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Khachkar in Goshavank , made in 1291 by Phogos

Khachkar ( Armenian խաչքար, transliterated Xač'k'ar , " cross stone ") is in the tradition of the Armenian Church an artistically carved memorial stone with a relief cross in the middle, which is surrounded by geometric and vegetable motifs. The upright, rectangular stone slabs up to three meters high are decorated with bas-reliefs on the front . They represent one of the central cultural symbols of the Armenians .

The oldest examples date from the 9th century, the creative high point of the Chatschkare was in the 12th and 13th centuries. Century. They can be found until the end of the 18th century. Khachkars have been made again since the end of the 20th century.


A khachkar is a stele , a monolith with engraved crosses, grapes, palmettes , animals, tendrils and characters. Chatschkars are memorial monuments and artistic objects. The focus is on the cross , the rest is completely covered with fine wickerwork, palmettes, tendrils, grapes, animal shapes, abstract knots and rosettes , and the lower half is often decorated with a sun disk. The stones are usually fully patterned. Occasionally the stone is crowned by a cornice with biblical themes or images of saints.

The stone slabs, up to three meters high, are in relief on the entire front and either smooth or with writing on the back. At the top, the younger hachkars are sometimes closed with a kind of crown.


Development and dissemination

The first khachkars in today's sense were developed in the 9th century after the Armenian areas south of the Caucasus and in Anatolia freed themselves from Arab domination. A cultural heyday began, during which a revival of the Armenian architectural style began. The chatschkars still preserved date mainly from the time up to the 13th century. Its changes over the decades and centuries run parallel to the stylistic changes that Armenian architecture experienced at that time.

Coarse-shaped proto-kachkars existed in the Armenian settlement areas earlier. Stone columns, menhirs , pillars and obelisks from pre-Christian times have been found in the east of today's Turkey. The oldest typical Khachkar known to us was made in 879. Queen Katranide had it built in Garni . She was the wife of King Ashot I Bagratuni .

From the 10th century onwards, the form compositions of the chatschkars became even more diverse. It was the time when the Armenian cities in what is now eastern Turkey, especially Ahlat on Lake Van , and in the Caucasus experienced an economic and cultural boom. Many monasteries were built. Architecture, painting, and sculpture turned to religious and secular subjects in a new way. The height of the art of kachkar-making began in the 12th century. Armenian sculptors were occasionally employed on the buildings of Muslim clients. The khachkar ornamentation influenced the forms of decoration on the Divriği mosque, which was completed in 1228/29 .

The invasion of the Seljuks and Mongols hampered the development of Armenian art. The following centuries are commonly referred to as the "dark period" in Armenian history . In the 16th and 17th centuries, Armenia was divided up, part fell to the Ottoman Empire (now Eastern Turkey), another part fell to Persia (now Iran).

The tradition lives on insofar as Khachkar sculptors can still be found in some areas in Yerevan . But the stone sculptors never again reached the artistic level of the Middle Ages. Today there are approximately 40,000 kachkars (still). Most of them are outside. Chatschkars, on which donation details were noted, were built into the walls of the monasteries. The following three hachkars are considered the finest examples of this art form:

  • The one in Geghard Monastery , probably made in 1213 by the masters Timot and Mechitar
  • The one in Haghpat , made in 1273 by Vahram
  • A Khachkar in Goshavank , made in 1291 by Poghos

Some valuable specimens were brought to the historical museum in Yerevan and behind the cathedral in Echmiadzin . The monuments have been divided into several groups by scientists. Yet each of them is individual.

Purpose and use

Khachkars were created as symbols of redemption and crucifixion , as gifts for monasteries and to spread Christianity. There are khachkars that commemorate military victories, record historically important events or commemorate the completion of wells, bridges and other structures.

Many hachkars were established for the salvation of the soul. An unfulfilled love should be remembered with others or protection from natural disasters should be requested.

The place with the largest concentration of Khachkars in Armenia is today a cemetery with around 900 Khachkars from different periods and different species, the Khachkars Field in Noratus on the western shore of Lake Sevan . Until the destruction, the Culfa cemetery in Nakhichevan (an autonomous republic in Azerbaijan ) was the largest concentration.

Historical evidence

Chatschkars are important today because of their inscriptions, which often name donors, stonecutters and events. They are thus documents of the history of the Armenians .

Systematic destruction of Khachkars in Azerbaijan

In December 2005, reports appeared that once again documented the systematic destruction of the works of art by Azerbaijani soldiers. The extent of the damage and destruction is considered immeasurable. The act of destruction testifies to the lack of any respect for the cultural heritage of other peoples, it is rated by supranational authorities as "similar to the Taliban's demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan" (see "The Independent", May 30, 2006) and is highly endangered Dimensions of Azerbaijan's attempts at rapprochement with the European Union.

See also

  • Knot pattern , medieval relief forms in Western Europe
  • Cross Slab , early Christian stone monuments in the British Isles


  • Hamlet Petrosyan: The Khachkar or Cross-Stone. In: Levon Abrahamian, Nancy Sweezy (Eds.): Armenian Folk Arts, Culture, and Identity. Indiana University Press, Bloomington 2001, ISBN 0-253-33704-6 , pp. 60-70 (English).
  • Krzysztof Bogusz Ostapowicz: Chaczkary. Koło Zainteresowań Kultura̧ Ormian przy Oddziale Warszawskim Polskiego Towarzystwa Ludoznawczego, Warsaw 1991 (Polish, summary in English).
  • Levon Azarian, Armen Manoukian: Khatchkar (=  Documenti di architettura armena , Volume 2). 3. Edition. Edition Ares, Milan 1977 (Italian, English and Armenian).
  • Josef Strzygowski : Cross stones (Chatschkar). In: Derselb .: The architecture of the Armenians and Europe. Volume 1. Results of a research trip carried out by the Art History Institute of the University of Vienna in 1913. A. Schroll & Co., Vienna 1918, pp. 257-260 ( Volume 1 at Internet Archive ).

Web links

Commons : Khachkar  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: խաչքար  - Explanations of meanings, word origins , synonyms, translations