In the thick forests on the left slope of Marts river gorge, 2 km away from the village of Dsegh, there’s a unique treasure of Armenian medieval architecture, the Bardzrakash St. Gregory Monastery. Built in the 10th-13th centuries, this monastic complex is dedicated to St. Gregory the Illuminator, the patron saint and first Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
A major spiritual and educational center of northern Armenia in the Middle Ages, where clergymen were engaged in scientific work, the monastery now lies in ruins. Historical evidence suggests that the monastery of Bardzrakash St. Gregory did not have a long life; it is assumed that the complex was largely abandoned after the Mongol invasions of Armenia. The complex consists of two churches, of which the Cathedral of St. Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God), built in 1221, impresses with its grandeur and delicate decorations.
Adjacent to it is the St. Gregory church, built around the 10th century, and the narthex. The family cemetery of the Mamikonian aristocratic dynasty, remnants of an oil press facility, and numerous khachkars (cross-stones) are found in the area, and there’s a small chapel with an enthralling story to it.
Local lore has it that one day, during the construction of the monastery, a poisonous snake crawled into the cauldron when a meal was being cooked for the workers nearby. A crow that happened to be flying above the site, noticed the snake and began to fly in circles trying to warn the people. But no one could understand what the crow was communicating. When they finally sat around to begin the meal, the crow threw itself into the cauldron. Disgusted, people emptied the cauldron and only then realized that the bird had saved their lives. Humbled by the crow’s sacrifice, they buried it and built a chapel above the grave.
The monastic complex of Bardzrakash St. Gregory is accessible via an easy, marked hiking trail that starts from the main square of the village of Dsegh.