Other designations: Monastery of St. Gregory of Aparank; Aparanits' S. Grigor;
Aparanic' vank'; Aparank; Abrank; Abrenk; Cakk-ari vank'; Tsakkari Vank'; Derjan Anapat; St. Dawit'i Vank'; St. Gregori Vank'; Tercan vank'.


The extensive ruins of the monastery of Aprank stand near the summit of a hill, about 15 kilometres to the south-west of the small town of Tercan (formerly called Mamahatun), roughly midway between Erzincan and Erzurum. During the nineteenth century it was called the Monastery of Saint David.

Aprank - the name by which the monastery is now known locally - is derived from aparank, the Armenian word for palace. Before 1915 Aprank was also the name of a large village in the valley below the monastery. It had about 50 Armenian households and a church. Aprank village is now called Üçpınar and is inhabited by Kurds.

The early history of the monastery is unknown, but during the nineteenth century it was the episcopal centre of the Tercan district (which contained 34 Armenian villages) and most of the surviving buildings seem to date from that century. The monastery was probably abandoned during 1915, certainly abandoned by 1917.


The main part of the monastery lies within a circuit of tall walls. These walls were built more for effect and status rather than serious defence: they have no towers, or a parapet, and the enclosure is overlooked by higher ground. There is a gate in the west end of the north wall of this enclosure, and there may have been another entrance in the middle of the west wall (most of this section has been looted for its masonry).

Against the west wall is a terrace planted with mulberry trees. A little below the northern end of this terrace, and outside the enclosure wall, are the remains of a structure with a large pointed vault that is open to the west - it was probably a fountain.

The northern half of the walled enclosure was filled with buildings built against the wall. In the middle of the southern half of the enclosure was the monastery's principal church, called Surp Hovhannes (Saint John).

Surp Hovhanness Church

The design of the Surp Hovhanness church is a cross within a rectangular perimeter, with four free-standing columns supporting a cupola with a low drum. This design type is common in Armenian churches built from the mid 17th century onwards, and was heavily influenced by post-Byzantine Greek churches.

The church has a single entrance, on its west side. The tympanum above this doorway had an inscribed stone panel decorated with crosses and bearing two inscriptions, one with the date 1854. This panel was destroyed in the early 1990s.

The interior of the church is divided into a nave and two aisles, each ending in an apse. Most of the interior is built of unfaced stone that was originally covered in plaster. The floor was paved with large, well finished, stone slabs.

A small, rectangular, barrel vaulted building is built against the eastern end of the south wall of the church. It is entered from the interior of the church and has no external entrance. The interior of this small building is very well lit. Its purpose is not clear - but similar rooms in this location are found in other 19th century Armenian churches.

The Chapel of Saint David

This small church stands on a ridge to the south of the main enclosure. It is a rectangular, single nave chapel that has a barrel vault internally, a saddle roof externally. The church is built of re-used masonry, and there are old sculptural and inscriptional fragments built into its walls.

An inscription above its entrance tells that it was the burial place of the otherwise unknown "David" after whom the monastery was named.

The area to the east of the chapel is enclosed within a partially ruined wall. At the north-west corner of this wall is a large khatchk'ar monument. There are fragments of other khatchk'ars scattered around, and the land both within the enclosure and around the chapel seems to have been a graveyard.

1.   The monastery of Aprank - click for a larger photo

2.   The walled enclosure seen from the east

3.   The monastery buildings viewed from the north
- click for a larger photo

4.   The eastern end of the Church of Saint John
- click for a larger photo

5.   The interior of the church, looking east

6.   The interior, looking north-west from the
south-east corner - click for a larger photo

7.   Looking up at the dome of the church

8.   The west facade of the Chapel of Saint David
- click for a larger photo

9.   The khatchk'ar beside the chapel

10.   A close-up of the carving

11.   The twin 6 metre tall khatchk'ars

12.   Looking up at the khatchk'ars

13.   A close-up of the cross motif

14.   The rear of the khatchk'ars

The Aprank Khatchk'ars

At a short distance from the chapel of St. David stand two very remarkable khatchk'ar monuments. They are extremely large (over six metres tall) and are dated 1191 and 1194. Their height and prominent position means that they are clearly visible from the Erzincan - Erzurum highway, 8 km away. At least until the 1970s a third, smaller, khatchk'ar stood beside them - this now lies toppled. A niche cut into the rock surface indicates that there was originally a fourth khatchk'ar.

Design Analysis of the
Khatchk'ar Pictured Opposite

A band of linear interlace runs up each side of the khatchk'ar, acting like a frame for the various registers carved within.

At the lowest level is a row of three crosses, each set within an arched canopy. Above this is a panel with a long inscription in Armenian. Above this is a section filled with a complicated knotwork interlace that rises to form a stepped base. This stepped feature is said to symbolise the hill of Golgotha. Flanking the steps are two small crosses - again probably symbolising Golgotha. From the summit of the stepped base a stalk rises into a disk decorated with a six pointed star interlace. This disk motif is said to symbolise the fertile seed from which the stem is sprouting. The stem continues upwards and into what is termed a "tied-up flowering foot" - a motif that is thought to represent the Tree of Life.

Directly above this is a large cross - the principal motif of all khatchk'ars (khatch = cross and k'ar = stone). The corner of each arm of this cross ends in a coiled, leaf-like, trefoil. A band of interlace runs vertically from the flowering foot through the middle of the cross. On reaching the top of the cross this interlace splits into two curling, vine-like tendrils, each ending in a fruit (probably a bunch of grapes). This continues the symbolic reference to the Tree of Life.

Above the cross is a panel with some figurative sculpture: a seated figure (Christ?) on a throne gives a blessing with his raised right hand, and holds a book in his left hand.

The second khatchk'ar follows the same overall design and motifs as its companion, but with different decorative carving. The principle difference is that the top of the stone has a hooded moulding that is similar to Muslim funerary monuments of the same period. This khatchk'ar also has an inscription in Arabic lettering on its southern side.

15.   Click to download a larger photo

16.   The twin khatchk'ars at sunset