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Arkaz Monastery

(if you want to go inside when the door is closed, ring the bell hanging from the wall)

About 3km beyond Tanahat Monastery along the same road is the church of the Monastery of Arkaz dedicated to the Holy Cross. Rebuilding in 1870-71 has deprived it of interest, although it is a significant pilgrimage site in early October, as under the walls is said to be a piece of the True Cross From the church there are some fine views of Mount Ararat towering high over Tanahat. Bears' droppings can be seen in the vicinity; the bears are partial to the bunches of ripe grapes in the autumn vineyards.

A piece of the True Cross was given by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius (ruled ad610-41) to the wife of Burtel, Prince of Syunik. After the Persians were defeated by Heraclius they retreated from Egypt to their country. On their way back they passed through Jerusalem, and a Persian prince entered the Church of the Cross which had been built by Empress Helen, mother of the Roman emperor Constantine, to house the Cross which she had discovered in 326. In the church he saw a bright light shining from a piece of wood. He reached for it and it burst forth with fire, which burnt his fingers. The Christians in the church told him that this was the base of the Holy Cross and that no-one was able to touch it except a Christian. The Persian deceived the two deacons who were standing guard over it and bribed them to carry this piece back with him to Persia. When Emperor Heraclius heard this, he went with his army to Persia and travelled about searching for this piece of the Holy Cross. However, the Persian prince had ordered the two deacons to bury the box containing the Holy Cross in his garden, after which he killed them. One of the captives of the Persian prince, the daughter of one of the priests, was looking out of the window by chance and saw what happened. She told Heraclius what she had seen so that Heraclius was able to recover it and take it in state to Constantinople in ad628. It is a portion of this relic which is supposedly buried in Arkaz Monastery.

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