In the Vayots Dzor region of Armenia, in the village of Yeghegis, there is the Zorats Church, which is also known as the Church of St. Stephen, because it was built by Bishop Stefan Tarsaich Orbelian. The church was built in 1303, when Armenia was under the yoke of the Mongols. The Mongols demanded that the Armenians fight against the Turks and Mamluks. At this time, the military church of Zorats was built.

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The military church differs in its structure, since the altar is not in the church itself but in its outer part and its height is equal to the height of a person sitting on a horse. Before the battle, warriors and horses were illuminated in this church, which is where the name Zorats (Army) came from. From the 9th to the 17th centuries, Yeghegis was the political center of Vayots Dzor, ruled by the Orbelian dynasty. For this reason, there are many historical monuments in the Yeghegis region. The Zorats Church still stands, next to it a part of the gate built with basalt has been preserved. Also nearby is a church cemetery with dozens of khachkars and crypts. In 2006-2007, archaeologists led by Husik Melkonyan, during excavations, found many book depositories in the walls, which indicates that most likely this place was a medieval scriptorium. In the Territory of Zorats, monuments were discovered that are older than the church itself, which suggests that there was a pagan shrine at this place.

The article was compiled based on observations and materials collected by the ArmLand club.

Author of photos: Artyom Martirosyan

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