Akhtala Monastery

Monastery in Akhtala Monastery

The fortifications here date to the 10th century, but the main church was built in the first half of the 13th century and is one of the few medieval churches in Armenia to retain most of its original frescoes. These include a stunning Virgin Mary in the apse, and depictions of the Last Supper, Last Judgement, Crucifixion and Resurrection on other walls. Note the fresco of bearded Persians, said to have been painted so that invading armies would spare the church.

When you enter the monastery through the main gate, look left and you’ll see two large caves that were used for smelting copper. Surrounding the church are a well-preserved chapel and a graveyard with old and new headstones – be careful where you walk, as weeds and grass hide dangerous drops into underground structures.