The medieval monastery in the Kotayk province of Armenia is surrounded by cliffs and partially carved out of the adjacent mountain. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Geghard Monastery was inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000 and is one of only four such sites in the country. The monastery contains a number of churches and tombs, unique for the fact that many are cut directly into the mountain rock face. Gerhard represents the peak of medieval Armenian architectural achievement and comprises a walled complex set in stunning mountain scenery in the upper Azat Valley in Kotayk Province.
UNESCO describes the site as being an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a medieval Armenian monastic foundation. Geghard was founded in the 4th century, according to tradition by St. Gregory the Illuminator. The first monastery was destroyed by invading Arabs in the 9th century, but re-established and reconstructed by the 13th century.
The monastery was famous because of the relics that it houses – the lance that wounded Christ on the cross. The site is that of a small spring emanating from a cave which is thought to have been sacred in pre-Christian times, and which continues to flow through one of the rock hewn chapels of the complex.
The monastery complex is accessed by a long paved road which terminates in a parking area below the ramparts of the complex. A line of residential accommodations are coincident with the walls and form the southern boundary of the complex and at the rear line the monastery courtyard. Within the walls are a complex of churches, chapels and gravels developed into the cliff that include a magnificent entry hall, or gavit, and the Church of St. Gregory.
According to a legend, a sister and a brother from a noble family decided to build a temple higher up the gorge of Azat River and live there. But, they were undecided where exactly to build it and asked for the God’s help. They waited for a sign, and one morning saw that their hoe was stuck on top of the mountain. That was the sign. The siblings built the temple inside the rock with the help of a saint virgin and lived here till the end of their lives.