Armenia, ancient Urartu, was a crossroads of invasion and trade for Mesopotamians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Russians Turks. It became a vital leg of the famed Silk Route between East and West. Armenia’s ancient history is well documented in Yerevan’s exemplary History Museum and in the pristine Hellenistic Mythraic temple at Garni. Armenia once included much of Eastern Turkey, including Mount Ararat, until it lost much territory to the Ottoman Empire and the post-war Turkish state. Yerevan’s Genocide Memorial records how the failing Ottoman Empire killed an estimated 1 to 1.5 million Armenians during and after World War I.
Contemporary Armenia is a region of awesome mountains and deep valleys. In these are located magnificent monasteries such as Haghput (10th c.), and Noravank. Khor Virap, which sits on a spur above the Ararat Valley, is framed by majestic Mount Ararat (5163 metres). Set against these mountain landscapes, monastic architecture fuses Zoroastrian, Islamic and Christian motifs in an extraordinary, opulent, unique style. Their interiors are often enriched with fine carving. Armenia claims to be the first state to have officially accepted Christianity. Echmiadzin, Armenia’s ancient religious centre, has the Church of St Hripsime Martyria and The Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Armenia’s distinctive form of Christianity is documented in the Matenadaran manuscript collection, Yerevan. It has 17,000 precious illuminated works created over more than a millennium.
The ancient Silk Route crossed this strategic region. It can be followed up the Selim Mountain Pass to basalt Orbelian’s Caravanserai (1332). It was a refuge for merchants making the long trek through the mountains. It has interesting relief sculptures and Islamic muqarnas grace its portal and wall niches. The later influence of Russia is reflected in paintings in Yerevan’s National Art Gallery and in the Russian colonial architecture of Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city.
With Georgian Archaeologist, Davit Naskidashvili, explore the fascinating history, art, architecture and unforgettable scenery of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. Read more