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Noratus and the field of khachkars - A view from our expert author


It is quite impossible to do justice to the carved stones on a single visit.

One of Armenia’s most amazing sights is the field of khachkars. On the eastern edge of Noratus is a huge cemetery with a modern section which is quite interesting but with an array of stones from the medieval period onwards where the range and fascination of the khachkars are overwhelming. Although there are many groups of khachkars in Armenia, nowhere can rival the impression made by the approximately 900 here. It is quite impossible to do justice to the carved stones on a single visit and one can merely wander across the site gazing in amazement at a row of 15 erect ones here, an area of recumbent ones there, no two alike.

Field of khachkars, Noratus by Maros Markovic, ShutterstockOne of Armenia’s most amazing sights is the field of khachkars in Noratus © Maros Markovic, Shutterstock

Stones with single crosses, stones with multiple crosses, geometric patterns, naturalistic ones: it is quite impossible to take in the riot of carved detail. Perhaps the sheep who graze here every day eventually learn to appreciate the detail but mere tourists don’t have a chance. The AMAP information boards at the cemetery give much detail but visitors may find it useful to carry with them the description of the Noratus cemetery walking tour instituted by AMAP in 2010 (see their website: www.armenianmonuments.org/en/monument/Noratus). A small problem is that the numbers on the posts have disappeared: the suspicion is that this is the work of small boys who hope thereby to act as guides! Visitors should note that, like all khachkars which are still in their original positions, these face west and can therefore most easily be photographed in the afternoon.

On the southern edge of the village of Noratus stands the small white 9th- or 10th-century church of St Gregory with its relatively high cylindrical tambour. The narrow front of the church combines with the small projecting corner rooms, the high tambour and the conical dome to give the appearance of a space rocket. Behind the east end of the church is a row of ten interesting khachkars. In the centre of the village the larger 9th-century Mother of God Church has been under gradual restoration for several years.

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