Tsitsernavank

Tsitsernavank is a fifth- to sixth-century Armenian church and former monastery in the Kashatagh Province of Artsakh Republic. The monastery is within five kilometers of the border of Armenia’s province of Syunik. The name derives from the word “tsitsern”, which in Armenian means “little finger” – presumably a reference to the relics of St. George that were kept in the church.

Historically, Tsitsernavank Monastery is located in Aghahechk, one of the 12 cantons of the historical Armenian province and principality of Syunik. By the 15th century Aghahechk had split into two districts: the northern half was called Khozhoraberd; the southern half, containing Tsitsernavank, was called Kashatagh.The basilica of Tsitsernavank was believed to contain relics of St. George the Dragon-Slayer. In the past, the monastery belonged to the Tatev diocese and is mentioned as a notable religious center by the 13th-century historian Stepanos Orbelian and Bishop Tovma Vanandetsi (1655).

  • Tsitsernavank / Ծիծեռնավանք / Цицернаванк - Hatis Tour
  • Tsitsernavank / Ծիծեռնավանք / Цицернаванк - Hatis Tour
  • Tsitsernavank / Ծիծեռնավանք / Цицернаванк - Hatis Tour
  • Tsitsernavank / Ծիծեռնավանք / Цицернаванк - Hatis Tour
  • Tsitsernavank / Ծիծեռնավանք / Цицернаванк - Hatis Tour
  • Tsitsernavank / Ծիծեռնավանք / Цицернаванк - Hatis Tour
  • Tsitsernavank / Ծիծեռնավանք / Цицернаванк - Hatis Tour
  • Tsitsernavank / Ծիծեռնավանք / Цицернаванк - Hatis Tour
  • Tsitsernavank / Ծիծեռնավանք / Цицернаванк - Hatis Tour

Photos by: Artur Martirosyan

The church has no early building inscriptions, however, based on its appearance, it is believed to have been constructed in three main stages. Its earliest form appears to have been a simple rectangular basilica, without an apse. Based on the style of the doorways in its south wall, this building period has been dated to the 5th or 6th century. However, an alternative thesis exists that dates this stage to the 3rd century, and suggests that it was a pre-Christian temple. During the second stage of construction, a windowless apse was added (constructed inside the eastern end of the rectangular interior) and the upper parts of the outside walls were built. This may have happened in the 6th century. At this period, the arcades that separated the interior nave from its aisles were probably still constructed of timber. In the third period of construction, stone pillars and arches replaced them. Based on the style of their capitals, this occurred sometime between the end of the 6th century and the beginning of the 10th century.

The monastery is recognized as a native Armenian example of an “oriental” basilica. Being a three-nave basilica, like most of those in Armenia of V-6th centuries, Tsitsernavanks central nave is only slightly taller than the lateral naves, from which it is separated by two rows of pillars. The plan is similar to a series of Armenian basilicas like Yereruyk, Yeghvard, Dvin, Ashtarak (Tsiranavor), Tekor – in that it had an interior composed of three aisles or naves, the central and largest one of which was separated from the others by pillars which also helped support the roof.