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A Khachkar or Khatchkar ("Խաչքար" in Armenian, meaning "cross-stone", pronounced as IPA: [χɑtʃkɑɹ]) is a carved memorial stone, typically found in Armenia.[1]


Definition and purpose

The most common feature is a cross, rarely with a crucifix, with a rosette or sun disc below it. The remainder is usually filled with patterns of leaves, grapes or abstract knotwork patterns. Occasionally it is surmounted by a cornice with biblical or saints' characters.

The most common reason for erecting a khachkar was for votive reasons - for the salvation of the soul of either a living or a deceased person. They were also erected for other reasons, such as to commemorate a military victory, construction of a church, or as a form of protection from natural disasters.[2]

The most common location for a khachkar is in a graveyard. However Armenian gravestones take many other forms, and only a minority are khatchkars.


Amenaprkich (meaning "of the Holy Saviour") is a term used to describe a particular type of khachkar, in which on the cross is a depiction of the crucified Christ. Only a few such designs are known, and most date from the late 13th century.


The first true khachkars appeared in the 9th century, during the time of Armenian revival after liberation from Arab rule. The oldest khachkar with a known date was carved in 879 (though earlier, cruder, examples exist). Erected in Garni, it is dedicated to queen Katranide, the wife of king Ashot I Bagratuni. The peak of the khachkar carving art was between the 12th and the 14th centuries. The art declined during the Mongol invasion at the end of the 14th century. It revived in the 16th and 17th centuries, but the artistic heights of the 14th century were never achieved again. Today, the tradition still remains, and one can still see khachkar carvers in some parts of Yerevan.[3]

About 40,000 khachkars survive today. Most of them are free standing, though those recording donations are usually built into monastery walls. The following three khachkars are believed to be the finest examples of the art form:

  • One in Geghard, carved in 1213, probably by Timot and Mkhitar
  • The Holy Redeemer khachkar in Haghpat, carved in 1273 by Vahram
  • A khachkar in Goshavank, carved in 1291 by Poghos

A number of good examples have been transferred to the Historical Museum in Yerevan and beside the cathedral in Echmiadzin. The location in Armenia with the largest surviving collection of khachkars is the field of khachkars at Noraduz cemetery, on the western shore of the Lake Sevan, where an old graveyard with around 900 khachkars from various periods and of various styles can be seen. The largest collection in the world was formerly located in Julfa in the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan.

Endangered khachkars

A large portion of khachkars, which were created in historic Armenia and surrounding regions, in modern times have become the possession of Turkey, Azerbaijan, and partly Georgia and Iran. As a result of systematic eradication of khachkars in Turkey today only a few examples survive. Unfortunately these single examples are not cataloged and properly photographed. Thus, it is difficult to follow up with the current situation. [4] One documented example is the Khachkar destruction in Nakhchivan.[5][6][7]

One source[8] says that khachkars are being damaged, neglected, or moved in Armenia. Reasons sited for moving khachkars include for decoration, to create new holy places or to make space for new burials.

See also

  • Celtic knot
  • Kackar
  • Stele


  1. ^ Gough M. The Origins of Christian Art, London, 1973
  2. ^ “Armenian Khatchkars” (Editions Erebuni, 1978)
  3. ^ Anatoli L. Yakobson. Armenian Khachkars, Moscow, 1986
  4. ^ Der Nersessian S. Armenian Art, Paris, 1978.
  5. ^ Azerbaijan: Famous Medieval Cemetery Vanishes. Caucasus Reporting Service, Institute for War and Peace Reporting (April 19, 2006). Retrieved on 2007-04-15.
  6. ^ "World Watches In Silence As Azerbaijan Wipes Out Armenian Culture", The Art Newspaper, 2006-05-25. Retrieved on 2006-05-25. 
  7. ^ "Tragedy on the Araxes", Archaeology, 2006-06-30. Retrieved on 2006-06-30. 
  8. ^ Endangered Khachkars
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Khachkar". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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