According to the legend, three sisters lived in Ashtarak, all of whom fell in love with the same man, prince Sargis..The two elder sisters decided to commit suicide in favor of the youngest.. The threw themselves into the gorge of Kasakh river.. When the youngest sister found out what her sisters have done, she also committed suicide.. The prince, after knowing that three innocent girls died because of him, became a hermit.. And on the edge of the gorge, on the spots from where the three sisters threw themselves into the gorge, three churches were built, named after the sisters’ dress colors..
St. Sargis Church on the photo above is located on the edge of the gorge opposite the three other churches.. Church has a small cruciform central-plan supposedly built in the 19th century on an old foundation of XII century.. A single drum and umbrella type dome rest on top of the church.. The interior stone has not been changed, yet the exterior façades have had extensive restoration work done recently.. That’s why the church looks to be new, but a small number of the older original stones carved with decorative relief and inscriptions show its age to be much older.
As I already said, the three churches built in memory of the three sisters were named after the colors of the dresses the wore when they committed suicide.. The church of photo above is the Karmravor Church.. Translated from Armenian, “karmravor” means “reddish”, and as you can guess the color of the dress was red.. Karmravo Church (the other name is The Holy Mother of God Church) was built in VII century by priests Gregory and Manas. It’s a simple building with a small cruciform central-plan and a Byzantine style single red tile dome roof.. According to Jean-Michel Thierry de Crussol, French physician and art historian, specializing in Byzantine and Armenian art, the Karmravor Church marks a turning point in Armenian architecture, with its simple building in the shape of a cross with a single dome setting a style that would be repeated over the years in spite of other influences (Thierry, Jean-Michel, 1989, “Armenian Art”).
Unfortulately, the other two churches aren’t well-preserved, and only the ruins stand on the edge of the gorge.. The arch-shaped walls on the photo above are the walls of the Tsiranavor church, built between XIII and XIV centuries.. It is apricot-orange in color, because of the tufa stone used for the construction of the building.. Today, only the walls remain since the roof, drum, and dome have collapsed.. Very little decoration adorns the church other than some cruciform relief found on the exterior walls..
And on the last photo are the ruins of Spitakavor Church, which, according to the legend, was built in the memory of the youngest sister, who dressed into white dress and them threw herself into the gorge.. Spitakavor means “whitish”.. The church is a triple-aisled basilica built in the 5th-6th centuries, most-likely around the years of 540-557.. It was the only basilica of Ashtarak.. The front façade had at one time been painted white, that’s where the name come from.. During the 17th century the church was fortified by doubling the north and west walls in order to defend the structure, and above the southern wall a gun slot was erected.. In 1815, the church was partially ruined. The south façade was supposedly rebuilt at one point. During 1963-64, restorations were done to the church which revealed walls, piers, arches, fragments of vaults, and a khachkar..