Zorats Church of Yeghegis
Vayots Dzor, Armenia
Overlooking the River Yeghegis in a small village of the same name lies a structure completely unique to those found in Armenia - a church with no inner hall. Instead, the Zorats Church with its unusually high altar opens to an open, western expanse. The reason is simple, yet requires brief backstory. In the 13th century, at the height of the Orbelian Dynasty in southern Armenia, turbulent times were underway. As a tributary of the Mongols and at constant threat of the Mamluks to the west, Yeghegis was the forefront of sending out warriors for battle.
The Zorats Church was constructed for a very specific purpose - to send out a blessing for the troops heading to battle. Therefore, the open setting of the church and the raised altar meant soldiers on horseback could receive that blessing without even dismounting their loyal steed. This is also the first and only church in Armenia built for this purpose.
In the heart of the village of Yeghegis, a small settlement, and ancient capital, in Vayots Dzor province of Armenia.
Built in the 13th to 14th centuries by an Orbelian Prince, the ruling family of the region.
It's purpose was to send out an efficient blessing to the passing soldiers that went out from and patrolled the area.
Although it no longer receives soldiers on horseback, the church still stands as a symbol of the village one of Vayots Dzor's most famous churches.
We made a loop around Yeghegis with the sole point of visiting Zorats Church. The western side lead us through the simple, yet beautiful village until we reached open fields where the church lie. The surroundings are what make this church so special in our memory, with the steep rocks to the south and open lands to the north. Departing eastwards, the we were caught up with a few shepherd boys. Overall, the experience was unique and felt as if we were still in the 13th century.