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The monastery Akhtala (or Pghndzahanq Monastery) was fortified in 10th century. It is located in the city Akhtala of Lori region. Along with the monastery the fortress is located in the central part of the city, on high peninsula shaped ground, preserved by high stone fence. Historians of 13th century remember the fortress as Pghndzahanq (copper mine). It is seen from the same historians that the main building of the monastery is St. Astvatsatsin (St. Mary) church built in the first quarter of 13th century. From design it can be seen that it is built in the Georgian style. The monastery is known for its cool and highly artistic frescos painted in 13th century when the monastery transformed into Chalcedonian. The colors of frescos are close to Byzantine, but the choice of themes are Armenian. The majority of frescos have Greek inscriptions, the other ones Georgian. Frescos are remarkable especially Astvatsamayr (Virgin) sitting on the throne with child Jesus on the wall of altar, holy sacrament, Hovhannes-Karapet on the northern wall, frescos with judgment issues on the western wall, up to waist standing-up and full-length images of the saints, etc. Later the roof was covered with basalt slabs, and the frescos were fortified.

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On the north-west of the main church there is a 13th century church with one cupola, rectangular plan and two-sided roof. The entrance is on the western side without internal design. From lengthwise walls two large windows are opened. This church was covered with frescos inside but only traces are preserved. A hall was attached with two-sided roof on the western wall, which was not preserved. On the northern side of St. Astvatsatsin was founded two-story building of monastery union accommodation, from which only the walls were left. The St. Trinity monastery (13th century) is located on the north-east of the Akhtala monastery. It consists of two adjacent churches – chapel and outer hall.

St. Gevorg (1242-1250) church is located on the east from the center of the city. There are Georgian inscriptions on the wall. And, there is an old cemetery spread around the church.

There are other standing or half-ruined architectural monuments of 10 - 13th centuries in the city Akhtala, such as the Church of Barsegh, the chapel of Ivan and Demetre, the fortress close to the Akhtala station, etc., which proves the rich medieval past of Akhtala. Currently Akhtala monastery has pilgrimage days when Armenians, Greeks and Georgians visit the Monastery.

 

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