St Astvatsatsin Church

Northern Armenia

Built on the site where legend tells us St Thomas buried Christ's swaddling clothes in the 1st century, the core of St Astvatsatsin dates from the 5th century but had considerable additions in the 8th century. The current building features plenty of carved bas reliefs, a central cupola, a handsome external pillared arcade on its southern side and two 19th-century belfries. The unusual funerary monument next to it is thought to date from the 6th century.

The priest lives nearby, and is always happy to show visitors through the church. He can often be found in the small garden cafe opposite, which serves tea, good Armenian coffee and home-made cakes.

One and a half kilometres to the southeast of the church, at the edge of the canyon, is the three-chambered Horomayri Monastery, the well-camouflaged remnants of which are visible below the cliff on the right.

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