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The "umbrella" dome of the church



T
he first "catholicos of Caucasian Albania, Lp'in and Tchogh" was Bishop Abas (552-596). The Arab invasions and the spread of victorious Islam deeply changed a socio-religious status quo that had remained unaltered for centuries. Christianity was abandoned and the masses adopted the new faith, which brought with it new economic and political advantages. There also raged the religious struggles between the Chalcedonian Byzantines and the anti-Chalcedonian Armenians. The Byzantines took the local Armenian prince Varaz-Trdat prisoner and moved him with his family to Constantinople. They then exerted great pressure on him to bring the Armenians of Artsakh back to orthodoxy by separating them from their own church. Yet, despite foreign interference, the Agh vank' church retained its religious independence, partly because its inaccessible geographical location. In time, the seat of the catholicos of Caucasian Albania was moved from one city to another: at Partav from 552 until the 8th century, at Berdakur from the 8th to the end of the 10th century, at Gandzak (Kirovabad) from the 10th to the early 13th century, at the monastery of Metzaran from the 13th to the 14th century and at Gandzasar untill the beginning of the 19th century, when the Russians occupied the region and moved the seat to Shushi .

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The monastery of Gandzasar