The Muslim mausoleum of Khachen


The Khachen mausoleum is located within the administrative borders of the Armenakavan village, in the Artsakh Republic's Askeran region, approximately 1 kilometer from the village. During the Soviet era, these territories were within the administrative borders of the Aghdam region's Khachen-Dobatlu and Jinli villages (Karapetyan 1999, 227, Kortoshyan 2020, 36). Azerbaijan currently occupies these territories.

Historical overview

The main information about the mausoleum's construction, architect, and patron is obtained from an Arabic inscription engraved just above the north entrance, which has been published numerous times, but in almost all editions, there are alternative versions related to the names of the mausoleum's patron and architect. This fact was indicated by experts who conducted research at the mausoleum during the Soviet era. According to L. Bretanitsky, the misinterpretations are due to the fact that it was engraved by a non-specialist or incompetent engraver (Bretanitsky 1961, 238). During the Soviet era, the architect of the mausoleum was referred to as Shahbenzer, Shakhenzi, or even Shakhbegozar (Kortoshyan 2020, 38, Bretanitsky 1966, 195, Neymat 2011, 67). The same issue arises as the patron's name is read as Kutlu, Musa Khoja's son, Katava Khoja, or Kutlu Khvaja, Musa's son (Kortoshyan 2020, 38, Bretanitsky 1966, 195, Neymat 2011, 67). The year of construction is clearly 1314.

Architectural-compositional examination 

The mausoleum is two stories high, with an underground chamber tomb and a ground chapel. Both the chamber tomb and the hall above it have a cross-shaped volume and architectural plan inwardly (Fig. 1). The chapel is situated on a three-degree stylobate and is polyhedron-shaped outwardly (it has 12 faces) with a ridged hood; in volumetric solution, the mausoleum is similar to the domes of Christian churches from the time. The monument is built of polished yellow limestone (Fig. 2).

Fig. 1 The architectural plan of the mausoleum, S. Karapetyan, The Muslim Monuments of the Armenian Architecture of Artsakh, 2010, Yerevan, page 7.

Fig. 2 The general view of the mausoleum, photo by H. Petrosyan.

The niches open outwardly through the faces, finishing with a stalactite upper section (Fig. 3). The herbivorous and predatory animals (deer, roe deer, leopard, and bull, a leopard choking a deer, a predatory griffin, and other mythological animals) are sculpted around the arrow-shaped arches. Animal sculptures are made with shallow furrows, then polished and stained with a dark red dye (Figs. 4-6). The mausoleum's entrance is on the north side and is richly decorated with rosettes adorned with geometric and plant ornaments. The chapel concludes with a stalactite-style dome, and the chamber tomb has a cruciform-arched roof (Figs. 7, 8). The mihrab to the south of the mausoleum is similarly lavishly decorated (Bretanitsky, 1961, 227-230; Bretanitsky, 1966, 188-191).

Fig. 3 Entrance to the chapel of the mausoleum and niches, photo by H. Petrosyan.

Fig. 5 The images of animals around the arrow-shaped arches, photo by H. Petrosyan.

Fig. 7 The stalactite vault of the chapel, photo by H. Petrosyan.

Fig. 4 The images of animals around the arrow-shaped arches, photo by H. Petrosyan.

Fig. 6 The images of animals around the arrow-shaped arches, photo by H. Petrosyan.

Fig. 8 The roof of the chapel from the interior, photo by H. Petrosyan.

All researchers who have referred to the mausoleum have established the connection between its architecture, appearance, decoration and Christian architecture of the South Caucasus, presenting the mausoleum as a unique mixture of Muslim and Christian arts and styles (Bretanitsky 1961, 227-228, 240).

Bretanitsky, who spoke more extensively on the mausoleum's architecture and appearance, noted a clear resemblance between this mausoleum and the church-mausoleum in Yeghvard (Fig. 9). T. A. Izmaylova, an art expert, was the first to note this resemblance (Bretanitsky 1961, 228, 232; Bretanitsky 1966, 188).

Shahik Vardpet (Manuscript: Master Shahik, first half of the 14th century-Monument Watch) constructed the St. Astvatsatsin Church-Mausoleum in Yeghvard in 1301, as evidenced by an inscription on the cap of one of the windows "Vardpet (Master, Architect) Shahik" (Fig. 10) (Hovsepian, 1921-1922, 184). Shahik Vardpet also constructed the Muslim mausoleum, recently found in the center of Yerevan, which, like the Khachen mausoleum, has a cross-shaped architectural plan with the same stalactite vaults crowning the "arms of the cross." The same inscription is engraved inside the upper section of the entrance to Yerevan's mausoleum "Shahik Vardpet (1319)" in Armenian and Persian languages (Kalantaryan, Melkonyan 2005, 124). According to L. Bretanitsky, Khachen's mausoleum is covered with multicolored glazed tiles (Bretanitsky 1961, 236). Unfortunately, no description or even photographs are provided by the author. It's worth noting that the Muslim mausoleum in Yerevan had lavish glazed tiles on the inside as well, fragments of which were discovered during excavations (Kalantaryan, Melkonyan 2005, 124).The glazed tiles are enchased in the drum of Yeghvard church's upper row (Fig. 11). Some have Persian inscriptions—quotations from Firdus' poem "Shah Name."

Gyuzalyan read the Persian inscriptions (Guzalyan 1984, 158–159) and the architect's name as Shakhenzi in the inscription of Khachen's mausoleum (Bretanitsky 1966, 195). The tiles of Yeghvard are excellent examples of Persian gleaming pottery. These tiles can also be found in Dvin, Ani, Garni, Tiknuni Fortress, Vayots Dzor Spitakavor Monastery, and Kirants Monastery (Zhamkochyan, Kalantaryan 1971, 277-278, 130-281, 280-281, Poromohammadi 2014, 138-139). Due to the obvious similarities between the Yeghvard Church and the Khachen Mausoleum (Figs. 12–14), monument expert S. Karapetyan suggests that Shahik may have constructed the mausoleum (Karapetyan 1999, 227). R. Kortoshyan strongly believes that, based on the Persian inscription on the Yerevan Mausoleum and connections between other buildings built by Vardpet Shahik and the Khachen Mausoleum, the architect's name in Khachen's inscription should be read as Shahik (Kortoshyan 2020, 39).

Fig. 9 The general view of Yeghvard’s St. Astvatsatsin Church from the west, photo by H. Petrosyan.

Fig. 11 The glazed tiles of St. Astvatsatsin Church in Yeghvard, photo by H. Petrosyan.

Fig. 13 St. Astvatsatsin's Church in Yeghvard. An animal image, photo by H. Petrosyan.

Fig. 10 The inscription of Vardpet Shahik on St. Astvatsatsin Church in Yeghvard, photo by H. Petrosyan.

Fig. 12 A beast fight scene from Yeghvard's St. Astvatsatsin Church, photo by H. Petrosyan.

Fig. 14 St. Astvatsatsin's Church in Yeghvard. Pictures of animals above the second floor entrance, photo by H. Petrosyan.

Many authors noted connections between animal compositions and Sasanian metalwork, as well as the sculptures of the Holy Cross Church in Akhtamar, while also perceiving a direct connection with Seljuk art. Typically, parallel examples are presented in a number of Muslim mausoleums in Asia Minor (Anatolia), where Armenian-Georgian architecture was clearly the main influence, and in the two-story church-tombs of the South Caucasus (Bretanitsky 1961, 232-234). Furthermore, animal depictions and beast fights were popular in the East; we can see them on ceramics, such as figures on stamped pitchers (Petrosyan 1988, 54). The beast fight was reminiscent of the fight for life, the endless struggle to overcome death (Petrosyan 2014, 306-307).

The authors that conducted the research on the monument's architecture discovered similarities between the stalactite vault, apse, and the Gavits in Armenia and Artsakh (Bretanitsky 1966, 194–195).

The condition before, during, and after the war

Residents of the nearby Azerbaijani villages engraved inscriptions with their names on the walls of the mausoleum during the Soviet era, as evidenced by photos taken at the time. The mausoleum was not damaged during the Artsakh wars, and it is now safe and unharmed. Cleaning was carried out on its territory on a regular basis, as planned by Artsakh's relevant structures, and a specific sign was also installed.


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  13. Neymat 2011-Neymat M., Corpus of epigraphic monuments of Azerbaijan, vol. V, Baku.
The Muslim mausoleum of Khachen
The Muslim mausoleum of Khachen
The Muslim mausoleum of Khachen