Historical and mysterious Noratus khachkar cemetery

Lusine Vardanyan | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Today you are traveling to Noratus khachkar cemetery, a historical and mysterious place, which may seem a bit scary to some people (like to me, for instance). I know it might sound a bit weird to visit the cemetery, but it's not a standard one and has a cultural and historical component in it. It's located not far from the Lake Sevan, which provides you with an opportunity to see two sites by making just one trip.  

Picture © credits to iStock/efesenko

Lake Sevan

Lake Sevan is the pearl of Armenia. When the Russian-Turkish war ended in 1828-29, and they signed the Treaty of Adrianople, the Russians who had captured Western Armenia previously,  according to the agreement they returned it to Turkey. However, they had a special point on Western Armenians that allowed them to emigrate to Eastern Armenia. From Erzrum, Van and some other cities, a huge amount of people moved to Eastern Armenia. Many people from Van decided to settle by the Lake Sevan. They saw the lake and said “This is Van”. In the Armenian language, it sounds like “Sa Vann e”, and this is how the lake Sevan got its name. If the lake was Sevan, then like with the lake Van, the island had to be called Akhtamar (that’s how it’s called by the locals here). However, the real name of it is the Sevan peninsula. 

Picture © credits to iStock/ Ozbalci

The cemetery of khachkars

After driving for a certain period of time across the lake, you will get to the Noratus cemetery. The culture of making khachkars (the cross-stones in Armenian) dates back to the 4th century, and even nowadays, it is very popular in Armenia. But the development of the khachkar making culture started in the 7th century. The 13th and the 14th centuries are considered to be the Renaissance of the khachar making culture. The best and most impressive ones had been made during that period of time. 

We had two khachkar cemeteries, one of which was in Nakhichevan (currently this part is not in the territory of Armenia, since in1921 it became a part of the neighboring country, and they started the extermination of Armenians from that territory).  It was a part of Vaspurakan Province of Armenia, and starting from 908, it became a part of Syunik province of Armenia. In Nakhichevan, there was the Jugha’s Khachkar cemetery with more than 2500 Khachkars. The idea of khachkar was not just to place them on the tombs, but they also served as a memorial to different events that took place in the country. The whole khachkar cemetery was destroyed because of the vandalism, as they could not help seeing the Armenian crosses all over that territory. Currently, we are in the process of restoration of (Nakkhichevan’s) khachkars, meaning that there are some pictures left, and based on that pictures, we are trying to renovate the saved ones.

Picture © credits to iStock/efesenko

Noratus is the second biggest khachkar cemetery of Armenians. There are around 1500 khachkars. They date back to the period between the 9th and the 17th century. The old cross stones are based on the old part of the cemetery. They say that during the Lenk Temur's invasions, when the soldiers approached (back then the ruling family were Varuznunis), they covered the khachkars with the cloaks, and the Temur’s soldiers thought that it was an army waiting for them, and they withdraw their soldiers. However, in the morning, they realized those were not people, and they attacked. The khachkars on which you see Jesus are called the Holy Savior. The most known one left in Armenia is located by the Hagpat Monastery.  

Picture © credits to iStock/atosan

Well, the Noratus khachkar cemetery has something historical and cultural to tell, and the decision on visiting this mysterious place should be made based on your individual approach to these kinds of places. 

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