Castles in Armenia

Medieval castles and fortresses in Armenia

Although the country is relatively small, you can find dilapidated or standing medieval fortresses and castles in Armenia almost at every step. All this suggests that in the Middle Ages, fortresses and castles in Armenia were built at a very high level. Most of them have not retained their former greatness. However, even looking at the dilapidated foundations of these structures you can guess how majestic they were.

Below you can find information about some of the many medieval fortresses and castles in Armenia.

Bjni Fortress

One of the most famous medieval fortresses, Bjni Fortress, is located on the right bank of Hrazdan River, on the eastern side of the village, on a high headland surrounded by inaccessible rocks. The fortress is the result of the construction work of Vasak Pahlavuni. His son, Grigor Magistros, built the main churches of Bjni Surb Astvatsatsin and Kecharis monasteries. The exact time of foundation is unknown, but it has been mentioned since Middle Ages.

In 1977-1978, an expedition of the Department of Archaeology of Yerevan State University under the leadership of Igit Gharibyan carried out excavations here. As a result of the excavations, the following were discovered: the main wall of the domed Surb Khach church (9th-10th centuries), a palace building consisting of two halls, details of an early medieval church, residential buildings, reservoir, a secret passage. According to the legend, a secret passage connected the fortress and the Astvatsatsin church. Due to the construction of houses and many other buildings, only a small part of this secret passage has survived.

There is also a widespread myth that Ashot II Erkat lived in this fortress for some time.

Ashot Erkat Fortress or Mantashaberd

Ashot Erkat Fortress or Mantashaberd is a military structure in Tavush region. This is an impregnable medieval fortress in Armenia. It is located 7 km south of Ijevan, on a wooded rock on the right bank of Aghstev River, surrounded by wide, pyramid walls. The fortress belongs to the Bagratuni period.

Mantashaberd

Mantashaberd / Ashot Erkat Fortress

The walls enclosing the fortress are built of black stone and strong mortar. Later, because of the black color, foreign invaders called this fortress Ghara ghala, which means “Black fortress”.

In historical sources, Mantashaberd is always mentioned with the Girl’s Fortress. Based on this, we can assume that it was built in the first quarter of the 10th century.

According to the legend about Mantashaberd and Girl’s Fortress, there was a beautiful girl, whom many knights and princes wanted to marry. One of them was Prince Mantash. When they did not manage to persuade her, they tried to take her by force. To protect herself from unwanted admirers, the girl gathered her army, built a fortress and moved there. Prince Mantash decided to build Mantash’s Fortress just in front of the Girl’s Fortress and started to attack it from time to time. However, the girl always won. Once, she ordered her army to attack the Mantashaberd and won again. After that, Mantash asked for a truce. They concluded an agreement, according to which each of them would remain in their own fortress. As a symbol of friendship, they built a bathhouse on the banks of Aghstev River.

Amberd Fortress

Amberd Fortress is one of the impregnable fortresses in Armenia. It was built on the slopes of Mount Aragats and is located at an altitude of 2300 meters above sea level.

According to historical sources, the construction of Amberd began in the 7th century by the princes of Kamsarakan family. In the 10th century, the fortress belonged to the princes of Pahlavuni dynasty and was one of the most important military defensive points of the Bagratuni principality. It was known as an impregnable fortress due to its natural location and defensive structure. This fortress was entrusted with one of the most responsible roles in the defense of the city of Ani.

Amberd fortress

Amberd Fortress

In recent decades, a number of archaeological excavations have been carried out in Amberd, and a number of monuments have been strengthened and repaired. During the excavations, metal objects, weapons, silver jewelry, ceramics, glassware, gold and copper coins, candlesticks, bronze candelabras and other archaeological objects were discovered.

Meghri Fortress

Meghri Fortress occupies a very special place among the defensive structures of Armenian medieval architecture. It is located in Syunik region, in the city of Meghri. The fortress is situated in the northern part of Mets Tagh district, on the inaccessible peaks of mountain ranges. The fortress surrounds the city and provides strong protection from the north, west and east. The exact time of the construction of the fortress is unknown.

Meghri Fortress

Meghri Fortress / 18th century

The architecture of the Meghri Fortress is considered unique for Armenia. There is no fence; it is replaced by a mountain range. In the case of the use of firearms, the settlement could be taken under control from a certain distance.

Smbataberd Fortress

Smbataberd is one of the largest impregnable fortresses of Vayots Dzor region, founded in the early Middle Ages.

According to legend, during its entire existence Smbataberd Fortress was captured only once, and only because of a cunning plan: the horses were fed with salt and let out to pasture around the fortress. Thirsty animals began to look for water and found a pipeline, cutting off the water supply to the fortress. The defenders were thus forced to surrender.

Smbataberd Fortress

Smbataberd Fortress

Until the first quarter of the 7th century, the fortress belonged to the princes of Syunik, and then in the 10th century it passed to the Bagratuni dynasty. In the 13th century, it passed to the Orbeli princes and until the 15th century was their ancestral property. In 1065, the fortress together with the city of Yeghegis was completely destroyed after the invasions of the Persian Shah Abbas.

In the 12th-15th centuries, the Orbelians fortified the fortress and turned it into a powerful defensive structure. Residents of nearby villages gave the name Smbataberd to the fortress in the 19th century. The reason for this was the tombstone of Prince Smbat (1280), which was located in the Orbelian family cemetery. Some researchers believe that Smbataberd is the Kapuyt (Blue) Fortress, which was mentioned by Stepanos Orbelian.

Lori Fortress

The impregnable Lori Fortress is located in the Lori region, 5 km from Stepanavan. It is located at the intersection of Dzoraget and Urut gorges. The fortress is included in the list of immovable monuments of history and culture of the Lori Berd village.

Lori Fortress is located 5 km northeast of Stepanavan, on the left bank of Dzoraget River. Founded by David Anhoghin, the fortress dates back to 1005-1020.

Lori Fortress

Lori Fortress

Since 1966, an expedition of Yerevan State University has been conduction archaeological excavations in Lori. Two baths of 11th-13th centuries were excavated here. One of them consists of a changing room, three baths, a furnace and a cold-water reservoir. Another bathhouse consists of a changing room, a bath and a boiler room.

 

All these fortresses are of great historical and cultural importance for Armenia. Today they are interesting tourist destinations. If you want to visit the medieval fortresses and castles in Armenia and delve deeper into the study of the history and architecture of this country, then contact us, and we will organize an unforgettable hiking trip especially for you.

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