Amaras monastery was an early medieval spiritual and cultural centre as well as an episcopacy in Artsakh.
Amaras was established in the 4th century by legendary St.Grigor Lusavorich. The construction of the monastery was completed by Bishop Grigoris, grandson of St. Grigor Lusavorich. He was martyred in 338 when spreading Christianity in Aghvank. Historical sources refer to St. Gri
goris as a 20 years old young man who was tied to the horses in Islamic Aghvank and quartered. According to the legend, Grigoris’ corpse was left in the field but it neither decayed nor was it eaten by wild animals. In 489 Aghvank's king Vachagan 3rd the Pious, found St. Grigoris' tomb and built a chapel on top of it. He also reconstructed the monastery so that St. Grigoris' mausoleum
would be under the church stage.
At the beginning of the 5th century in Amaras Mesrop Mashtots established the first Armenian school in Artsakh. This was a start for disseminating Armenian manuscript, and Amaras became one of the greatest cultural and spiritual centers in Armenia. During that period 36 living and other auxiliary buildings were established next to the monastery. La
ter horse stables were built too. In the 18th century the monastery was completely fenced and in each of its corners round towers were established in order to make the monastery more impregnable.
Near the household premises people built an entertainments hall. There is an image at the end of the hall that resembles a bride and a groom facing each other. People say that the hall wa
s a place for celebrations after wedding ceremonies.
Amaras monastery always suffered because of Arab and Mongol invasions, but each time it was reconstructed, and the school never stopped to function. During one of the invasions the most valuable treasures of the monastery, which is St. Grigoris’ scepter and golden cross decorated with 36 precious stones, were stolen. Legend says
that during one of the Mongol-Tatar raids led by Lenk Temur, people escaped to the river via a tunnel that opened from inside the monastery. When Lenk Temur enters the church he finds nobody there. He orders his soldiers to destroy the church and throw the stones in Araqs river. By the time soldiers take the stones to river, people bring them back via the tunnel. Unfortunately they did
not manage to bring all the stones back and later on built a bridge with the remaining part.
There are weapon emplacements on the fence around the church which were built by Cossacs during the Russian-Persian war. During that period the area of the monastery served as a customhouse for traders that came on their camels to make a stop here on their way to Russia.
By the end o
f the 19th century Amaras monastery had many properties, lands, gardens and water mills. During the years of the Soviet governance the monastery was completely abandoned, and in 1848 when it was returned to the Armenian Church it was already destroyed. In 1858 a new church was built on the ruins of the old church. The monastery also suffered during the Artsakh Liberation War. When the
church passed under Azerbaijani rule, St. Grigoris' tomb was also destroyed. Only in 1992 after it was liberated the monastery was reopened and operates until today.