Gandzasar, with its significance as the seat of Armenian kings and bishops, is also at the center of a great historical riddle that connects the present world with royal families of medieval Armenia, patriarchs from the Old Testament, and epic forefathers of the Armenian people.
When Armenians want to emphasize the importance of Nagorno Karabakh, they say: “after all, the crown of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia is in Nagorno Karabakh.” Furthermore, the image of the Armenian Crown features on the state seal of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, soaring above the head of the Eagle of Artsakh. What does this mean? The word crown in this context is used symbolically, as the country’s long-lost link to Armenia’s royalty and to its semi-mythical eponymous ancestors.
The above-mentioned connections run through the bloodline of the Hasan-Jalalians: a family of direct descendents of Hasan Jalal Vahtangian, the prince who in the thirteenth century built the Cathedral of St. John of the Gandzasar Monastery and ruled Artsakh as one large Armenian kingdom. Not surprising, Nagorno Karabakh—historical Artsakh—is a land of particular importance to the Armenian people and to all those interested in enduring mysteries of the ancient world.
In recent times, several bestselling authors tried to explore similar connections. In The Da Vinci Code, the American writer Dan Brown masterfully concocts an intelligent thriller that marries the gusto of a mysterious international murder with a collection of fascinating esoteria culled from 2,000 years of Western history.
In Brown’s book, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon discovers that the enigmatic riddle he works to solve leads to a trail of clues hidden in the works of Da Vinci. The Italian genius painter and inventor is portrayed by Brown as one of the principles of the so-called Priory of Zion—a centuries-old secret society established to preserve the Holy Grail. The world’s biggest mystery, the book contends, is that the Holy Grail is not a physical chalice from the Christ’s Last Supper, but a metaphor to describe a woman, namely Mary Magdalene, who carried Jesus Christ’s child in her womb. In the text, Professor Langdon joins forces with a gifted French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu who turns out to be none other than the very direct descendent of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene.
The Da Vinci Code is a fantasy reflecting allegations found in some apocryphal Christian texts. In contrast, the Hasan-Jalalians are no fictional characters. They were and are real living individuals, who claim a direct blood lineage to Armenia’s Bagratid kings and Patriarch Hayk Nahapet, the epic forefather of the Armenians. And through Hayk, they claim a connection to none other than the Old Testament’s Japheth and his father Noah.
It seems that the Gandzasar Monastery is therefore destined to turn into an international hotspot that may soon rival The Da Vinci Code’s Chapel in Scotland.