Geghard monastery is located in Ararat Province and is believed to date back to the fourth century, when a small cave church was excavated from the rock around a spring. It was expanded throughout the middle ages and the monastery today dates from the thirteenth century, with the rebuilding commencing in 1215. The name Geghard refers to the Holy Lance that pierced the side of Christ and appears to have linked to the site from the time of its rebuilding in the thirteenth century. Today the fact that Geghard is a UNESCO World Heritage site relatively close to Garni means that it is a centre of tourism as well as pilgrims. Although there is nothing remaining of the ancient monastery, the site is included here to offer evidence that there was cave monasticism in Armenia, even if it does not appear to have been as widespread a practice as in Georgia.
The ancient monastic cemetery of Deir Mar Musa is located in the wadi west of the monastery. It was mentioned by Sir Richard Burton in the C19th and had been comprehensively looted by the latter part of the C20th.
Dayr al Hayek means "the monastery of the weaver" and is a cave south of Deir Mar Musa. The archaeological evidence found in the cave suggests that it was inhabited by a hermit in the early phase of the monastery when it was a lava. This means that the monks lived in cells/caves around the central monastic buildings and came together only for communal prayer at specific times. The cave was named due to the fact that a loom was discovered there. A new building now envelops the cave as an annexe to the main monastery of Deir Mar Musa.
In the mid-fourth century, a church was constructed around a grotto in the town of Nazareth that was said to be the Virgin Mary’s house and the place where the archangel Gabriel appeared to her during the Annunciation. This holy site was clearly well established as a place of worship towards the end of the fourth century as the pilgrim Egeria describes an altar within a grand and splendid grotto. The Piacenza pilgrim who journeyed to Nazareth in the late sixth century states that there is a basilica at the House of Mary that contains many garments that once belonged to the Virgin. Today, remnants of wall paintings, mosaics, and the architecture from this early church building are visible.
Tags: Annunciation, Architecture, C20th, C4th, C5th-C6th, Cave, Christ, Christian, Cross, Foliage, Fresco, Geometric Motif, Greek Inscription, Holy Site, Inscription, Israel, Mosaic, Nazareth, Pilgrimage, St. Gabriel, Staurogram, Virgin Mary
A short distance from the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is the Milk Grotto. This is the place where the Holy Family are believed to have taken refuge during the Massacre of the Innocents and before their flight into Egypt. The Virgin Mary is said to have nursed Christ in this grotto and legend states that a drop of her milk fell to the ground and turned the rock white. In the fifth century, a church was built around the holy site to celebrate this event and pilgrims venerated it throughout Late Antiquity. The Franciscans constructed the present church in the late nineteenth century.
The town of Bethlehem is located to the south of Jerusalem in the West Bank. Since the second century, pilgrims have flocked to the site traditionally associated as the place of Christ’s birth, a cave to the east of the town. In the fourth century, Helena, the Emperor Constantine’s mother, supposedly rediscovered the cave and had her son build a church to commemorate it. This church featured an octagonal structure at the eastern end that was positioned directly over the cave of the Nativity. At the centre of this octagon was a wide, circular opening to allow pilgrims to glimpse at the holy site. It was badly damaged during a Samaritan revolt in 529 AD and was rebuilt by the Emperor Justinian in the mid-sixth century. Much of this church has survived and is largely what is seen today. There were later modifications during the time of the Crusades, largely with the fresco painting on the nave columns. It is thus considered the oldest church in use.
Tags: Bethlehem, C12th, C2nd, C4th, C6th, Cave, Christ, Christian, Church, Column, Constantine, Corinthian, Crusades, Fresco, Geometric Motif, Holy Site, Icon, Justinian, Mosaic, Nativity, Octagonal, Pilgrimage, St. Helena, West Bank