Aghdam province
VANKASAR

    The cliff called Vankasar is situated 8.5 km northwest of the town of Aghdam and 1.5 km west of the Shahbulagh village. It is an isolated rock towering above the plain. Its absolute altitude is 290 m (from foot to top) and the altitude over the sea is 681 m.
    The church though damaged but still standing was on top that cliff till the eighties. Owing to its old age (VI-VII cent.) and planning peculiarities (cross-planned with a dome and three altar apses) it was in the focus of the historians and architects attention. The first to mention this church was Archbishop Sarkis Jalaliants: "The damaged church on top the cliff is believed to have been the See of this province." Later Senior Priest Yeghishe Gueghamiants (Haykuni) noted: "the people call the said chapel "Levonaberd."
    Visiting the church in the eighties of the past century preceptor Khachik Dadian mapped the church and copied the "4 arshin" inscription of a khachkar, which read:

"I SHAHANSHAH, THE SON OF ASHOT ERECTED THIS CROSS FOR MY SOUL. WHOEVER MAY READ, REMEMBER MY PRAYERS, DATE (1263)."

    In his research, published in 1895 Bishop Makar Barkhutariants included some of the legends associated with the construction of Vankasar. One of them refers to the construction of this church to the dethroned prince Vache II (V cent): "Vache II of Albania built a cross planned hermitage, the dome of which has presently fully declined..."
    Later Sh. Mkrtchian dedicated a brief chapter to Vankasar using the measurements of architect Armen Ghazarian in his monograph republished for a number of times.
Vankasar. Mount seen from west. Cross relief on the tympanum of the western entrance of the church in 1986, and upon the restoration. Khachkar transfered from Vankasar to Aghdam (XII-XVI cent). Restored anchor (1993).
    The inscribed khachkar of 1263 described and copied by Kh. preceptor Dadian was not in situ during the restoration works of 1986, but we noticed another uninscribed cross in the debris within the church yard, which was later delivered to the Aghdam Open air Museum.
    2 km north of the Vankasar church, on the rocky slope of a mount at the bank of the Khachen River, there was a cave chapel, with interior dimensions: L8.0xW3.5xH4.7 m. The altar cut in the eastern side of the church occupied 2 sq. m only. The chapel had a small stone platform in the front; simple relief crosses adorned its walls. The ruins of a medieval Armenian cemetery were situated a little below the chapel.
Vankasar. The church during "restoration" (1986) and after the "restoration" (1993).

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