Obscura Day 2015: Sacred Armenia - Atlas Obscura
Join us on an Atlas Obscura Trip in 2019 »

Yerevan, Armenia

Obscura Day 2015: Sacred Armenia

From a 4th- century monastery founded by Gregory the Illuminator to a modern-day "divine underground" hand-carved by a man motivated by visions and dreams, explore Armenia's spiritual side.

At the turn of the 4th century, only one nation in the world had accepted Christianity as its official religion, and it was not a country anyone would expect. Led by Gregory the Illuminator who baptized the Armenian royal family in 301, the nation plunged into religion, collecting artifacts and building spectacular monasteries along the way.

The Geghard Monastery began only as a small cave chapel, which Gregory declared held a sacred spring in the 4th century. From there, the complex grew, becoming more ornate and massive. In 1215, the main and most prominent chapel was built. Partially carved out of the rocks on all sides of it, the stone monastery melds beautifully with its surroundings and stands out among the outcroppings above.

Lyova (Levon) Arakelyan, a builder by trade was already 44 when his wife, Tosya, asked him to create a potato cellar beneath their home in Arinj, Armenia in 1985. Yet by the time he passed away at the age of 67 he had dug a stunning series of caves beneath their home using nothing but hand tools, instinct, and a tireless work ethic.

Tosya has since said that her husband was motivated by dreams and visions in which a voice told him he must continue carving the cave. He worked every day, often for up to 18 hours with little rest and only his small hand tools to carve the hard rock, shunning traditional support structures or power tools. He included stairs, halls, twists, and multiple rooms going as deep as 70 feet beneath the house. He also created small shrines and artistic carvings all throughout the cave system, giving it a properly sacred feel.

This Obscura Day, join our guides from Hyur Service to explore these two very different but equally fascinating spiritual sites. 

Saturday, May 30, 10:00am - 3:00pm
Ticket Cost: $20 (Meals not included)
Meet-up will be in front of the fountains of the Republic Square
Yerevan, Armenia