Akhtala, Lori Region, Republic of Armenia
Akhtala monastery complex was built in 10th century by Bagratuni house located in Akhtala town, Lori Region. It is surrounded by natural barriers and the only entrance to the castle is from the north which is defended by three-story conical tower and barriers. Prince Ivane Zakarian and his son were buried near the church building. The dome of the church was damaged during Tamerlane's invasions.
There is a legend about Khan's invasions in Akhtala. It is said that the villagers hid behind the church's altar and kept silent until the enemy would leave. But when the khan's army was in the village and the entire village was hiding in the church, a newborn started to cry and the khan heard that voice and understood that the voice came from behind of the altar. But the soldiers couldn't find the entrance of the altar. He ordered to destroy it. Only an image of Holy Virgin with Child was damaged and the monastery survived.
The three-story castle (13th century) is situated at the main entrance. The barriers defended the northern entrance of Akhtala monastery. It includes the main church which is Saint Astvatsatsin, a little hall near the church and a small church. According to Historians Vardan Areveltsi and Kirakos Gandzaketsi in that small church were buried Duke Ishkhan and his son Avag. On the walls of the church, various icons and images of apostles Petros, Hovhannes, Poghos, Ghukas, and Mathevos have survived. The paintings are 800 years old and have never been renovated. They were preserved due to a special blue ink, lazurite, that was prepared at the Akhtala's copper mine.
In the northern side of Saint Astvatsatsin were residential and economic buildings, nowadays remained only the walls. There were assumptions that this residence was inhabited by castle guards. The remained walls prove that this building had a hall and bedrooms. The building had an exit to the tunnel leading to the river gorge and underground storages. Near the main church is situated a small which was built in the 13th century.