Kobayr Monastery

Kobayr people sitting on stones

Natia Natsvlishvili

The Monastery of Kobayr (1171-1279) is located near the town of Tumanyan in the Republic of Armenia. It occupies the small flat area of a mountain slope on the left bank of the river Debeda. The Monastery can be reached through a gate found in the southern wall of the enclosure.

The oldest structure among the monastery buildings is the single-nave main church built in 1171 by the daughters of the King Kvirike II (1145-1170) of Tashir-Dzoraget – Mariam and Rusudan. According to Kirakos Gandzaketsi, the former Armenian Monastery of Kobayr was converted to a Chalcedonian foundation by Khoshak – the wife of Shanshe Mkhargrdzeli and daughter-in-law of Zakaria Mkhargrdzeli (1207-1262). After this, Kobayr became the burial place of Shanshe Mkhargrdzeli’s family.

Between the 1230s and 1240s the main church of the Virgin was erected to the west of the main church. It is a large single-nave building with a jamatoun and a small chapel attached to its north wall. The southern wall of the church hangs over the rock. Both the jamatoun and the chapel were added in the 1250s and functioned as a burial place for the Mkhargrdzelis. In 1276, the monk Giorgi, son of Shanshe Mkhargrdzeli, repaired damaged parts of the church and jamatoun. Wall paintings in the church and the chapel date to 1260s.

In 1279 a canopy-type bell-tower was added to the monastery buildings. A Georgian asomtavruli inscription carved on the south wall mentions Mkhargrdzeli (son of Shahansha, chief of police in medieval Georgia) and his wife Vaneni. The monastery also includes a refectory and a two-apsed chapel located near the entrance gate.

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