St. Sarkis Monastery

High above the village of Ushi on a plain hill lies the semi-ruined 5th-13th century Saint Sarkis Monastery. It sits at the far side of what was once a settlement site from the 3rd - 1st millennia BC. The monastery is a pilgrimage site and was one of the centers of spiritual education in Armenia. Many examples of early Armenian architecture from several periods can be seen around the complex. Around the outside is a large 17th-century fortification wall. The complex consists of St. Sarkis Chapel, Sourp Astvatsatsin Church, a vestibule, a belfry, a refectory, a vaulted guest chamber, some monk dwellings and utility rooms, all of them surrounded by ramparts and fortified by double-storied circular towers in the corners. These were mostly ruined or damaged during earthquakes in 1679 and 1827. The only building not completely destroyed was the single-nave vaulted St. Sarkis chapel that houses the grave of Saint Sarkis, the Armenian Patron Saint of love and youth (died 363). His remains were brought to this site from Assyria by Saint Mesrob Mashtots in the 5th century and the monastery was built over his relics. His relics were not discovered until 1999! Restoration work was done on the chapel in December 2003 to the spring of 2004, and recent archaeological excavations have started to take place under the patronage of Archbishop Shahen Ajemian headed by Frina Babayan. Archaeologists have cleared the collapsed structures and are currently (as of Aug. 2009) working to piece together parts of the collapsed church and gavit.

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