In the hollow of north-western side of Toghasar or Chgnavor Mountain, among thick forests stands the famous monastery Gtchavank, the dome of which is seen from afar (Hadrut region of Artsakh).
Historical sources tell that Gtchavank has been one of the political and religious centers of the Western region of Armenia since ancient times. As the center for eparchy, the monastery had been under the patronage of Aranshakhiks and since the VIII century under the patronage of the Dizak branch of the same family. Neighboring the monastery is Ktish fortress, Yesayi Abu-Muse’s chair in the IX century. In X century the fortress became the center of the kingdom founded in Dizak.
In XIII century the monastery was enlarged due to new buildings, and during the reign of Dizak princes, especially in prince Avan or Yegan’s power, became one of the most famous monastery complexes of Armenia.
Epigraphic inscriptions preserved on the monuments state that ancient buildings of the monastery were destroyed during Arabic rule. According to the inscription the Cathedral Church of Gtchavank was built on the foundations of ruined ancient buildings. The construction started in 1241 and was finished seven years later in 1248.
The adjoining court-yard is much older than the church. Its floor is covered with tombs of monastery clergymen and some of the princes. The gravestones are decorated with beautiful and refined lace ornaments and have inscriptions.
To the north of the cathedral and the court-yard is the second church. It connects with the court-yard with its southern entrance. Thus, both churches have a common court-yard. Ornamented khachkars are inserted into the walls of the church. One of them dates back to 1000 A.D. It proves that another church, built with stone, existed in the place of the present one.
Numerous artistic khachkars, the oldest of which dates to IX and the newest to XIX centuries, are distinguished with their mastery.
In the western part of the complex ruins of living quarters and walls of the fortress still remain.
The monastery has played a great role in the cultural life of the region. As the main religious and educational center of Dizak throughout many centuries, the monastery preserved its importance up to the beginning of the previous century. With its architectural value and exquisitely significant role in the cultural life of the region, Gtchavank stands inline with such masterpieces of Armenian Church architecture as Gandzasar,Dadivank (Khutavank) and Amaras.