Medieval monastery of Gandzasar

Medieval monastery of Gandzasar

Баку/07.11.23/Turan:   Head of State Ilham Aliyev visited the historic village of Vank in the former Mardakert district of Azerbaijan on November 7, where the renowned medieval Gandzasar monastery stands proudly. This visit holds significant historical and cultural importance, shedding light on the rich heritage of the region.

Gandzasar monastery is home to the resting place of Albanian ruler Hasan Jalal, who is sometimes misattributed by Armenians as an Armenian figure. The complex itself stands atop a majestic mountain on the left bank of the Khachyn River, within the territory of the village of Vengli in the Kalbajar district. Over the centuries, Gandzasar served as not only the residence of the Catholicos of Caucasian Albania but also as the ancestral tomb of Albanian princes, bearing the name Ganjasar.

Constructed primarily in the 13th century, the monastery complex boasts a temple, a hall, and various auxiliary rooms, all encircled by formidable fortress walls with entrances from the south and west sides. For many centuries, Gandzasar remained a bastion of the Albanian independent Church and was the spiritual center for the region's Christian population.

However, in the 19th century, as the Russian Empire expanded its influence in Northern Azerbaijan, significant changes took place. In 1815, the dignity of the Albanian Patriarch-Catholicos was abolished by royal decree, marking the beginning of the end of the Albanian Church's autonomy. On March 11, 1836, Emperor Nicholas I issued a "Regulation" that formally abolished the Albanian Catholicosate (Gandzasar Patriarchate) and established two dioceses, Artsakh-Shusha and Shamakhi, under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Catholicosate (Echmiadzin Patriarchate) and the Vicariate of Ganja within the Tiflis Consistory of the Armenian Church.

This move had tragic consequences for Albanian culture and its people. With the loss of church independence and the influx of Armenian settlers into the Karabakh region, the process of Gregorianization (Armenization) began among the local Christian population, who were descendants of Caucasian Albanians. Gradually, the Albanians of Artsakh came to be identified as Armenians, a transformation that was later acknowledged by Armenian scholars.

Azerbaijan is currently making significant efforts to preserve and restore the Albanian cultural, historical, and religious heritage. An Albanian-Udi Christian community has been established, churches are actively functioning, ancient texts are being translated into the modern Udi language, and extensive scientific research is underway to deepen our understanding of the legacy of Caucasian Albania in the region's history.

The Gandzasar Monastery, painstakingly restored in 1985, holds a special place in this ongoing effort. It was officially recognized and protected by the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan No. 132, dated August 2, 2001, which designated it as a historical and cultural monument of immense significance.

It is important to note that from April 3, 1993 until November 2020, the Gandzasar monastery complex was under the occupation of the Armenian Armed Forces, which makes its preservation and restoration even more important and urgent concern for the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan.

During the occupation, Armenians, demonstrating another act of vandalism, built a fence in the village with the license plates of personal cars of Azerbaijanis. The President gave instructions to dismantle the structure.--0--

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