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KOBAYR MONASTERY

Kobayr monastery belongs to a number of remarkable architectural complexes of medieval times, the history of which is closely connected with activities of famous medieval Armenian feudal houses- Kyurikid's, Bagratid's and Armenian representative s of Georgian religion from Zakharid's kin (Shahnshah, Georgi, Mkhagrdze) and others. It was one of the most important seats of written language and cultural centers of Armenia.


The name of the monument is connected with the word ayr-cave (Georgian- kob). In the middle of the XIII century, Kobayr had already passed from Kyurikids to Zakharids, turning it from a monotheistic center into a Chalcedonian one (confessed by Georgians). This explains the presence of Georgian inscriptions on some parts of the monument, and also the decoration elements that have some similarities with Georgian style. The monastery is situated in the southwestern part of Kober railway station road (Lori region, near the town of Tumanyan) on the high slopes of Debet ravine. Perched on a shelf of the gorge, in an ancient and sacred place where springs seep out of the rock, trees and vines twine among the intricately carved blocks of the monastery.

The essential part of the monuments consists of three churches, belfry-burial vaults, refectory, chapels, khachkars, and remainders of some walls of the fortress.

The big church is a stretched lengthwise one-nave hall, which is in half-destroyed condition: the apse, the northern and western walls, and two bottom rows of layers of the southern wall have survived. A half-cylindrical canopy fastened by arches covered the church. Two entries from northern and eastern sides were set in rich casing. The apse was lightened by five windows put in two rows. The facades of the building were crowned in tall concave cornices, covered with ornamental details, ornaments and rosettes crosses standing almost as high as the walls, pediment from ornamental interlacing going up. From outside, the walls were built of clearly trimmed basalt and from inside they were plastered and covered with frescos. The remainders of skillfully and delicately made frescos preserved in the apse and on the northern wall altar (attached in 1971). The paintings of the apse make three rows. In the top row the Virgin Mary with archangels were pictured, in the middle- the sin of Eucharist, in the bottom - figures of saints and between the rows - ornamental belt. On the altar walls the figures of prophets were pictured, and the most well preserved one was the figure of prophet Elliyah on the northern altar. Later on, on the north side of the basilica a square chapel, covered with vaulted side-chapels, was built. The western entry was adorned with casing of intricate carving.


An opening connecting the chapel with the altar of the big church was opened in the southern wall. The chapel was also plastered and painted from inside. The frescos had the same compositional three-rowed scheme as in the big church. The difference is that here, instead of the Virgin Mary, the sin of Deisus is pictured.

To the east from the big church, on the edge of a rock, the half-destroyed church of Mariamashen with one-nave arch halls is preserved. The western entrance was bordered by semicircular archaic brackets, different from each other with simple profiles.


According to the inscription on the bulkhead of the entrance, the daughter of the king Kyurik II - Mariam built the church in 1171. A chapel was added to the southern wall of the church.
The belfry burial-vault was situated on the western part of the big church with some eminence. It appeared to be a square hall, closing in the eastern side with an apse the whole length of the wall.

According to the Georgian inscription on the southern wall, Amirspasalar's son, Shahnshah Mkhargredzeli and his wife Vanen built it in 1279.

The refectory (XIII c) rises in the northwestern side from the big church, not far from the belfry burial-vault. Only the walls with the bottom row of half-cylindrical vault laying preserved. Uncommonly harmonic combinations of the monuments of the complex with surrounding picturesque nature make the panorama of the monastery exceptionally impressive.


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