Dzoragyugh and Nerkin Getashen
These two villages which lie south of the main road have interesting historic churches and also provide a picture of Armenian village life in the 21st century. Dzoragyugh ('Gorge Village') is home to two churches, both of which were founded in the late 9th century shortly after Sevanavank. The larger, ruinous one, Shoghagavank, dedicated to St Peter, is situated on a hill at the western end of the village. To reach it, having taken the Dzoragyugh turn-off from the main road, go straight ahead through the village; the church can be seen from afar. It was built between 877 and 886 and its founder was the same Princess Miriam who founded Sevanavank. The site again has a good array of khachkars, and is where local royalty are thought to be buried, but it is no rival for Noratus. Dzoragyugh's other church is harder to find.
Near the entrance to the village, 3km from the main road, bear left at the post office onto a track which does a big loop to cross a small river. Keep the wooded river gully on your left and eventually the church will be seen among houses. It still functions as the village church today and is extremely well cared for. Its interior, one of the first to have carpets on the floor and on the altar dais, is decorated with, among other things, a carpet hanging on the wall depicting the Last Supper (and owing its composition to Leonardo da Vinci) as well as various embroideries. A large wrought-iron chandelier hangs from the ceiling. Originally built as the Masruts Anapat ('Hermitage of Masru') it was subsequently extended and now presents a plain, square appearance. Today it is known as St John the Baptist. The cupola and tambour are octagonal. The lower, older parts of the building are constructed of dark grey, rough-hewn basalt blocks, and contrast rather startlingly with the upper parts and tambour which are formed of red tuff, and some modern repairs effected with concrete blocks.
The next village, Nerkin Getashen ('Lower Getashen') was at one time the summer residence and administration centre of the Bagratid dynasty. It can be reached either from the Sevan-Martuni road or the road south from Martuni; although it's not signposted from either road. On the road south turn first right in Martuni, at traffic lights. A new asphalt road leads through the village and up to the cemetery. The large Mother of God Church (part of what was Kotavank), built of dark grey basalt was founded, again in the late 9th century, but this time by Miriam's son, Gregory Supan. It is almost square in external appearance thanks to the large corner rooms which conceal the internal cross shape. The dome and parts of the walls collapsed during the 17th century and only the east facade remains intact. Nonetheless the building still presents an impressive appearance today. However, the local Christian community opted to build a new church, at the foot of the hill below the old one, rather than seek to repair the damage of more than three centuries. Many interestly carved tombstones and khachkars stand around the church and the adjacent hill is likewise covered.
Kotavank (Armenian: Surb Astvatsatsin meaning 'Holy Mother of God') is a church located on a hill overlooking the Argitchi River and village of Nerkin Getashen, south of Lake Sevan in the Gegharkunik Province of Armenia. A large medieval cemetery surrounds the church with numerous khachkars. A modern cemetery adjacent has started to encroach upon the old one, leaving many of the khachkars and ancient tombstones upturned in a pile, moved from their original locations. Upon a hill adjacent to the modern cemetery is yet another ancient cemetery with many khachkars. Within the village is a small ruined basilica called "Jam" by the locals with ancient khachkars and tombstones built into its walls, and not far away is a small shrine. There are also two large stone forts from the Middle Ages located 2 km to the east and 3 km the west of the village. Other khachkars may be seen along the main road leading to the hill where Kotavank rests upon. In early medieval years it was the capital of the region known during that time as Kot. Both Kotavank and Kot were partially destroyed during invasions in the 10th-11th centuries and later by an earthquake.
The church of S. Astvatsatsin was built in the 9th century by Grigor Supan, the son of Princess Mariam. It has a large cruciform central-plan constructed from roughly hewn basalt blocks. There are two portals that lead into the space from the south and west walls. The roof, drum, and dome have since collapsed, while the walls, some of the vaulting (one vault has collapsed), and the semicircular apse with four side rooms are still intact. The apse of the church is located at the eastern end of the church. The north and south wings are semicircular in plan, whereas the west wing is rectangular. Two of the prayer rooms or 'studies' are entered through the north and south walls of the western rectangular wing. The other two are entered from the east walls of the northern and southern semicircular wings. Above the studies were secret chambers that were meant to be used as places to hide from invading armies. These areas are partially viewable through two holes high upon the wall on either side of the apse. The dome and drum that once stood above, had numerous decorations. Under the church were two tunnels; one that lead from the church to a nearby spring, and another used as an escape route in case of invasion that lead from the church to the valley.
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