In a magical world: Amazing Khudaveng monastery, which Armenians wanted to appropriate - REPORTAGE - PHOTO

In a magical world: Amazing Khudaveng monastery, which Armenians wanted to appropriate - REPORTAGE - PHOTO
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  • calendar-gray 03 January 2021

For the first reportage click on the following link:

On the roads of Kalbajar: from the height of 3395 meters to Khudavang monastery

APA employees toured the territories liberated from the occupation by the Azerbaijani army under the leadership of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev. Our employees have prepared a series of reports from these territories under the heading "In the wake of victory". We present another reportage from this series.

Two hours at Khudaveng monastery

We have approximately two hours of time to go around the monastery and take pictures. If we stay here longer, we can get into the fog on the Omera Pass. In order not to create difficulties for yourself, you need to appreciate every minute, to complete the work on time. Although this is not part of our plans, we would like, since we have arrived, to see other places.

After Armenian troops withdrew from Kalbajar on November 25, Khudaveng monastery was transferred to the control of Russian peacekeeping forces. At the moment it is controlled by peacekeepers. Russian peacekeepers are on duty at the post at the entrance to the monastery and along the entire perimeter of the territory.

I'm excited. A wonderful picture opened before me. The impression is that I found myself in the past, in the Middle Ages. Here, each stone says something. I would like to take a walk through the complex, created over a thousand years ago in this beautiful valley, to get to know this outstanding part of our history.

We walked in front of the bell tower and stopped at the entrance to Boyuk Hasan Church. We were met by two Armenian priests. With the consent of the Azerbaijani authorities, they monitor the monastery and perform daily rituals.

Representatives of the Udi community and the Russian Orthodox Church in Ganja who will soon arrive with us will light candles and read prayers in the church. After that, a table will be laid on the platform in front of the church, it will be decorated with the gifts of Udi cuisine and those who have arrived will taste them. And of course, Christmas is coming. Therefore, the fact that the Udis will lay the table in this ancient Albanian religious temple is a significant event.

Khudaveng (Dadiveng) monastery is located on a high hill between the Murovdag and Karabakh ranges. The nature here is very beautiful. The architecture of the monastery is successfully combined with the landscape.

Land of the Most High - Khudaveng

According to Bayram Guliyev, an employee of the Institute of History of ANAS, Doctor of Philosophy in History, who throughout all our reports helped us with his scientific advice, the prefix "Khuda" in the name of the Khudaweng (Dadiveng) monastery in Persian means "Almighty": "And" Dadi ”Is a Syrian transcription of the word“ dede ”, which is in the Azerbaijani language. The prototype of the second part of the name of the monastery - the word "weng" is "wend". In the work of the Syrian author Mara Apas Katina, the expression "Bulgar Vend" is used. "Vend" means "land" in Turkish. Similar toponyms are often found in Karabakh. For example, Garavend, Yaglavend, etc. If we pay attention to the name of the monastery complex, it becomes clear that “Khudaveng” or “Khudavend” means “the Land of the Almighty”, and “Dadiveng” or “Dedivend” means “father's land”.

According to the scientist, often Christian Albanian religious temples initially consisted of small temples: “It can be assumed that where the Khudaveng monastery in Kalbajar is now located, in the first years after the emergence of Christianity in the Albanian period, there was a small temple. Most likely, on the site of this temple, a basilica was originally built, which is the most ancient structure of the complex. "

According to B. Guliyev, after the spread of Islam in Azerbaijan, Christianity moved to the mountainous region of Albania. Later in this region, which includes Khudaveng, Artsakh-Khachen principality was created: “This principality was the successor of the Albanian state. It is completely unreasonable to consider the founders of this dynasty of Hasan Jalal Arranogullar or the Mehranid dynasty.

But the historical sources say nothing about this. Among his titles in sources, we find such names as "Khachen and Artsakh prince" or "Prince of Albania". Undoubtedly, Hassan Jalal was a Christian Albanian, but did not belong to any of the Albanian dynasties. The expansion and development of the Khudaveng monastery is associated with the Khachen princes. In the XIII century, the son of Hasan Jalal Vakhtang rebuilt the complex and added new buildings to it. In 1214, Arzu Khatun built a church here to perpetuate the memory of her husband Vakhtang and their sons. The Khudaveng complex, which is the largest monastic complex in Azerbaijan, has seven sections. Here, along with the Arzu Khatun temple, there is also the Temple of St. Grigoris and the Church of Hasan Jalal, which later supplemented it. Both Turkisms in the name of the temple, and the title of Khatun in the name of Vakhtang's wife, and the use of the number “7” in the architecture of the object give grounds to say that this monastery belongs to Azerbaijanis ”.

Speaking about the further fate of Khudaveng, the scientist noted that during the Baharlu and Bayandurlu dynasties, as well as under the Safavids, the temple was completely deprived of attention due to the fact that it was located at a considerable distance from the center of the country: “Perhaps some small groups of Christians could come here and pray. But essential facts of this are not found. During the period of the khanates, Khudaveng was a part of the Karabakh Khanate and was turned into a monastery of the Meliklin Christians living in Karabakh at that time. After the signing of the Turkmenchay Treaty in 1828, Russia recognized the rights of the Albanian Church and subdued the monastery to the Armenian Gregorian Church. "

As for the Soviet era, B. Guliyev said that in connection with the propaganda of atheism, monasteries and churches were destroyed or closed along with mosques: “Therefore, for about 70 years, monasteries were not used as religious temples, they were not looked after. a significant part was destroyed. After the Armenians occupied Kalbajar in 1993, the monastery also came under their control and, under the pretext of restoration, various changes were made in the monastery, its content was distorted. The Armenians have distorted the content of the monastery, which we see now, Armenianized a significant part of it. "


It's time to talk about the current structure of the monastery, about what we saw in it. Let's start with the Hasan Jalal Church.

Hasan Jalal Church

The church is located in front of the narthex with columns (we will tell about it later), in the southern part of the monastery courtyard, has a central domed structure. In the construction of the dome and the drum of the church, burnt red brick was used, and in the construction of its walls, roughly processed stones.

On both sides of the church door, crosses of various sizes are walled up in the side walls. There are also plaques or gravestones on the floor in front of the large crosses. Most likely, one of the founders of the monastery or famous religious figures were buried here. New plaster in the corners of the building indicates that renovations have been carried out here. The crosses chaotically immured into the walls can also be regarded as an attempt by the Armenians to leave their mark on the architecture of the temple.

Along with this church, there are many disorderly inscriptions in the Grabar language and on the walls of most of the buildings in the complex. Without a study by specialists, it is difficult to say to what period they belong - they were from the very beginning or they were added over time by the Armenians.

Nartex or hall

In the northern part of the Hasan Jalal church there is a rectangular hall, in other words, a narthex. It is closed on three sides, and its southern part consists of long arches. Nartex is the building at the entrance to the church.

The eastern part of the narthex connects with the Arzu Khatun church, and the western part with the Bell Tower. From its middle part, a door opens to a small basilica, and soon I will pass through it to the courtyard, which, as I learn later, is an ancient basilica. About what fear and what excitement I experienced there - a little later.

The arches of the narthex are located on thick, ellipsoidal posts. These thick pillars add special beauty to the complex and enhance its grandeur. The walls of the narthex have recesses of various sizes. New plaster can be found both on the walls and on the posts.

The buildings of the monastery are located at a small distance from each other, therefore, in clear weather, the sun's rays fall both on the Bell Tower and on the roof of the buildings and create different chiaroscuro, which greatly increases the attractiveness of the complex. The snow that fell a few days ago, but still remains on the roofs of churches and the minor basilicas, including in the courtyard on the altar, gives the temple a very special look. Most likely, these ancient, wet stones look completely different in rainy weather.

It seems that the complex is surprisingly combined with nature at all seasons, sparkling like a pearl in the middle of the valley.

Arzu Khatun Church, considered the pearl of the complex

In the eastern part of the narthex, which we have already talked about, there is the Arzu Khatun church, which is considered the main church of the complex. The temple was built in 1214 by order of princess Arzu Khatun to perpetuate the memory of her husband Vakhtang and their sons.

The church immediately attracts the attention of visitors to the complex with its high dome and monumental size, occupies a dominant position among all other buildings.

The portal of the church is decorated with various ornaments, and an inscription in the Grabar language is carved on the wall to the right of the portal. To tell the truth, I don't know when it was written or what it says.

Above the window of the southern facade of the church there are bas-reliefs - two human figures holding a model of the church in their hands. The bas-reliefs depict the children of Arzu Khatun. On the southern facade, in the lower part of the arch (under the bas-reliefs), there is, or rather, built into the wall, a 19-line inscription of Arzu Khatun, as well as dated and undated various small inscriptions telling about the gifts made to the church in different periods.

These inscriptions have survived to this day.

Stolen frescoes of Arzu Khatun church

We enter the church. Although a chandelier hangs over our heads, it is almost dark inside, it is illuminated only by the sunlight falling from the windows of the dome and candles burning in candlesticks above the altar. The two priests standing in front of the altar pay no attention to anyone, they loudly recite a prayer from the book that lies in front of them.

An icon is placed in the recess on the left, in front of it is a stone bowl for holy water. The walls of the church are not painted, they have a natural color. And on the right wall, the plaster is literally carved. Although there is information in the sources that the walls of the Arzu Khatun church were decorated with frescoes, very few of these frescoes have survived to this day. But I have not seen the murals on the walls.

Later, in the course of searching on the Internet, I found out that two frescoes, photographs of which I will present below, have survived to this day. Even a small window, visible in one of the photos in the fresco, fully corresponds to the fragment cut from the wall and removed from it. The rectangular shape of the plaster allows us to say that when the church was handed over, along with the bell of the Bell Tower and various artifacts from the church, the Armenians took away with them frescoes from the 13th century. The fresco was supposed to be on the left wall of the church, but now it is not there either.

Undoubtedly, this vandalism is not only damage to the historical and cultural monument of Azerbaijan, but should also be regarded as vandalism in relation to the cultural heritage of mankind.

All these are manifestations of theft and vandalism that we have noticed. And it is not known what other manifestations of vandalism experts will find when studying the church.

We hope that all this will be studied and presented to UNESCO and other organizations as a result of Armenian vandalism.

The semi-dark rooms of the minor basilica

I leave the Arzu Khatun church and go to the door leading to the small basilica.

Explanation: The Basilica is an architectural structure that usually has no religious significance and is intended for religious buildings where people gather. It is a rectangular, long building, usually divided into three, five or more naves. The middle nave is wider and higher than the outer naves. Usually there is a mehrab in the eastern part of the basilica, and an entrance in the western part.

This small medieval basilica was built close to the southern wall of the ancient busilica and is much smaller and narrower.

It consists of two adjoining rooms. To the right of the entrance there is a mehrab, in front of the mehrab there is a plaque with an inscription in Armenian.

I move to the left room, but there is nothing interesting there. From here there is a door not to the courtyard where we stood before, but to another place - to the courtyard. There is no one in the rooms or in the courtyard yet except me, they are surrounded by a wall on four sides. I must admit that fear is mixed with excitement. How scary when you are alone! It seems to me that something bad will happen to me here. Therefore, I want to quickly remove the yard and return. But, noticing that those who follow me speak our language, I come to my senses a little and go out into the yard with bold steps.

Whose grave is in the ancient basilica?

Later, I will not only delve deeper into a large amount of information about the Khudaweng Monastery, but also learn that the place that I call the courtyard is actually an ancient basilica, the oldest structure on the territory of the complex.

Some even claim that this structure was built on another ancient structure. The roof of the ancient basilica has not survived to this day, so at first I decided that this was the courtyard of the complex.

The western part of the ancient basilica is adjoined by the church of Bishop Gregory, and its eastern part is in the form of an altar. On the altar, which is about 1 m high, there is a cross. And under it there is a room that looks like a basement and a small iron door.

It becomes clear that the place where we are standing is a basilica, the most ancient structure of the complex and can be considered its center, since here is the grave of Dadi, who brought Christianity to the Caucasus.

According to legend, the Apostle Thaddeus sent his disciple Dadi to the Caucasian Albania to promote Christianity. But he was killed by a martyr's death in Karabakh. And the Khudaweng monastery was built precisely on his grave. The Armenians claim that his grave was discovered in 2007 during archaeological excavations on the territory of the monastery and is protected in its current form.

For more effective shooting, we light candles, which we noticed in the candlesticks in front of the grave. Seeing this, the priest asked:

- Are you Christians?

I answer:

- No, just believers. We respect all religions. We are not Christians, but we pay tribute to the attributes of Christianity. We love Jesus Christ just like the Prophet Muhammad.

The priest looks at us in surprise.

- Do you know that the Qur'an contains a separate sura about Jesus Christ and it speaks in detail about him and about his mother the Virgin Mary?

- Yes, I read about it when I was in seminary.

- Were you born in Yerevan?

- Yes.

- What's your name?

- Father Ignatius.

- When yours gave Kalbajar to Azerbaijan, they took with them a number of sacred items from the monastery. Even recently, some of them were demonstrated in Yerevan.

“I don’t know about it, I came here recently,” he says quietly.

- What are you doing here every day?

- Every day we get up at 9 o'clock in the morning and hold a church service. This rite is repeated several times throughout the day, and we also have church services on Sundays.

- What do you think about the war?

- I am a religious figure, so I don’t want to talk about politics.

- But these are Azerbaijani lands.

- I'm just a supporter of peace. I think we should live in peace. In Soviet times, I also had Azerbaijani friends. We lived in peace. I think that people should live in peace and friendship.

- But yours want to create their own state on the territory of our country?

- I do not want to talk about it, just as a religious figure I think that our peoples should live in peace.

Seeing that despite the words about the world, he is also not in the mood to communicate with me, I end the conversation with him. We have almost finished work in the ancient basilica and can return to the platform at the entrance to the monastery.

The blow inflicted by the Armenians on the Udins

While we were walking around the complex, members of the Udi community had already prayed and lit candles in the Hasan Jalal church. And now everyone is at the table.

During the meal, we talked with the head of the Udi Cultural Center, Oleg Danakari.

- What was the purpose of your visit?

- Khudaveng is an ancient Albanian monastery. We wanted to visit the local monasteries and pray here. We did so, lit candles, read a prayer. They wanted to set the table and decorate it with the gifts of the Udi people.

- What did you pray for?

- We prayed that Allah would help us, our people. We prayed for our state, honored the memory of our martyrs.

- What is the value of this monastery for the Udi community?


- Its value is very high, since the blow that the Armenian Gregorian church inflicted on us was not inflicted even by the Arabs when they came here in the 8th century. Despite the fact that the Arabs Islamized a significant part of Caucasian Albania, and the Armenians either appropriated or destroyed all our monasteries.

- How does the Albanian church differ from the Armenian churches?

- There are some differences. Their crosses are different, the structure of the altars is different, the churches also differ in architecture.

- Have you noticed any changes made by the Armenians in Khudaweng Monastery?

- We have a low altar, but Armenians have a high one. Here the altar was of medium height. They also took the monastery bell with them; only the cross remained. It is possible that the bell had an inscription related to Albanian culture. You can see for yourself that there is new plaster on the walls.



In addition to the main buildings, which I have already mentioned, the monastery also has auxiliary buildings. They are located mainly in the southern part of the complex. Most of these buildings were agricultural at one time, but many of them were destroyed and did not survive.

I suggested that the Russian peacekeeper, who was on duty, standing here on a dilapidated wall, dine with us. However, he politely refused, and I had an excuse to talk to him:

- How is the service going here?

- Well.

- Is the weather always like this? It's very sunny today.


- A lot of snow fell about a week ago. Now it has thawed considerably, but in some places it still remains. There is real frost here. It seems that we are at home in Russia.

- Do you feel bored here?

- No, it's good here. I have visited many places. But I really like it here, it is very beautiful here.

- Where did you happen to be?

- I can't say that. But it is very beautiful here, the air is clean.

- Do you pray in the temple?

- I - no, but there are those among us who pray. Are you udin too?

- No.

Now he began to question me.

- Are you from here?

I say either under the influence of feelings that I experienced when we drove here, or from something else:

- Yes.

- Kalbajar?

- Yeah.

- Remember these places?

- When we became refugees, I was a child.

- Would you like to return and live here?

- Of course. This is our homeland. But how can we live if they killed my uncle. 27 years ago, we were saved with great difficulty, passing through these mountains.

We are talking about the Armenians. I ask them about Khojaly, I say that 613 civilians were killed there, including women, children and old people.

He says he knows about this and even watched a video about this event:

- This is a real genocide.

- Do you communicate with our soldiers?

- Yes. We communicate with those of them who know Russian. There are conscript soldiers here. We talked with them often. They have already been demobilized.

- When will you be demobilized?

“We'll be here for five years.


In the final part of the conversation with us, he said that he knows that where we are now is the Azerbaijani land and hopes that everything will soon return to normal.

13:40. The weather is so sunny, as if we are not on the slopes of the mountains, but on a tropical beach. But despite the scorching sun, the frost is also felt. As soon as you step back into the shade, it gets very cold.

It's time to return, because difficult roads are waiting for us on the way back.

We stood down for a while at the post of the Azerbaijani army and said goodbye to our soldiers. Then we drank a sip of the sacred water of Terterchai and set off on our way back ...

Mirmehdi Aghaoghlu

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