(The site & museum open whenever the resident caretaker is at home (which he usually is); no entrance fee)
Heading south from Yerevan along the main road, the excavated ruins of the former capital Dvin lie about 10km to the east. Note that the position of Dvin on some maps is misleading. To get there, take the turn off for Artashat from the main road (M2) south. At the T-junction in Artashat turn left, go through Mrgavan (now continuous with Artashat) and turn right in Berkanush onto the H9, signposted to Dvin. Do not go as far as the village of Dvin. Turn right 1km after leaving Aygestan (and 5.5km after turning right in Berkanush) onto the road for Hnaberd. Soon after leaving Hnaberd you come to a metal fence on the left. This is the fence around the site of Dvin and the entrance gate is a little further on. If asking locally for directions, be sure to ask for Hnaberd rather than Dvin. Simply push open the gate in the boundary fence and walk into the site.
Dvin served as the capital until the Arab conquest in ad640 when it became the seat of the governor. It was badly damaged by earthquakes in 863 and again in 893 but remained a significant town until the 13th century with a population, at its peak, probably of the order of 100,000. The second of these earthquakes destroyed what had been Armenia's largest church, dedicated to St Gregory and 58m long by 30m wide. Its foundations can be clearly seen, including the layout from at least two of its three rebuildings. Originally a pagan temple, it was rebuilt as a three-nave basilica with an east apse in the late 4th century. It acquired external arcaded galleries, of the sort which can be seen at Odzun, in the 5th century. Then in the 7th century it was rebuilt as a winged three-nave domed basilica, with apses also on the north and south. This church was slightly shorter, hence the double east apse seen today. Mosaics from its floor are now in the museum.
North of the church are the foundations of the 7th-century palace of the Katholikos and a capital from one of its columns is now Dvin's best-known exhibit. East of this palace lay a single-nave 5th-century church. An earlier palace (5th century) lay southwest of the main church. The small museum is surrounded by the caretaker's fruit trees. Its contents include finds from the site including examples of the glassware for which Dvin was renowned particularly in the 7th century. Outside are two large phalluses, one of which the caretaker uses as a stand over which to hang his jacket while the other serves as a towel rail thus combining utility with good taste. The extent of trade is evident in the finding here of coins minted in Byzantium while, conversely, coins minted at Dvin have been found in the Baltic states and Scandinavia. Behind the museum a path leads up the hill to the ruins of the citadel but it is difficult to form an idea of Dvin's historic appearance.
If you have any questions about travel to Armenia (visa, hotels, guide services, transportation), please feel free to contact us at any time and we will gladly answer your questions.