Akhtala Monastery


Akhtala (Ptagavank)
Ախթալա (Պտղահանք)
41 ° 09′02 ″ s w. 44 ° 45′50 ″ in d. H G I O L
A country Armenia
Lori regionAkhtala
DenominationArmenian Apostolic Church
DioceseDiocese of Gugark
Architectural stylearmenian architecture
First mentionX century
EstablishedX century
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Akhtala (arme. Ախթալա, cargo. ახტალა) or Pgndzaank (armenian Պղնձահանք) is an Armenian monastery and fortress on a small plateau in the gorge of the Debed River (currently an urban-type village of Lori region of Armenia).


In the X century, the Pgnzaank (Akhtala) fortress became the most important strategic point of the kingdom of Kyurikyan-Bagratids. An inscription in Armenian in khachkar reports the construction in 1188 of Mariam, daughter of Tsar Tashir-Dzoraget Curik, the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the beginning of the XIII century, Atabek Ivane Mkhargrdzeli from the Zakaryan family, an influential person at the court of the Georgian Queen Tamara, who transferred from the Armenian Apostolic Church to the bosom of the Georgian Orthodox Church, transfers the monastery to Chalcedonites and rebuilds the Armenian church.

Kirakos Gandzaketsi, author of the mid-13th century, reports:

Ivane, brother of Zakare, also died, and was buried in Phindzaank, at the entrance to the church he built, he took it from the Armenians and turned it into a Georgian monastery.

In the XIII century, the owners of the monastery were Zakaryans, Pgndzaank became the largest Chalcedonian monastery and cultural center of Northern Armenia, but administratively was the center of the diocese of the Georgian Orthodox Church. In the altar apse of the main temple, a niche intended for bishop services was made, which is not typical for the Chalcedonian temples of Northern Armenia. In the middle of the XIII century, Simeon Plindzakhanetsi worked in the monastery, as evidenced by the colophon preserved in the manuscript of 1248, “executed by the hand of the unworthy Simeon"Which translated"from Georgian to Armenian in an Armenian country, in a Georgian monastery called Plindzakhank . In the XIV century, the name "Pndzaank" disappears from historical sources. Presumably, from the 30s of the XIV century, the monastery entered the Akhtal Metropolitanate of the Mtskheta Catholicosate. Georgian church letter of 1392 reports:

in Akhtala there are ten smokes of Armenians with their estates and with the payment of (dam) dam.

In 1438, for the first time, a village with the name Akhtala was mentioned in the sources as the property of the Georgian Catholicosate. At the beginning of the XVIII century, the monastery fell into disrepair; under Ateni Sioni there was a courtyard of Bishop Akhtalsky. In 1801, by decree of the Russian Emperor Alexander I, Akhtal was transformed into the center of the Greek Orthodox Church in Transcaucasia. At present, it remains the most important place of pilgrimage for the Greeks, annually on September 21 celebrating the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin in Akhtal.


The main temple of Akhtala - the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary - is a cross-domed building, the unexploded dome of which rested on 2 octagonal pillars and pre-apse pilasters. The syncretism of the features of Armenian and Georgian architecture of the 13th century, characteristic of this temple, was particularly evident in the forms and decorations of the exterior, where large Georgian crosses and window frames are typical Georgian, and the portals are consonant with Armenian patterns. From the west, approximately in the middle of the 13th century, the tomb of Ivane and a portico with open arches were rectangular in plan. The murals of the church date back between 1205 and 1216. In accordance with Georgian tradition, the sails contain images of evangelists in medallions, and on the front sides of the arches the text is Ps 103. 19 on the asomtavruli. The iconographic program of the altar apse (in the conch Mother of God with the Child on the throne, below the composition "Communion of the Apostles", below it 2 rows of saints) reproduces the most stringent byzant. samples. The connection with the national cultural tradition of the Armenian Chalcedonites manifested itself in the location in the center of the lower tier of the image of the enlightener of Armenia St. Gregory the Illuminator. At the bottom of the western wall are the saints of the Georgian Church, among which St. Equal-to-the-Apostles Nina and John Zedazneli. In the southern and northern arms of the spatial cross, cycles of paintings are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Savior. A study of the stylistic features of the frescoes and the nature of the inscriptions suggests that at least 8 artists participated in the work, among them were an Armenian Chalcedonite, familiar with Byzantine painting of the late Kneknin era (altar apse), an artist who followed examples of Byzantine painting of the 1st half of the 13th century ( upper registers of the northern and southern walls and the main arches), masters from Georgia, who painted the western wall.

In addition to the main church inside the monastery, there is a small hall church of St. Basil and the ruins of a two-story residential building. Around the monastery at different distances are four chapel churches dedicated to the Holy Trinity, St. Apostles, Hierarchs Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. Restoration work in Akhtal was carried out from 1979 to 1989 by the Department for the Protection of Monuments of Armenia.

Photo and description

Akhtala Monastery is located near the city of the same name on a high ledge of the mountain.

Akhtala was founded in the X century. as one of the defensive structures. Until about the XIV century was called Phinza-hank, which translated means "copper mine". In the XI century Akhtala citadel was an important strategic point of the kingdom of the Kyurikids. The inscription on the khachkar says about the construction in 1188 of the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the daughter of the ruler of Tashir-Dzoraget Curik Mariam.

In the XIII century the owners of Akhtal became Zakaryan. After some time, it became the largest Chalcedonian monastery, as well as the cultural center of Northern Armenia. In the XIV Art. the name Pkhinza-hank has disappeared from historical sources. Around the 30s. XIV Art. the monastery became part of the Akhtal Metropolitanate of the Mtskheta Catholicosate. In the first half of the XV century. For the first time in written sources, a village called Akhtala, which is the property of the Georgian Catholicos, is mentioned.

At the beginning of the XVIII century. Akhtala Monastery came to complete desolation. In 1801, the Russian emperor Alexander I issued a decree on the transformation of the monastery into the center of the Greek Orthodox Church in Transcaucasia. Today it is the most important place of pilgrimage for the Greeks. Every year on September 21, they come to Akhtalu in order to celebrate the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin.

The main temple is Surb Astvatsatsin, erected in the XIII century. Each side of the temple is decorated with traditional Georgian ornaments. The walls of the Church of the Holy Virgin are covered with magnificent, well-preserved murals, and only the face of the Virgin was knocked out by the hordes of Tamerlane. In the conch, you can see the Virgin and Child sitting on the throne, a little lower - a belt with the Eucharist and two rows of figures of saints. The eastern, southern, and northern walls of the transept depict scenes from the life of Christ and the Mother of God, saints and martyrs, the Last Judgment on the western wall, and the stories of the prophet Elijah and John the Baptist are presented on the premises in the southwestern part of the temple.

In addition to the main temple in the monastery is a small church of St. Basil and the ruins of a two-story residential building.

Akhtala: useful information


Akhtala Fortress and Monastery (Pghndzaank) are located on a plateau in the Lori region of Armenia, at a distance of about 180 km from Yerevan by road.

The defensive complex was created during the reign of the medieval royal dynasty of Kyurikyan. Already in the X century, the fortress was regarded as the most important strategic point of Lori. The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the complex was erected in 1188 - the exact date is known thanks to the preserved plate.

At the beginning of the 13th century, the Pgndzaank monastery was left under the control of the Chalcedonites, was rebuilt by them and soon became one of the main cultural centers of the north of Armenia, while administratively was under the control of the Georgian Diocese of the Orthodox Church.

In the 14th century, the historical name Pgndzaank gradually ceases to be used in written sources. The first mention of the village of Akhtala dates back to 1438.

During the XVIII century, the monastery was in decline, but at the beginning of the next century it returned some of its former importance: in 1801 it officially became the center of the Greek Church in Transcaucasia.

Akhtala Monastery was restored in 1979-1989 and now remains one of the central places of pilgrimage of the Greeks - on the day of the Nativity of the Virgin, September 21.

In addition to the main cross-domed church, the territory of the church of St. Basil, four chapels, the ruins of the former monastery residential building, fortress walls with a gate tower are preserved. Of particular interest are temple murals created at the beginning of the 13th century in the traditions of Byzantine and church Armenian painting.

There are few tourists in the architectural complex of Akhtala, the place is known for its solitude. Most travelers travel by car on their own. From Yerevan, organized tours are offered along the route, including visits to several monasteries and temples of Armenia.

How to get to the monastery

Akhtala is a fairly accessible place, which is located only three km from the main highway, where there are signs. If you are inside yourself under the name Akhtala, then you need to cross the bridge, and then turn right, moving smoothly along the road. The construction has such impressive dimensions that it is simply impossible not to notice it. No extreme obstacles need to be passed, the road is smooth, along the way you can buy water or something to eat.

Photo from the monastery

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