A stone khachkar carved by Ruben and Karen Ghazaryan. (Photo by Narek Harutyunyan, My Armenia Program)

Iron and Stone

A stone khachkar carved by Ruben and Karen Ghazaryan. (Photo by Narek Harutyunyan, My Armenia Program)

Iron and stone both represent ancient craft traditions which have deep roots in Armenian history.  

Since ancient times blacksmithing was an important part in rites and traditions of Armenian people. According to legend, when the chains of the dragonish price Artavazd, who was imprisoned in a cave on the peak of the Masis (Ararat) Mountain, were getting dangerously thin, the blacksmith delivered several heavy blows on the anvil to strengthen the chains. This action positioned him close to the mythological thunder god and inspired the expression: ‘the blacksmith is the only man whom the devil is afraid of.” Blacksmithing in Armenia is considered “mother craft,” as blacksmiths made essential household items and the tools for all other crafts.  

In a mountainous country like Armenia, people have used stones since ancient times to build fortresses, temples, and houses. Khachkars are unique to Armenia, where they are now a national symbol. Khachkars are often used to commemorate an important event, make a significant spot, or serve as a memorial gravestone. Sprouting and blooming motifs – which made the khachkar a version of the Tree of Life – are prominent features.  

Medieval khachkar carvers typically followed the style of a local school; modern carvers compile their cross-stones from different schools and styles. Today stone carvers often use the language of khachkars to express artistic and philosophical ideas rather than the traditional cross-stone.  

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