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Tsitsernavank monastery

This monastery is very close to the Armenian border. From Stepanakert take the main Goris road to the border post in the Lachin corridor. Go through the border post and then turn immediately right along the signposted road. Keeping the Aghavnaget River on your left, continue for 15km (4x4 essential) until the monastery can be seen on an outcrop between the Aghnavnaget and its tributary the Khovnavar. At the fork take the lower track which crosses a bridge. It is better to park at the bottom of the steep final slope up to the monastery and walk the last few metres. The narrow, tall three-aisle basilica was built in the 4th century but renovated in the 5th and again in the 7th. Unusually, there are three arches above the apse. There is some decoration on the square pillars and on the front of the bema. Near the bema some of the 13th-century fioor stones have been exposed to view. Outside, one of the gravestones in particular shows very fine figure carving. The 16th-century refectory is now a small museum which the priest will open and show you if he is around. Items on display include clay communion vessels dating from the 5th or 6th century, carpets and khachkars. One early khachkar originally bore two carved doves but one has been defaced, possibly by order of a cleric who believed that Christ had one nature, not two. Both the church and the later fortified wall have recently been restored. The name Tsitsernavank derives either from the Armenian for 'swallow' (the bird) or from the word for the tip of the little finger; St Peter's was reputed to have been brought to the monastery.