UNESCO Lists Armenian Khachkar as Cultural Heritage to Protect

UNITED NATIONS (Combined Sources)—The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has declared the Armenian Khachkar (cross-stone) an intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding, News.am reported.

The decision to classify the unique Armenian artwork was made on Wednesday during the fifth session of an intergovernmental committee of states signed onto UNESCO’s Convention for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage.

According to News.am, forty-seven applications were submitted by twenty-nine countries seeking classification in the coveted list, which, according to the UNESCO website, helps to mobilize international cooperation and assistance to protect the cultural assets on its list.

Armenia’s application, the first submitted to the committee, presented the Armenian Khachkar as an ancient form of symbolism and craftsmanship unique and vital to Armenian national identity. Armenia’s report, titled. “Armenian Cross-Stones Art: Symbolism and Craftsmanship of Khachkars,” can be found on the UNESCO website here.

The’s application details the history of the Khachkar and its spiritual role, detailing its roots and development through the centuries and into modern times.

It describes Khachkars as “outdoor steles carved from stone” by craftspeople in Armenia and its Diaspora that are used as focal points for worship, memorial stones, and relics that “facilitate communication between the secular and divine.”

These hand-carved stones, it explains, are usually up to 1.5 meters in height with an ornamental cross carved on the symbol of a sun or the Armenian wheel of eternity and usually accompanied by carvings of saints, animals or other geometric designs.

The report provides a detailed account of the crafting process. “Khachkars are created usually using local stone and carved using chisel, die, sharp pens and hammers. The carvings are then ground using fine sand. Small breaks and rough surfaces are eliminated by plaster of clay or lime, and then painted,” it says.

The document also stresses the national character of the Khachkar craft, which is “transmitted through families or from master to apprentice, teaching the traditional methods and patterns, while encouraging regional distinctiveness and individual improvisation.”

According to the application, each Khachkar is completely unique, with its own pattern and design. There are more than 50,000 Khachkars in Armenia with thousands more in the global Diaspora and historic territories of Armenia in present day Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Iran.

Once the Khachkar is complete, the report continues, a small religious ceremony is held to consecrate the newly erected Khachkar. Once blessed and anointed, the Khachkar is believed to “possess holy powers and can provide help, protection, victory, long life, remembrance and mediation towards salvation of the soul,” the report explains.

According to ArmeniaNow.com, Azerbaijan complained to UNESCO over Armenia’s bid, demanded the name of its application be changed to “Symbolism and Craftsmanship of Armenian Khachkars.” Official Baku argued that the Khachkar was not only Armenian and thus the title of its application should reflect its Armenian origins. The Intergovernmental Committee reviewing the applications, however, did not accept Azerbaijan’s complaints.

A complete list of UNESCO’s intangible world heritage assets can be seen here.


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  1. manooshag said:

    Well done UNESCO! The historic Armenian culture is ignored by recent newcomer Azeris who have not their own history hence are incapable of understanding what ‘history’ and culture means to such as the Armenian nation whose history dates nearly 4,000 years, and further, became the first nation to accept Christianity as the religion of Armenians in 301 A.D. (followed by the Romans in 306/7 A.D.)
    Azeris think they have been a nation for more years than they have. In truth, they are newcomers… seeking to be recognized as a nation for so many more years than they have ever been. Thus the Azeris, (as do Turks) lie to the world, and in truth, even lie to themselves – but worse, they even educate their own citizens to believe their own lies!!

  2. Betty Apigian Kessel said:

    This is wonderful news that should make all Armenians proud and happy. Finally, recognition of our ancient and beautiful art form to be exclusive to the artistic people of Armenia. Thank you UNESCO.

  3. Eleanor Seda Caroglanian said:

    Recently my husband Asadour(Oscar) and I traveled extensively throughout Western Armenia and especially to my parents (Der Parseghian) birthplace of Van- During our tour through Kars,Ani,Van,Moush,Bitlis &
    Ezreum we also viewed two Khatchkars almost l8 feet high- preserved to perfection- These magnificent
    Khatchkars still stand after all these years- Our unique heritage and culture prevail…We are so very proud to know that UNESCO has taken action to preserve our national heritage…….Thank you!

  4. Blogian said:

    It should be clarified that the tradition of crafting Armenian khachkars (not the stones by themselves) were made UNESCO intangible heritage, although that does make all khachkars UNESCO heritage by association.