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Kecharis Monastery

Kecharis Monastery is situated in the village of Tsaghkadzor, Kecharis being an earlier name for the village. The main church, dedicated to St Gregory the Illuminator, was erected in 1003 by Grigor Pahlavuni (990-1059). Given his age, his personal involvement must have been slight. Son of the Lord of Bjni, he was to become a distinguished theologian and writer acquiring the title Grigor Magistros from the Byzantine rulers after their takeover of the kingdom of Ani from Gagik II in 1045. The circular tambour and conical cupola were damaged by an earthquake in 1927 but were restored between 1997 and 2000.

To the south of St Gregory's lies the small Holy Cross Chapel which dates from 1051. It too has a conical cupola but its circular tambour is decorated with six arcatures. After the construction of these buildings the Seljuk conquest put paid to any further work, the region remaining under their rule until their defeat by the Georgians with Armenian support in 1196. Work immediately restarted and by 1206 St Gregory's had acquired its large gavit whose roof is supported by four free-standing columns. The final church, the so-called cathedral, lies to the south of Holy Cross and was built immediately after the gavit by Prince Vasak Prosh, being completed in 1214. As in other churches of the period, the corner rooms at the west end have two storeys with the upper storey being accessed by cantilevered stairs. It too has a conical cupola, the circular tambour having 12 arcatures.

The Mongol invasions in the late 1230s saw Kecharis badly damaged but it was restored by 1248. Presumably it was at this restoration that the tympanum of the doorway leading from the gavit into St Gregory s acquired its Georgian-style frescoes. The monastery is once more a functioning church with new furnishings and embroidered curtains in all three churches. The embroidered text on the north wall of Holy Cross is the Lord's Prayer. About 100m from the main group of buildings is the small Chapel of the Holy Resurrection with its high circular tambour and another conical cupola. It dates from 1220 and was probably used as the family burial vault for the founders of the cathedral.

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