Village of Mughni
The village of Mughni, nowadays within the Ashtarak city limits, lies just to the north of the main Yerevan to Gyumri road at the west end of the high viaduct over the Kasagh Gorge. The 14th-century Monastery of St George was completely rebuilt between 1661 and 1669 during the period when eastern Armenia saw a revival of church building thanks to the stable conditions enjoyed under the Safavid shahs of Iran. It is unquestionably one of the finest buildings of this renaissance and it is now surrounded by well-tended gardens. It is notable that the church withstood the earthquake of 1679 which flattened Yerevan and badly damaged the Monastery of Hovhannavank to the north.
The main cross-dome church has a distinctively striped circular tambour supporting the conical umbrella cupola and different colours of tuff are also used to decorative effect on the gable ends. The gavit, most unusually, has three arches at the west surmounted by a belfry whose cupola is supported by 12 columns. The south doorway is especially notable with elaborately carved tuff of different colours and fine carved wooden doors. Inside the church, fragments of 17th-century murals survive, notably one showing the baptism of Trdat on the north wall. There is an altar screen, unusual in Armenian churches.
The fortress wall of the monastery survives with small towers at the northwest and southwest corners. At the northeast corner the original service buildings have been restored: they originally housed the living quarters of the monks together with the refectory. St George's should be additionally commended for being the first church in Armenia to produce for visitors a well-written useful guide in English. Presumably this commendable initiative was thanks to the Armenian Prelacy Ladies' Guild (New York) who funded the (well carried out) restoration.
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