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Geghard Monastery

Geghard Monastery: Ancient Guardian of the Lance that Stabbed Jesus?

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According to the Gospel of John, Jesus was stabbed in his side by a lance whilst hanging from the cross. As a result, this weapon is believed to possess supernatural powers and it became an important and much sought after Christian relic. Over the centuries, a number of churches have claimed to possess this sacred object. One such claimant is the Geghard Monastery, or Geghardavank (meaning ‘Monastery of the Spear’).

The Foundation of Geghard Monastery

The Geghard Monastery is located in Kotayk, a province in the center of Armenia. Situated at the head of the Azat Valley, the monastery is surrounded by towering cliffs. In fact, part of the monastery is carved out of the adjacent mountain. According to tradition, the Geghard Monastery was founded in the 4th century AD by St. Gregory the Illuminator. The site where St. Gregory chose to build the monastery was a spring arising in a cave that was regarded as sacred prior to the arrival of Christianity. Thus, the Geghard Monastery was known in earlier times as Ayvirank (meaning ‘Monastery of the Cave’)

Detail of the famous cave inside the Geghard Monastery, Photo by Arabsalam. 2010, Armenia.

Detail of the famous cave inside the Geghard Monastery, Photo by Arabsalam. 2010, Armenia. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Rebuilding the Monastery

Nothing remains of this first monastery, as it was destroyed in the 9th century AD by the Arabs. At the end of Muslim rule in Armenia, however, the monastery was re-established. The most ancient part of the present monastery is the Chapel of St. Gregory the Illuminator. The earliest inscription on its external wall has been dated to 1177 AD. This small chapel is located to the east outside of the main monastery complex. Carved directly into the rock of the mountainside, this project was abandoned before it was completed. By the first half of the 13th century, another building project was underway, thanks to the patronage of the brothers Zakare and Ivane, who were generals of the Georgian Queen Tamar .

"The Baptism of the Armenian People. Gregory the Illuminator" by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1892.

"The Baptism of the Armenian People. Gregory the Illuminator" by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1892. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Under the two generals, the Kathoghikè (the main church) was built. According to an inscription, this church was built in 1215. Prior to 1250, the first cave church was also built.

Not long after, the monastery was bought by the princes of the Proshyan dynasty. Under the patronage of this Armenian noble family, the monastery was further developed. Over a short period of time, a second cave church, a hall for gathering and studies, as well as numerous monastic cells were also built. Furthermore, the family sepulchre of the Proshyan dynasty can also be found in the monastery. This is indicated by their coat of arms – two chained lions, between which is an eagle with half-spread wings, whose claws grasp a calf, carved in the rock.     

Chapel at Khor Virap, Armenia. Inside there's a cave where Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for about 13 years, Photo by Heretiq, 2005.

Chapel at Khor Virap, Armenia. Inside there's a cave where Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for about 13 years, Photo by Heretiq, 2005. ( Wikimedia Commons )

It was also during the 13th century that the monastery gained its present name. When the monastery was re-established, it was first given the name ‘Monastery of the Seven Churches’.  It was also known as the ‘Monastery of the Forty Altars’. In time, however, the name of the monastery was changed to Geghard Monastery. This was due to a legend, which claimed that the lance that pierced the side of Jesus was brought to Armenia by the St. Jude the Apostle, known also as Thaddeus, and was stored in the monastery.

Christian Relics Linked to the Unique Armenian Monastery

In addition to this lance, the monastery was said to have housed a number of other Christian relics, including relics of the Apostles Andrew and John. It was these relics, the Holy Lance above all, which drew pilgrims to the Geghard Monastery. In the following centuries, numerous grants of land, money, manuscripts and other valuables were donated to the monastery. The internal walls of the Kathoghikè provide many inscriptions recording the donations made by pilgrims.

Fresco by Fra Angelico, Dominican monastery at San Marco, Florence, showing the lance piercing the side of Jesus on the cross (c. 1440)

Fresco by Fra Angelico, Dominican monastery at San Marco, Florence, showing the lance piercing the side of Jesus on the cross (c. 1440) ( en.wikipedia.org)

The lance currently in Echmiadzin, Armenia. It was discovered during the First Crusade in St. Peter's Cathedral in Antioch. Photo by Emanuele Iannone - Museum of Echmiadzin, Armenia. 2009.

The lance currently in Echmiadzin, Armenia. It was discovered during the First Crusade in St. Peter's Cathedral in Antioch. Photo by Emanuele Iannone - Museum of Echmiadzin, Armenia. 2009. ( en.wikipedia.org)

As of today, the Holy Spear can no longer be seen in the Geghard Monastery, as it is now resides in the museum of the Echmiadzin Monastery in the spiritual capital of the country. It is held in a special case of gilded silver made in 1687. Nevertheless, Geghard Monastery is still a popular tourist destination for local and foreign visitors alike. The site was even inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2000, a testament to its importance in the history of Armenia and the world.

And Now You Can Visit Geghard Monastery Virtually

Geghard Monastery also became accessible to worldwide pilgrims and others interested in the site in 2017. That’s when the monastery joined several other archaeological sites in the country in the 360GreatArmenia VR app and website. The project has the goal of “making virtual tours available from anywhere.”

A report on the project on Smithsonian.com explains what you can see if you check out the 360 degree virtual experience: “The resulting stitched images, taken both by drones and photographers on the ground, allow viewers to switch from aerial to street views, navigate through interiors and view relics and historical art.”

Featured image: Wide view of Geghard monastery from within the monastic walls. Photo by Serouj Ourishian. 2011. ( en.wikipedia.org)

By Ḏḥwty

References

Armenian Travel Bureau, 2010. Geghard Monastery. [Online]
Available at: http://www.atb.am/en/armenia/sights/christ/geghard/

serflac, 2015. Geghard Monastery. [Online]
Available at: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/monastery-of-geghard

UNESCO, 2015. Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley. [Online]
Available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/960

www.armeniapedia.org, 2010. Geghard Monastery. [Online]
Available at: http://www.armeniapedia.org/index.php?title=Geghard_Monastery

www.lonelyplanet.com, 2015. Introducing Geghard Monastery. [Online]
Available at: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/armenia/geghard-monastery

Comments

Hello,

I'm a Christian, i will always keep my Faith where the Savior is concern.

An if anyone feels like booing me I understand we're all different where all unique where all not going to agree on the same things I'm beginning see that now.

I will always keep the Last words spoken by one of my Earthly Heroes The Apostle of Non-violence;
Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr's "I've been to The Mountain Top" speech close to my heart b. 1929-A.1968.

I still doubt whether that Lance said to be in the Monastry is the actual Lance the Roman Soldier used to pierce Christ after he died. Perchance someone is actively seeking this Lance out it's probably to get Jesus DNA.

That's all I have

Where did you get all that fantasy from ?  Do not interpret the gospels as literal !    There was no gospel historical Jesus nor 12 apostles.  Therefore, there was no lance put into ‘’him’’.  God / Yahweh is a fantasy made up by Jews based on dying and rising sun Gods from more ancient times.   There was no Exodus or Moses not even a Ark as in the story.  If at all the Ark was a Egyptian made box it was in reality made as a capacitor with electrodes. It is not really known why they made it that way.  There are some clues to capacitor in the story though.  It will give of electrical discharges now and then.  Yea because when you drag it through a dry hot desert it will charge with static electricity to some extent.   It would not be dangerous however but in the story made up it was of course exaggerated.  So forget about your fantasy above in your comment for it is already been debunked in full for years.  Do some study on the origin of your religion please. Start with astrotheology. 

Keep an open mind

Hi All,

All I have to say on this Subject are two things 1# this sounds like one of the reasons why Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis on the church doors that an The selling of Indulgences which the church sold.

2# this sounds a lot like the monastery is worshipping a graven image such as this Lance instead of Testimony of Christ dying on The Cross for the Whole World's Sins.
Here's a refresher on the first 2 Ten Commandments: Exodus 20 & Deuteronomy chapter 5.

1. Thou shalt have No other gods before Me; for I Am a Jealous God.

2. Thou Shalt not make unto Thee Any graven image; neither what is in the air, what is in the Sea, what is on the Land.

Quick example 1st Samuel Israel had a great battle to wage against The Philistines after losing the first fight Israel came up with the solution to bring the Ark of the Covenant Chest in to the next battle thinking God would grant them victory.

First God never gave them permission to remove the Ark from the Holiest of Holy places and Second the box wasn't the power they worshipping the Ark as an Idol had they wanted Victory they could have as a Nation prayed to God directly but, they didn't and they lost the War.

That Lance that they believe this monastery has is a lot like what happened to Israel with the Ark against the Philistines their worshipping the Lance and Not Christ.

And like the Philistines attempted when they captured that Ark wanting to harness its power that's what the monastery is looking to do.

The monastery may not see that's what their doing after all this has been going on for centuries now it is how it looks to me I know not too many people will agree about my perspective on this Subject involving The Roman Lance that has Jesus Blood on it.

That's all I have to say on this Topic of the Lance and The Monastry.

Hope I haven't offended anyone not my intention.

Until next time Everyone, Goodbye!

Regarding what was used to 'stab' the person known to us as Jesus, the Christ, yes, the Romans had what we today call a "lance" or "spear". The 'pilum' was as someone described above -- a 'needle' with a wooden haft, more or less -- =however=, it was an item used 'in the field' ((any former service member knows what that means and what the distinction is)), =not= while on garrison duty. "Spears" -were- used in towns, etc, but that 'thing' in the silver case in that picture -is- =not= a 'spear head', period, full stop! A specifically made pseudo-artifact, sure, easily, but a 'duty object' to be used 'for real'? Sorry, not a chance.

There never was a historical Jesus so no spear forget it ! This is a nonsense discussion ..

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