by Azerbaijan (Fig. 1). Historical sites and monuments abound in the village and its surroundings. Surb Hovhannes church is preserved on the village’s northern outskirts and is fully intact (Fig. 2).