Kotayk is a province (marz) of Armenia. It is located at the central part of the country. Its capital is Hrazdan and the largest city is Abovyan. It is named after the Kotayk canton of the historic Ayrarat province of Ancient Armenia.
Kotayk is bordered by Lori Province from the north, Tavush Province from the northeast, Gegharkunik Province from the east, Aragatsotn Province from the west, and Ararat Province and the capital Yerevan from the south. Kotayk is the only province in Armenia that has no borders with foreign countries.
The province is home to many ancient landmarks and tourist attractions in Armenia including the 1st-century Temple of Garni, the medieval Bjni Fortress, 11th-century Kecharis Monastery and the 13th-century monastery of Geghard. Kotayk is also home to the popular winter sports resort and the spa-town of Tsaghkadzor and the mountain resort of Aghveran.
The Temple of Garni is the only standing Greco-Roman colonnaded building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union. An Ionic temple located in the village of Garni, Armenia, it is the best-known structure and symbol of pre-Christian Armenia.
The structure was probably built by king Tiridates I in the first century AD as a temple to the sun god Mihr. After Armenia's conversion to Christianity in the early fourth century, it was converted into a royal summer house of Khosrovidukht, the sister of Tiridates III. According to some scholars it was not a temple but a tomb and thus survived the universal destruction of pagan structures. It collapsed in a 1679 earthquake. Renewed interest in the 19th century led to excavations at the site in early and mid-20th century and its eventual reconstruction between 1969 and 1975. It is one of the main tourist attractions in Armenia and the central shrine of Armenian neopaganism.
Geghard is a medieval monastery in the Kotayk province of Armenia, being partially carved out of the adjacent mountain, surrounded by cliffs. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While the main chapel was built in 1215, the monastery complex was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator at the site of a sacred spring inside a cave. The monastery had thus been originally named Ayrivank, meaning "the Monastery of the Cave". The name commonly used for the monastery today, Geghard, or more fully Geghardavank, meaning "the Monastery of the Spear", originates from the spear which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, called here Thaddeus, and stored amongst many other relics. Now it is displayed in the Echmiadzin treasury.
The spectacular towering cliffs surrounding the monastery are part of the Azat River gorge, and are included together with the monastery in the World Heritage Site listing. Some of the churches within the monastery complex are entirely dug out of the cliff rocks, others are little more than caves, while others are elaborate structures, with both architecturally complex walled sections and rooms deep inside the cliff. The combination, together with numerous engraved and free-standing khachkars is a unique sight, being one of the most frequented tourist destinations in Armenia.
Kecharis Monastery is a medieval Armenian monastic complex dating back to the 11th to 13th centuries, located 60 km from Yerevan, in the ski resort town of Tsakhkadzor in Armenia. Nestled in the Pambak mountains, Kecharis was founded by a Pahlavuni prince in the 11th century, and construction continued until the middle of the 13th century. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Kecharis was a major religious center of Armenia and a place of higher education. Today, the monastery has been fully restored and is clearly visible from the ski slopes.
The domes of the two main churches were heavily damaged in an earthquake in 1927. The buildings were conserved during the period of the Armenian SSR, and rebuilding work started in the 1980s. A series of nationwide problems led to a halt in the rebuilding for about a decade as the 1988 Armenian earthquake hit, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Nagorno-Karabakh War broke out, and Armenia was blockaded by its two allied Turkic neighbors. Rebuilding work resumed at Kecharis in 1998 and finished in 2000. The restarted work was paid for by an Armenian donor from Vienna, Vladimir Harutyunian, in memory of his parents Harutyun and Arsenik.