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Unique alphabet for the Armenian language, invented in 406 AD (according to some sources—revived and developed from an earlier prototype) by St. Mesrob Mashtots (361-440 AD), an Armenian scholar, evangelizer and hymnist. St. Mesrob Mashtots toured Armenia’s province of Artsakh (modern Nagorno Karabakh) several times, and, according to tradition, established in Artsakh’s Amaras Monastery the first school where his script was used for teaching. St. Mesrob is buried at the Memorial Chapel in the town of Oshakan, near Yerevan.

The Gandzasar Monastery has more than 200 lapidary inscriptions in Armenian, which were used not only for commemorative but also for decorative purposes.


Autocephalous church of Armenia established in the first century AD by two of Jesus Christ’s apostles—St. Bartholomew and St. Thaddeus (St. Jude). Since the early Middle Ages, Armenian Apostolic Church has retained doctrinal and administrative independence both from the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.


Also known as the Armenian tiara, the Armenian crown was a traditional headgear worn by early Armenian monarchs. The image of the Armenian tiara was best preserved on coins (especially tetradrachmas) minted by the ruler of the short-lived Armenian Empire—King Tigran II the Great (reigned from 95 to 55 BC). The coins show an engraved profile of King Tigran II wearing the tiara. The tiara’s depiction on the state seal of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic symbolizes Nagorno Karabakh’s status as the only Armenian territory that preserved an uninterrupted link to the Kingdom of Armenia through the royal dynasty of Hasan-Jalalians—hereditary patrons of the Gandzasar Monastery.


Semi-mythical Armenian patriarch and great-grandson of Hayk Nahapet (the eponymous ancestor of the Armenian people). Arran (Armenian: Առան) is regarded as the founder of the Arranshahik dynasty that ruled eastern Armenian lands in the Middle Ages.


One of Armenia’s ancient patrician clans, which is considered ancestral to both Vahtangian and Hasan-Jalalian dynasties. Arranshahiks are named after Arran, a great-grandson of Hayk Nahapet (the legendary, eponymous forefather of the Armenians). Ultimately, Arranshahiks considered themselves direct descendents of Noah because Hayk was a great-grandchild of Japheth, who, in turn, was one of Noah’s three sons.


Name of the 10th province of historical Armenia, according to traditional Armenian medieval geographical nomenclature. This term has been used by Armenians in reference to Nagorno Karabakh.


Armenian royal dynasty that reestablished a united Kingdom of Armenia in the year 885, under Ashot I Bagratuni. Also known as the Bagratid dynasty. Grand Prince Hasan Jalal Vahtangian shared bloodline with the Bagratunis through his Zakarian relatives.


The main church and architectural centerpiece of the Gandzasar Monastery built between 1216 and 1238. The Cathedral’s Armenian name is Սբ. Հովհաննես Մկրտչի Մայր Տաճար.


Armenian Apostolic Church’s monastery and former patriarchal see located in the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, in Armenia’s historical province of Artsakh. The monastery was built from 1216 to 1261 by Prince Hasan Jalal Vahtangian, and completed by his descendents by 1266.


Present-day division of the Armenian Apostolic Church responsible for the activity of the church in the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and adjacent lands associated with Armenia’s historical province of Artsakh. The Diocese of Artsakh is considered as the historical successor of the Holy See of Gandzasar and Katholicosate of Aghvank.


Armenian prince who ruled Armenia’s eastern territories between 1214 and 1261. Hasan Jalal founded the Gandzasar Monastery, as we know it today, and united eastern Armenian lands into the Principality of Khachen. Hasan Jalal was captured and killed in 1261 by Mongols, and is considered to be a holy man because of his virtuous life, strong faith and support of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Hasan Jalal Vahtangian called himself Grand Prince and King, and his state is often referred to as the Kingdom of Artsakh.


Armenian dynasty of princes and churchmen established by Grand Prince Hasan Jalal Vahtangian, the patron of the Gandzasar Monastery, in the 13th century. Hasan-Jalalians claim affinity to the Bagratuni line of Armenian kings and to the Arranshahik dynasts of ancient Armenia. Through the Arranshahiks, Hasan-Jalalians claim descend from Hayk Nahapet (eponymous forefather of the Armenian people) and, ultimately, Japheth and Noah. The clerical branch of the Hasan-Jalalians hereditarily controlled top positions at the Holy See of Gandzasar, as supreme patriarchs (katholikoi) and bishops. The Hasan-Jalalian bloodline uninterruptedly continued into modern times: the Hasan-Jalalian dynasty representatives currently live in Nagorno Karabakh, Armenia , Russia and the United States.


Eponymous ancestor of the Armenian people in whose honor Armenians call themselves “Hye” (pronounced “high;” Armenian: Հայ), and their country—“Hayq” (Armenian: Հայք). “Hayk Nahapet” means Hayk the Progenitor or Hayk the Forefather. Hasan Jalal Vahtangian, the 13th century patron of the Gandzasar Monastery, and his descendents claimed a direct link to Hayk Nahapet through their Arranshahik ancestors.


Name of the headquarters of the easternmost subdivision of the Armenian Apostolic Church, called the Katholicosate of Aghvank. Similarly to several other subdivisions of the Church, the Holy See of Gandzasar retained a degree of autonomy from the Church’s Mother See (seat of the Katholikos of Armenia and All Armenians) in the Middle Ages.


The head archbishop of Armenia's national church, Armenian Apostolic Church. This title was also used to describe heads of several subdivisions of the Armenian Apostolic Church in medieval times, such as the Katholikos of Aghvank, Katholikos of the Great House of Cilicia and Katholikos of Akhtamar. Katholikos is also spelled as “Catholicos;” Armenian: Կաթողիկոս. The word is a transliteration of the Greek word καθολικός (plural καθολικοί), meaning “universal” or “general.”


Subdivision of the Armenian Apostolic Church that was in charge of parishes in Armenia’s historical provinces of Artsakh and Utik, and all lands east of Armenia’s traditional border. The rise of the Principality of Khachen in the 13th century made the Katholicosate of Aghvank and the Holy See of Gandzasar synonymous concepts. The Katholicosate of Aghvank played an important role in the Armenian national liberation movement of the 1720s-1730s.


County in the central part of the province of Artsakh, where the Gandzasar Monastery was built. Its name “Khachen” originates from the Armenian word “khach” (խաչ), which means “cross.”


Unique-to-Armenia stone monuments with engraved Christian cross or several crosses. Khachkars are used for funerary and other memorial purposes. As most Armenian monasteries, the Gandzasar Monastery has a number of khachkars, both inside and outside the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The word khachkar (Armenian: խաչքար) means “cross-stone,” with “khach” meaning cross and “kar” meaning stone.


Early medieval Armenian-ruled kingdom that was formed by the merger of the lands of the so-called “original Aghvank” (also known in Western academia as “Caucasian Albania” or “Caspian Albania”) and Armenia’s former provinces of Artsakh and Utik whose rulers acquired more autonomy after the partition of the Kingdom of Armenia in 387 AD. According to a legend discussed in early medieval Armenian history texts (such as the fifth century’s “History of Armenians” by Movses Khorenatsi), the term “Aghvank” derives from the nickname “Aghu” (աղու, meaning “kindhearted” in Armenian) given to the epic ruler of eastern Armenian provinces—Patriarch Arran. The disintegration of the Kingdom of Aghvank in the Middle Ages gave rise to Armenia’s Principality of Khachen, where the Gandzasar Monastery was built. Rulers of the Kingdom of Aghvank were known for their strong support of Armenian culture and religion.


Feudal lords (dukes) in some regions of the Southern Caucasus, most notably—in Armenia’s eastern provinces of Artsakh, Syunik and Utik. The word melik means “king” in some Semitic languages.


A principality in late medieval Armenia ruled by a melik.


Medieval Armenian princely dynasty established by Christened Persians who left their country and settled in Artsakh’s northern district of Gardman at the start of the seventh century. After moving to Gardman, Mihranians waged a long war against Artsakh’s autochthonous Arranshahik rulers. This conflict is described in Movses Kaghankatvatsi’s “History of the Land of Aghvank.”

Mihranians are related to the patron of the Gandzasar Monastery—Hasan Jalal Vahtangian. At the start of the ninth century, the Arranshahik prince Atrnerseh—son of Sahl Smbatian, Lord of Khachen (one of Hasan Jalal’s ancestors)—married the last dynast of the declining Mihranian clan, Princess Spram. Because of the marriage, Arranshahiks regained Gardman and extended their rule to a large portion of northeastern lands of Armenia.

Mihranians are known for their support of Armenian culture. One of the most important pieces of early medieval Armenian poetry—“Elegy on the Death of Prince Jevansher”—was written in the seventh century by the poet Davtak Kertogh. Each paragraph of the “Elegy” begins with a letter of the Armenian script, in alphabetical order.


Western cliché used to describe the territory of the USSR’s former Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region and the post-Soviet Nagorno Karabakh Republic.


The USSR’s territorial autonomy for ethnic Armenians who constituted majority population in Nagorno Karabakh. The Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR) was administratively subordinated to Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic in the beginning of the 1920s, by the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin—amid vocal protest of the region’s Armenian natives. NKAR’s link to Soviet Azerbaijan proved unsustainable: as soon as Moscow’s rule in the Southern Caucasus weakened in the late 1980s, NKAR’s population and leadership unanimously voted to secede from Soviet Azerbaijan and join Soviet Armenia. The secession constituted a prelude for the subsequent establishment of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, in 1991.

Azerbaijani administrators from Baku suppressed religious freedom in NKAR. As a result, the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region became known as the only autonomy in the USSR, which did not have a single functioning Christian temple despite the fact that its population was predominantly Christian—from 96 percent in 1926 to 80 percent in 1987.


De-facto independent state in the Southern Caucasus region that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union and breakup of the USSR’s Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991.


Name of the 12th province of historical Armenia, according to traditional Armenian medieval geographical nomenclature. It included territories located north and north-east of Artsakh, the 10th province. Most territories that comprised medieval Utik lie within the borders of modern Azerbaijani Republic; the north-western extremity of Utik covers a portion of the Province (“marz”) of Taush in the Republic of Armenia.


Medieval Armenian state established in the 13th century by Hasan Jalal Vahtangian, the founder of the Gandzasar’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, who reigned from 1214 to 1261. It comprised the county of Khachen as well as other lands traditionally associated with Armenia’s provinces of Artsakh and Utik. The Principality of Khachen is often referred to as the Kingdom of Artsakh.


Historical headquarters of the Armenian Apostolic Church located in the city of Vagharshapat, Armenia, and founded in the beginning of the fourth century. Saint Echmiadzin houses the seat of the Katholikos of All Armenians—the supreme patriarch and religious leader of Armenian Christians.


Capital of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.


Name of the 9th province of the historical Armenia, according to traditional Armenian medieval geographical nomenclature. Most of its territories overlap with the modern Province (“marz”) of Syunik of the Republic of Armenia. Syunik borders the province of Artsakh from the west, and has maintained strong historical, ethnological and cultural connection to Artsakh. Artsakh was often referred to through the Middle Ages as “Lesser Syunik.”


A princely dynasty that in the Middle Ages ruled several feudal domains in Armenia’s eastern province of Artsakh. The founder of Gandzasar’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist—Grand Prince Hasan Jalal Vahtangian—represented a Vahtangian family from Lower Khachen. Vahtangians took their name from Vahtang-Sakar Arranshahik, a ruler of the Principality of Haterk ( Upper Khachen) who founded the dynasty in the twelfth century.


An Armenian aristocratic dynasty that ruled most of Armenia on behalf of monarchs of Georgia, in the period between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. Hasan Jalal Vahtangian’s mother, Khorishah, was the daughter of amirspasalar Sargis Zakarian (Georgia’s supreme military commander), and sister of the famous Zakarian brothers—Ivane and Zakare—who liberated Armenia from Seljuk Turks. Zakarians were related to the Bagratuni kings of Ani and Vaspurakan’s Artsruni monarchs of Armenia.