Culture of Nagorno-Karabakh - General Information

General Information

Nagorno Karabakh and adjacent territories belonging to historical Artsakh (some of which fell under the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s control in 1992-1994) has been called an open-sky treasure-house of various forms of Armenian architecture. Overall, Nagorno-Karabakh hosts several thousand architectural artifacts and historical monuments in a larger sense. In addition to ecclesiastical structures, this number includes samples of civil architecture, ancient castles and fortresses as well as numerous khachkars.

The art and architecture created in Nagorno Karabakh has progressed through the same major stages as did Armenian art in a larger sense. They began developing in the pre-Christian times, proceeded through the adoption of Christianity early in the fourth century, and entered the era of modernity after blossoming in the Middle Ages.

The principal expression of Artsakh’s art in the Middle Ages was through ecclesiastical architecture: churches, cathedrals, chapels and monasteries. Most other forms of art in that period, including illuminated manuscripts, khachkars (Armenian: խաչքար; unique-to-Armenia stone slabs with engraved crosses) and mural paintings were likewise tied to Artsakh’s religious life and its primary institution—the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Works of architecture in Nagorno-Karabakh are constructed according to similar principles and with the use of the same techniques as those in the rest of Armenia. Limestone is the principal building materials that form the nucleus for the walls. They are then covered with facing and/or plated with volcanic tuff rock slabs.

In large buildings in cities or in monasteries the exterior facing can consist of carefully cut blocks of tuff. The monasteries of Gandzasar and Dadivank serve as the primary examples of that style. For more modest structures, such as parish churches in provinces, it was common to use less carefully cut stone, a practice which creates a more rustic appearance.

Names of monasteries in Nagorno Karabakh, like in the rest of historical Artsakh and Armenia, customarily include the term “vank” (Armenian: վանք), which means “monastery.” Examples: Dadivank, Gtichavank, Khunisavank, Khadavank, Khatravank, Yerits Mankants Vank, etc. Monasteries are often located in or near settlements that bear the name Vank (Վանք); the most notable cases include Dadivank Monastery, Gandzasar Monastery and Spitak Khach Vank Monastery. Names of castles and fortresses in Nagorno Karabakh like in the rest of historical Artsakh and Armenia, customarily include the term “berd” (Armenian: բերդ) which means “fort.” Examples: Jraberd, Handaberd, Mairaberd, Khokhanaberd, etc.

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