Dashtadem Fortress: the past set in stone

Being there, in front of the Dashtadem fortress, also known as "Qagheni Berd" is like getting all of a sudden transported to another era, a parallel world or ... a Hollywood production for a medieval-themed movie (if we want to be more realistic)

Well, first thing’s first, let’s start with the name, ‘’Dashtadem’’, attributed to the village where the fortress is located in the Aragatsotn Province. ‘’Dashtadem’’ means ‘’in front of the Field’’, and it is hard to think of a more suitable description for this fortress. ‘’Imposing’’ is a word that comes to mind when describing this tall castle standing proud and fierce.

A long octagonal walled enceinte acts as a protective layer separating the fortress from the outer world. Once you cross the arched gateway and step into the vicinity, you will get to see a small church, the 10th century St. Sargis, and also some half ruined constructions here and there, but what your eyes will automatically gravitate towards is the majestic eight sided castle: remarkable by its structure and inviting by its warm tone colored Armenian tuff stone.

Besides its visual appearance and spatial context, there is also an ambiance of mystery that surrounds this fortified structure adding up to its air of mystique. The castle in itself raises a lot of question marks within Historians and many details are left unanswered or a bit blurry. For instance, we don't exactly know the date of its construction (although some believe it goes back to the 10th century, while others say the 7th). We don’t exactly know what occupied the land before the fortress was built, (although many believe there was an Uratian fortress).

What we can tell for sure is that the Dashtadem fortress, even though still not completely restored, is one of the best preserved fortifications existing on the Armenian land today, and its shape and structure as we know today was built progressively as the centuries went by.

This fortress complexe is a tangible and rock solid testament of the past and a window to look back at the different periods, dynasties, rulers but also invasions that left their mark in Armenian History and therefore on this structure.

From the Kamsarakan family to the Bagratuni dynasty, followed by the Sunni Shaddads in the 12th century, where you can still find a Kufic script attributing the castle to their prince carved on the outer wall of the castle, followed by the Zakaryans and much later Hossein Qoli Khan in the 19th century… The Dashtadem complexe is like an architectural puzzle which emerged from a rectangular plan, and to which parts were added and others deconstructed until it gradually morphed into what we know today with its semicircular and polygonal bastions.

From an impressive strategic role to a lesser significance later on, Dashtadem fortress has been through it all and seen the good, the bad and the ugly.

If only this fortress could speak, we can’t even begin to imagine all the things it has to say.

Author: Grace Jerejian 
Photos: Gevorg Petrosyan

Walking Through History