On the left side of Khachen river rests Gandzasar monastery- one of the most famous monuments in Nagorno Karabakh Republic. The complex consists of the church of st. John the Baptist, gavit (vestibule) and other buildings within the walls of the monastery. Those buildings were once used as a school and then as home for monks. This complex is unique because the church and vestibule seem to have been built together but in fact they were built separately. The walls of the church are decorated with nice ornaments none of which is repeated in Gandzasar. The complex building was sponsored by Hasan Jalal Dawla prince to reflect the power and wealth of Hasan Jalalyan house.
The church is called st. John the Baptist as it is generally believed that John’s head is buried here- under the altar. The church was built in 13th century (1216-1238), it was consecrated on 22 July 1240. Only 700 of the present were monks.
The construction of gavit was finished in 1266. It served as burial site for Hasan Jalalyan family princes and bishops.
Though we cannot say a lot about the former buildings in the place of today’s Gandzasar, but khachkars (cross- stones) in the yard dating from 1174, 1182, 1202 indicate that a monastery had existed here before this complex. Another proof of it are the records of historian Stepanos Orbelyan and the catholicos of that time Anania Mokatsi . Here we read about an assembly in 10th century (in 949) where a monk from Gandzasar was present.
Gandzasar was not only spiritual but also political center as well as the place where movements and struggles for freedom and independence were organized.