The astounding Geghard monastery is situated 6 km from the temple at Garni and is revered throughout Armenia as one of the countrys greatest spiritual and cultural centers. It is masterfully hewn in a huge rock and is famous for its unique architecture and possessing an amazing acoustics.
First called Ayrivank, or the Monastery of the Caves, the history of Geghard dates back to pre-Christian times.
The present buildings here date back the 10th-13th centuries, when the monastery was renamed Geghard, meaning «spear» or «lance» in Armenian.
The association itself harkens back to the times of Jesus, when a spear was used by a Roman soldier to pierce the body of Christ during the Crucifixion.
The spear was long housed at Geghard, but is now in the museum of Ejmiatsin Cathedral. Geghard is an architectural wonder – a complex of churches hewn from within a mountain of solid rock.
The most ancient cave-church of St Gregory (7th century) is outside the monastery walls.
The principal structure, the church of the Virgin, is a cruciform building from the second quarter of the 13th century. It has a four-column gavit (1225) to the west of the church.
Two cave-churches were constructed in 1263, along with the family sepulchre of the Proshian Princes. Their coat of arms is carved in the rock: two chained lions and an eagle with half-spread wings, whose claws grasp a calf.