Amberd is a 7th century Armenian fortress located 2.300 meters (7.500 ft) above sea level, on the slopes of Mount Aragats at the confluence of the Arkashen and Amberd rivers in the Aragatsotn province of Armenia. The village Byurakan is located 4 miles (6.4 km) away from the Amberd.
The site where the fortress sits presently started as a Stone Age settlement. Some sources say that Amberd used to be a summer residence for kings. The castle of Amberd and some sections of walls were constructed in the 7th century as a possession of the noble House of Kamsarakan. Four centuries later the fortress and surrounding lands were purchased by the House of Pahlavuni and rebuilt by Prince Vahram Vachutian Pahlavuni, as it is recorded in the manuscripts of Grigor Pahlavuni. Vahram built the church of Holy Mother of God in 1026 and fortified the complex with thicker stone walls. Despite being unusual for a military installation, a bath house was built in the same period and has remained moderately intact along with the water supply system. Amberd was invaded in the 1070s by the Seljuq Turks who turned it into a military base. In 1197, a joint-army of Georgians and Armenians led by General Zakareh Zakarian liberated the fortress. Under Zakarian control during the 12th and 13th centuries, the walls were structurally reinforced and the castle and outer buildings were renovated. The noble Vacheh Vachutian purchased Amberd in 1215 and made it a key defensive site in the region. Within a short period of time, in 1236, the Mongols captured and destroyed the fortress. The site remained abandoned and untouched until the 20th century, when reconstruction and archaeological excavations began.
The castle ruins of Amberd comprised an area of 1.500 square meters. Its walls are constructed of roughly hewn basalt blocks. Tower walls are inclined to have made it easier to fire on invaders below. The interior of the castle had three-stories, each floor is separated from another by wood planks clinched on logs. There were five rooms in the first and second floor, each arranged in a row where one would enter each room through the previous room.
On the third floor were the reception areas and private rooms for its royal inhabitants. The structural configuration is thought to have not changed since it was first built in the 7th century. Excavations have shown that the interior of the castle and rooms were quite lavish with elegantly carved decorations in the rooms, oil lamps, incense holders, and walls decorated with silks, brocades and bronze, gold and silver ornamentation.
The church of Holy Mother of God also known as Vahramashen church was built for Prince Vahram Pahlavuni. An inscription on the inside lintel of the north portal to the church date its completion to the year 1026. It sits near the Amberd fortress.
The church is a cruciform type structure with four two-story chambers in the corners. A large circular twelve-faceted drum sits on top of the church with thin corner columns supporting the peaked arches of the umbrella dome above.