Geghard Monastery (the 1st of many posts where we visit an Armenian church and come away very very inspired)
We left Yerevan last monday and made a journey around Armenia focused on seeing as many churches and monasteries as we could. Many of these are located in spectacular settings and out of the way places, often seeming to rise up out of the ground as if they’d always been here. Geghard monastery is one of the most famous in Armenia and its especially unique because part of the chapel complex is carved out of the rock cliffs and caves that surround the area. I was really struck by the ingenuity of this architecture as well as the connection between the earth and this sacred space.
It’s difficult to describe just how special Geghard is, both because of its long history (the complex was founded in the 4th Century) as well as in the way that it overwhelms your senses. Inside there is the sound of water running down the cave walls of the church. Devotional candles help to break the darkness. If you run your hand over the walls you will feel crosses carved from the stone. Whispered prayers and the murmurs of children bounce around the rock enclosure. A tour bus crowd swarms in elbow-to-elbow every 30 minutes or so and their wide-eyed cameras click about like a field of grasshoppers. It’s cold inside the church and your fingers stiffen up. As you step out into the sun you have to squint to adjust to the light and warm up again.
One particularly interesting aspect of monasteries here is their tradition of beekeeping, something which Anna is very curious about. She found the beekeeper at Geghard and pretty soon she was decked out with coat and mask to take a look at the hives. Sadly I did not get a picture of her in apiary attire but here are a few she took.
I hope these pictures do some justice to Geghard. We have made several other monastery visits since this one and I’ll be working on getting some of those up on the blog as well. Thanks for following our journey in Armenia!