Saint Karapet Monastery

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Saint Karapet Monastery
Սուրբ Կարապետ Վանք
Church of Surb Karapet from South-West.png
Church of Surp Karapet from South-West in 1893
Saint Karapet Monastery is located in Turkey
Saint Karapet Monastery
Shown within Turkey
Basic information
Location 35 km NW of Muş
Geographic coordinates 38°57′40″N 41°11′30″E / 38.961068°N 41.191697°E / 38.961068; 41.191697Coordinates: 38°57′40″N 41°11′30″E / 38.961068°N 41.191697°E / 38.961068; 41.191697
Affiliation Armenian Apostolic Church
Status destroyed by the Turkish army in 1915[1]
Architectural description
Architectural style Armenian
Completed 4th - 19th century
Dome(s) 2

The Saint Karapet Monastery (Armenian: Սուրբ Յովհաննէս Կարապետ Վանք, or Surp Hovhannes Karapet Vank, meaning Monastery of Saint John the Baptist; also known as Glakavank or Monastery of Glak, and Turkish: Çanli kilise[2]) was an Armenian monastic complex in the Taron Province of Greater Armenia, about 35 kilometers northwest of Mush, now in the Kurdish village of Chengeli in eastern Turkey. Founded in the fourth century by Saint Gregory the Illuminator, it was one of the oldest monasteries in Armenia.[3] The monastery was a stronghold of the Mamikonians (the princely house of Taron) who were the holy warriors of Saint Yovhannes Karapet[4] (John the Baptist), their patron saint.[5]

Saint Karapet Monastery was also one of the three most important sites for Armenian Christian pilgrimage, and among the richest, most ancient institutions in Ottoman Armenia, until it was destroyed to its foundations by Turks after the Armenian Genocide.


The monastery was located on the northern border range of the Mush plain, at an elevation of 6,400 feet, or of 2,200 feet above the trough of the plain.[6]


Surp (Armenian: Սուրբ) means Holy and Karapet (Armenian: Կարապետ) means Precursor, which stands for John the Baptist in the Armenian language.



The monastery of Surp Karapet was founded by Gregory the Illuminator, who reportedly came to Taron to spread Christianity in the area, soon after his famous conversion of King Trdat III.[3] At that time, on the site of the cloister were two heathen temples that were an object of special reverence by a colony of Hindu refugees, who were under the sovereignty of the Armenian kings. They worshipped two colossal brass idols known by the names Demeter and Kisane.[3] The Hindu warriors and their Armenian allies were defeated in two successive battles by the army of Gregory the Illuminator, and their sanctuaries were razed to the ground.[3] In its place Gregory the Illuminator erected a Christian church, and the body of Saint John the Baptist, which was moved from Caesarea, took the place of Demeter and Kisane.[3]

Middle ages[edit]

The interior of the church with the tomb of John the Baptist

In the Middle Ages, the monastery Surp Karapet was not only one of the most revered places of the Armenians, but also a rich agricultural center of the region. It also possessed an extensive library, and was one of the centers of education.

Modern period[edit]

In the second half of the nineteenth century, when the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire struggled for independence, the monastery published the newspaper Eagle of Taron by Khrimyan Hayrik, the future Catholicos of all Armenians.

On November 29, 1893, H. F. B. Lynch visited Surp Karapet Monastery and later wrote an account of it (along with photographs) in his book Armenia: Travels and Studies first published in 1901.[6]

The name "Surp Karapet" was a popular one for Armenian churches. In Kayseri, for example, there was a different church called Surp Karapet, which was revered by both Armenians and Zazas. The monastery was renowned for its ability to heal the mentally ill.[7]

Current state[edit]

At present nothing remains of the former wealth and livelihood of the monastery. After the extermination and expulsion of the Armenians in the Armenian Genocide, Surp Karapet ceased to exist not only as a spiritual center, but also as an architectural monument. The monastery was blown up by the Turkish army as part of successive Turkish governments' policy of cultural genocide of the Armenian historical monuments in Turkey.

Today what remains of Surp Karapet consists of a few shapeless ruins and carved stones and khachkars which have been used as building materials by the current residents, mostly Kurds, and are often found encrusted in the walls of local homes and structures.


Fortress of the Surp Karapet Monastery, c. 1915

As shown in the photos of H. F. B. Lynch from the beginning of twentieth century and published in the book "Armenia. Travel Essays and Studies", the monastery was surrounded by strong walls and was similar to a fortress. On the eastern side of the main cathedral of the monastery were two chapels with polygonal towers and conical roofs, probably more ancient than the main church. The latest construction in the architectural ensemble was the portal to the elegant bell tower, a basis to the origin of the Turkish name of the monastery, "Chanly" (meaning "with a bell tower").

Besides the Church of St. Karapet, the monastery also contained within its walls the martyrium of St. John the Baptist, the chapel of St. Georg, the chapel of St. Stepanos and the church of St. Astvatsatsin. This magnificent example of Armenian architecture has been destroyed to its foundations during the last century.

According to Thierry, the martyrium of the Holy Precursor was probably at first a hall-shaped building with archaic-style cupola, but was later much altered.[2]


The bloody wars fought by the Mamikonians (Taron's princely house) against the Sassanians are recalled by the tombs of Mushegh, of Vahan the Wolf and of Sembat. Near the southern wall reposed the remains of Vahan Kamsarakan.[8]

Cultural references[edit]

Khachik Dashtents's historical novel The Call of the Plowmen describes a winter scene at the monastery.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Toynbee, Arnold (1916). The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Hodder and Stoughton. 
  2. ^ a b Thierry, p. 175.Theirry 1989
  3. ^ a b c d e Lynch, p. 178.Lynch 1901
  4. ^ Mamikonean, John (1985), "Part 4", in Robert Bedrosian, History of Taron, New York, "And he cried out to St. Karapet: 'Oh Yovhannes Karapet, baptizer of Christ, the hour has come. Where are the prayers of my holy clerics?'" 
  5. ^ Mamikonean, John (1985), "Translator's Preface", in Robert Bedrosian, History of Taron, New York 
  6. ^ a b Lynch, pp 174-176.Lynch 1901
  7. ^ The Yezidi Pantheon, Garnik Asatrian and Victoria Arakelova, Iran & the Caucasus, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2004:238.
  8. ^ Lynch, p. 179.Lynch 1901


External links[edit]