Hegumen Alexy (Nikonorov) Rector of the St. Nicholas Orthodox parish in Merano (Italy), Candidate of Theology (Moscow Theological Academy), Doctor of Church History (Pontificio Istituto Orientale / Pontifical Oriental Institute)


The Universal Church consists of separate Local Churches one of which was the Church of Caucasian Albania. Local Churches, in turn, include cathedral churches, dioceses that combine parish churches and monasteries. This Church structure took shape as early as during the first centuries of its history, and since then it has remained fundamentally unchanged. It is important to note that the administrative division of the Church is based on the territorial, not on the national principle [Цыпин, 2004, с.276]. Under normal conditions, Christians of any nationality living in the same territory constitute one parish and are guided by one bishop, for according to Apostle Paul, “there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all” [Колосянам 3, 11]. These norms are also established by the decisions of the Aghvank Council [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.I, гл.26]. As said, however, in the 34th Apostolic Canon, “The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them...”, but the historical context quite unequivocally says that “nation” in the canon means the territory inhabited by it.

The provinces of the Roman Empire were inhabited by tribes that subsequently were hellenized or latinized. The names of the provinces preserved the memory of the peoples who once inhabited them: Dacia, Galatia, Thrace, Numidia. The attempts to put the ethnic or linguistic factor but not the territorial one as the principle of church organization, in particular, in determining the sphere of jurisdiction of the Local Church, which has been repeatedly undertaken in history, are canonically inappropriate and have always caused serious complications and confusion. Understanding these principles helps us in defining the canonical boundaries of the Albanian Church at different periods of its history, as well as in defining the diocesan boundaries in relation to the administrative boundaries. It is well known that in their territorial demarcation, the Local Churches conform to the political and administrative division, to the state and administrative boundaries.

 Apart from obvious conveniences, this principle is indirectly justified in the canons themselves. Thus, Canon 38 of the Council in Trullo holds: ‘If any city be renewed by imperial authority, or shall have been renewed, let the order of things ecclesiastical follow the civil and public models.’ Thus, following the canonical norms of the Church, the boundaries of the Albanian dioceses should coincide with the political and administrative division of Caucasian Albania itself. According to the “Geography” written by Ananias of Shirak in the 7th century, the internal or left-bank Albania had six regions (gavars). Note that there are both different lists and different editions of the “Geography”, which contain a different number of left-bank Albanian regions, from six to eleven.

A comparison of all the lists and editions of this geographical work leads to the conclusion that the left-bank Albania should be divided into six or even five regions. This conclusion is also confirmed by M.Kaghankatvatsi, who altogether names five ecclesiastical and administrative entities – the dioceses of the Albanian Church on the left bank of the Kura. Regions listed by A.Shirakatsi: 1. Yekhni, 2. Bekh, 3. Kambisena, 4. Shaki, 5. Vostan Imartspan, 6. Balasakan. In the two newest lists of the “Geography” the first two regions of Yekhni and Bekh are united into one – Yekhnibekh.

 The Albanian historian suggests the existence of one diocese and one bishop in this territory, whose jurisdiction should have also covered Kambisena [Hewsen, 2001, map.62, 64, p.73, 75]. In the name of the fifth region, some people prefer to read the two words separately, considering them to be names of different regions, but, according to K.Patkanov, the continuous pronunciation in Persian of (v)ostan-i[1]marzpan is translated as “Marzpan Region”, i.e. in this case, it is logical to assume that we are talking about the Chola region as the residence of the Sassanian governors [Армянская география, 1877, с.41].

 On the right bank of the Kura, the following provinces (from northwest to southeast) were located: Orkhistena (Artsakh), Otena (Utik) and Paytakaran. In all likelihood, Orkhistena covered the territory of Karabakh (mountainous area), geographically including the eastern part of the Lesser Caucasus, the Karabakh Range, and the Karabakh Plateau.

 According to A.Shirakatsi, the province included 14 regions. R.Hewsen places the Mets Irank diocese in the northern part of this province (the contemporary Kalbajar region) and the Amaras and Gaband dioceses in the southeast (the contemporary Khojavend region). However, we must also place in this province the diocese of Metz Kuenk (Metz Kogmank), which occupied the territory of the present Agdam district with a probable center in the Vankasar monastery. The Otena province occupied part of the Lesser Caucasus, the territory of the Plain Karabakh and stretched along the Kura on its right bank from the border with Iberia (Georgia) in the northwest to the Aras River in the southeast.

According to Ananias of Shirak’s “Geography”, there were 8 regions in the province. The archdiocese of Partaw (and before it the diocese of Utik) and the diocese of Gardman (the contemporary Gadabay region) were located here. In the very north-west of the province, R.Hewsen locates the diocese of Khoshi (Gashua, Gosh) with its center in Shamkir that had a natural border with the diocese of Partaw on the Kurekchay River. We find detailed information about the structural units of the Albanian Church in the synodic documents and official letters kept for us by the Albanian chronicler. In the VII chapter of the Second Book of “The History of the Albanians”, Movses Kaghankatvatsi cites the Epistle of the Armenian Catholicos Hovhannes II (557–574) to the Albanian Catholicos Ter-Abas (552–596).

 This Epistle is of interest to us due to the listing of the names of Albanian bishops, and, accordingly, of the episcopal sees in Albania at the time of this writing, i.e. by the middle of the 6th century. The text mentions eight Albanian bishops: those of Partaw, Bakhalat, Qabala, Amaras, Balasakan, Shaki, Gardman, and Metz Kuenk. Let’s note that the order of bishops in the list is most likely based not on the seniority of the sees (with the exception of the Archbishop of Partaw), but on the seniority of the bishops themselves, which is in line with experience and later epistolary church documents. Based on the data from the sources, it can be asserted that the Albanian Church also included the dioceses of the autonomous regions of Lpinia and Chola, which were under the rule of the Archbishop of Partaw, the Catholicos of Albania [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.II, гл.15].

 In addition to these ecclesiastical-administrative units, we should also mention the Hunnic diocese which was also under the jurisdiction of the head of the Albanian Church [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.II, гл.41, 45]. And the list is adjusted with information about the bishops who attended the Council of Aghvank in 488: Bishop of Gashua (Hosha, Yushi), Bishops of Yeuta, Bishop of Uty and Bishop of Tsri [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.I, гл.26]. The Albanian historian also points out that Catholicos Abas, prior to being elected as the Primate, had been the Bishop of Mets Irank [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.III, гл.24] and cites a document (a letter from the Armenian bishops written by Vartanes Kertol in response to the pastoral of Mkhitar, the Bishop of Amaras), mentioning the bishop in this see: “To you, who are listening and telling these days among the inhabitants of the Northern Territory, especially [among] all those who hesitate about the strength of the sacrament, to Hegemon Mkhitar – the Bishop of Amaras, Simeon – the Bishop of Metz Irank, and other bishops of the Holy Church - to your like-minded men, azats, and other [representatives] of the people of Aghvank” [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.II, гл.49].

So, the ecclesiastical-administrative division of the Albanian Church seems to be as follows: Archidiocese of Partaw, Diocese of Chola/Chora (the region of Maskuts) Diocese of Lpinia, Diocese of Qabala, Diocese of Bakhalat and Bekh/Yekhni-Bekh, Diocese of Shaki, Diocese of Paytakaran and Balasakan, Diocese of Amaras and Gaband , Diocese of Gardman, Diocese of Utik, Diocese of Mets Kuenk, Diocese of Mets Irank, Diocese of Gashua (Hosha, Yushi), Diocese of Tsri (Chilbka), Hunnic Diocese, Diocese of Yeut.

 This list could be completed by the Syunik Metropolitanate which in the second half of the 6th century until the beginning of the rule of Armenian Catholicos Abraham I (607–615) was actually under the jurisdiction of the Albanian Church, receiving ordination and holy myrrh from the Albanian Primate: “[At that time] Armenia was divided between the Persians and the Greeks. Hegemon Movses sat on the throne of St. Gregory in Dwin and on the Greek side, not far from him and in contrast to him, a certain John was enthroned. And when the Patriarchal See split in two, the rulers of Syunik separated and did not obey any of them according to the will of their bishop, the virtuous Peter, who was living out his last days and who told his diocese to be ordained in Aghvank and take the blessed myrrh there until the throne of St. Gregory is reunited.

That is why Vartanes was ordained bishop of Syunik by Zacharias, Bishop of Aghvank. Therewith, the people of Syunik received the Holy oil from Aghvank from year to year” [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.II, гл.48]. Now, let’s take a closer look at the information about the dioceses of the Albanian Church. Archidiocese of Partaw Partaw (Barda), originally Perozapat, is a city founded in the 5th century by Albanian king Vache II at the behest of the Sassanid shahanshah Peroz and named after the latter [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.I, гл.15]. The medieval city is located a few kilometers from the contemporary Barda. According to M.Kaghankatvatsi, since its foundation, Partaw became the capital of Caucasian Albania and the residence of the last Albanian kings Arsacids, then of the grand princes Mihranids, of Persian governors marzbans, and, from the 6th to the 9th centuries, of Albanian Catholicoi.

The Albanian chronicler reports: in the second year [of the reign of] Khosrow, the king of kings, when the beginning of the Armenian calendar was established, in that very year the Patriarchal See of Aghvank was moved from Chola to the capital Partaw [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.II, гл.4]. Researchers suggest to correct in “the second year of Khosrow” to the “twentieth”, since the first year of the Armenian calendar (551) was the twentieth year of the reign of Shahinshah Khosrow I Anushirvan (531–579). The author of the Third Book of the “History of the Albanians” indicates that the Cathedral of the Albanian archbishops in Partaw was consecrated in honor of St. Gregory the Illuminator [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.III, гл.17]. The hallows of the holy martyr Manuk, who suffered in 712 under the ruler of Ganja and Shirvan Abdul-Aziz Bahli, rested in this temple. Several councils of the Albanian Church were gathered in Partaw itself: The Council of May 704 was convened at the insistence of Armenian Catholicos Yeghia Archishetsi with the approval of Caliph Abd al-Malik for the trial of Albanian Catholicos Nerses Bakur.

The council was attended by 4 Albanian bishops. The council elected a new Catholicos by the name of Simeon. The result of the council was the Treaty of Agreement between Albania, Armenia and the Caliphate [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.III, гл.7-10]; the Council of 768 convened by Albanian Catholicos David II (767-776). It is mentioned in Matendaran’s manuscript # 6409 [Буниятов, 1965, с.223-226]. The canonical territory of the Partaw diocese included the following historical regions of the right-bank province of Otena: Uti Arandznak, Aranrot (possibly Aghve, Tri and Rotparsean), which correspond to the contemporary Barda, Agdam, part of Tartar (possibly part of Aghjabadi and Beylagan) districts of Azerbaijan. M.Kaghankatvatsi points out that there was a chorbishop in the archdiocese of Partaw in 680 [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.II, гл.32]. The author of the III book of the “History of the Albanians” in Chapter 24 gives a detailed list of the archbishops who held the see of Partaw from 552 to the end of the 10th century (988). In this list, 32 holy hierarchs are listed for this period. On the territory of the Partaw diocese, there was once Gis monastery founded by the apostolic father Elisha, and this was the place where the famous settlement of Kaghankatuik was located, from which Albanian historian Movses Kaghankatvatsi came. The ruins of the Gyaurkala basilica (6th century) are preserved on the territory of the former Partaw diocese.

Archdiocese of Chola/Chora (the region of Maskuts) Chola/Chora is a town and a region of the same name in the northeast of Caucasian Albania, identified with Derbent and the region (kingdom) of the Maskuts. As historians note, Derbent has always been a significant and prominent city, a strategic stronghold of the Albanians and Sassanids in the Caucasus. M.Kaghankatvatsi writes that the preachers of the Gospel in Chola were St.Grigoris of Albania and M.Mashtots [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.I, гл.14, 27]. Since the inclusion of the Albanian kingdom into the Sassanid empire and the establishment of the political center of the Albanian Marzpanate in Chola in 428–552, the residence of the head of the Albanian Church moved to this city. After the transfer of the capital and the place of the Patriarchal See to Partaw, a new title of the Catholicos of Albania, Lpinia and Chora was bestowed on the primate of the Albanian Church [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.II, гл.15], which makes it clear that the city and the region, which had formerly been the archdiocese of the Albanian Catholicos in terms of the church hierarchy, remained in its jurisdiction and under its archpastoral administration.

 According to researchers, the cathedral of the Albanian primate in Chola (Derbent) could be either the temple of the Naryn-Gala fortress of the 5th century [Кудрявцев, 1980, с.48-51], turned into a water cistern, or a 6th century temple which currently houses the Derbent Friday Mosque [Ханбабаев, 2004, 227-246; Артамонов, 1946, с.143]. Diocese of Lpinia The canonical power of the Albanian Church primate outside his own diocese which included Partaw (Barda) and its immediate surroundings, as well as the former capital of the Marzpanate Chola/ Chora, also extended to Lpinia, a semi-independent 1 Stauropegion is a status assigned to church divisions, monasteries, lavras and brethrens, as well as cathedrals and theological schools, making them independent on the local diocesan authority and subordinate directly to the patriarch or synod. region that became part of Caucasian Albania [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.III, гл.15, 24].

The issue of historical localization of Lpinia has not been fully resolved. We, on the basis of an analysis of various sources and opinions of researchers, place Lpinia between inner Albania and the Caspian in the Shamakhi region. Sources indicate that Lpinia once was a kingdom [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.II, гл.2; Егише, 1971, гл.III], which determined its special political position. According to M.Kaghankatvatsi, M.Mashtots enlightened this region by preaching the Gospel [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.I, гл.27]. As follows from the context of the Albanian Chronicle, the Archbishop of Partaw, like Oriental Patriarchs, had the right of stauropegion1 , in fact retaining the right of canonical administration of various church regions (Partaw, Chola, Lpinia, Balasakan), which had a special status within the Albanian state. Diocese of Gabala Gabala (Qabala, Qabalaka) is the ancient capital of Caucasian Albania, first mentioned by Roman author Pliny the Elder [Pliny, 1947, кн.VI, §29]. In 510, the city for some time became the seat of Persian marzpans [Мамедова, 2005, с.253, 316]. In the early 4th century, i.e. since Christianization of Caucasian Albania, Qabala became the seat of the Albanian Church primate. After the transfer of the arch-see after the marzpan’s residence to Chola in 462, Qabala became an ordinary diocese ruled by its bishop [Акопян, 1987, с.274].

The Diocese of Gabala extended its jurisdiction over the regions (according to the lengthy edition of the “Geography” by Ananias of Shirak): Qabalak, Hambasi, Gelava and Ejeri. M.Kaghankatvatsi mentions several Qabalak bishops: Manasseh (487–488), Gregory (second half of the 6th century), and John (704). Also, the author of the Third Book of the “History of Albania” notes that the three primates of the Albanian Church – Archbishops of Partaw – were elected from among the Qabalak bishops: Matthew II (776–777), David IV (821–849), and David V (923–930).

 Diocese of Bakhalat and Yekhni-Bekh Moses, the bishop of Bakhalat, is mentioned only once in a letter from Catholicos Hovhannes in 568. S.Yeremyan identifies Bakhalat with the village of Bakhtalo (Bakhmatli) in the Zagatala region of Azerbaijan [Еремян, 1958, с.324]. R.Hewsen seems to agree with this opinion, since on his maps of Caucasian Albania he places Bakhalat in the historical region of Yekhni-Bekh (the contemporary Zagatala, Balakan and Qakh districts, as well as the eastern part of Kakheti) [Hewsen, 2001, map.62, 64 , p.73, 75] mentioned in the “Geography” of A.Shirakatsi among the six Albanian provinces located on the left bank of the Kura. The Diocese of Bakhalat also covered Kambisena, located south of Yekhnibekh across the Alazani River, and thus occupied the territory between the Greater Caucasus in the north and the Kura in the south, the Gabala and Alazani rivers in the west and the Kurmukhchay river in the east.

For fairness sake, we should note that attempts are made to locate Bakhalat in Artsakh, on the site of the village of Bat in the Yevlakh district [Геюшев, 1984, с.36-37] or near Chola (Derbent) [Акопян, 1987, с.131]. On the territory of the historical region of Yekhni-Bekh, the ruins of about two dozen temples and monuments have survived: Bukhovlu (7th–8th centuries), Pipan (7th–8th centuries), Kum (5th–6th centuries), Lekit (5th–6th centuries), Edti Kilse in the same Lekit (6th century), Mamrux temple on Mount Armatay (4th–5th centuries), Katekh (5th century, first mentioned in 1020), Khanifa, the Ayritala church (5th–9th–14th centuries), Mazymgaray (5th–6th centuries), Muxax (4th–5th centuries), Pashan (4th– 5th centuries), Tyulyu (5th–7th centuries), Khalatala (5th–9th centuries), St.George church in Kurmukh (12th century), Arylygbina temple complex in Gullar (13th century), Matsekh (Mazykh), Gebizdere, Yukhary Tala and Yukhary Chardakhlar.

Diocese of Shaki Shaki is a historical area of Caucasian Albania (Sakasena–Sake–Shakashen) and the fourth of the six provinces on the left bank of the Kura listed by Ananias of Shirak. Historians sometimes identify or confuse Shaki on the left bank of the Kura with the region located south of Shaki beyond the Kura – Shakashen (Otena province) – inhabited, according to sources, by the Iranian-speaking Scythians who joined the union of Albanian tribes. The region covered the territory of the contemporary Shaki and Oghuz districts of Azerbaijan, being bounded in the west by the Kurmukhchay and Alazani rivers, in the east by the Turyanchay (Turyan) river; in the south the region reached the Kura. The “History of the Albanians”, following the “Book of Epistles”, mentions at the See of Shaki: Bishop Avvakum (mid-6th century), Bishop Eliazar elected to the Patriarchal See (680–686), and Saint Michael (705–742) who before his consecration as the Albanian Catholicos had been the Deacon of Shaki. On the territory of the Shaki diocese, there are still several monuments of Albanian temple architecture: the Church of St.Elishe in Kish (probably originally erected in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos) (1st– 4th–10th–12th centuries), the temple of Jalut (5th– 6th centuries), Yagysh Arakel church, Oghuz temple, Orta-Zeyzid church (10th century), Bideiz church (12th century), Emili church (4th–5th centuries).

Diocese of Paytakaran and Balasakan The province of Balasakan identified by historians with the ancient Caspiane was located in the southeast of inner Albania. There are two scientific opinions about the location of this province. Some historians believe that the lands of Bazgun – Balasakan were located on the coast of the Caspian Sea, extending from the Absheron Peninsula in the north to the mouth of the Kura in the south. [Hewsen, 2001, map.77; Улубабян, 1977, с.117; Улубабян, 1971, с.178-182]. Others identify Balasakan with the Paytakaran province, which occupied the territory of the Mugan Plain framed in the north by the Kura from the confluence of the Kura with the Aras to the mouth, and bounded by the Talysh Mountains in the west and the Caspian Sea in the east [Мамедова, 2005, с.255]. It has been argued that Balasakan could include both Paytakaran and the present Absheron Peninsula. [Ашурбейли, 1983, с.26]. At least, the author of geographical description of Asia and the Caucasus at the beginning of the 7th century, Ananias of Shirak,  does not identify Balasakan with Paytakaran, referring to the former as one of the ancient Albanian regions, and to the latter as one of the annexed regions [Армянская География, 1877, с.41].

The Chronicle of Zacharias of Mytilene (555) calls this area Christian lands with its own king and its own language [Zachariae Rhetori, 1924, XII, 7, с.327]. This information is confirmed by M.Kaghankatvatsi [Каланкатуаци, 1984, кн.II, гл.2]. Since the reign of Albanian king Vachagan III (488– 510), the province of Paytakaran had been part of Caucasian Albania. The capital city of the province – the eponymous Paytakaran (Baylakan) – is located near the settlement of Oren-Qala (Örənqala) in Azerbaijan [Мамед-заде, 1983, с.25]. However, some historians believe that Paytakaran should be looked for on the banks of the dried-up branch of the Aras, west of the contemporary city of Salyan [Арутюнян, 1981, с.61-76; Акопян, 1987, с.103- 104]. Saint Grigoris of Albania was martyrized by the ruler of Paytakaran, the king of Maskut Sanatruk [Бузанд. 1953, кн.III, гл.5; Хоренский. 1893, кн.III, гл.3; Каланкатуаци, кн.I, гл.14]. According to Koriun, with the assistance of the Balasakan Bishop Mushel, M.Mashtots preached in Balasakan, after which he “bade farewell to the king, bishops and the entire church of Albania” and left for Iberia [Корюн, 1962, гл.XVII]. Both M.Khorenatsi [Хоренский. 1893, кн.III, гл.60] and M.Kaghankatvatsi [Каланкатуаци, кн.I, гл.27] mention Mashtots’ preaching in Balasakan.

There is a seal gem of “The Great Catholicos of Albania and Balasakan”, which M.Hajiyev is inclined to date to the 6th century [Гаджиев, 2004, с.465- 479]. This artifact can testify to the special position of the province not only for the Albanian state, but also for the Albanian Church. Analyzing the information provided by written sources, we come to the conclusion that Balasakan was a very significant and important state-political and administrative[1]territorial formation of the Eastern Caucasus. The above letter of the 6th century to Albanian Catholicos Abas mentions the Bishop of Balasakan Timothy. In addition to the diocese of the Albanian Church in Balasakan, at the same time (540–554), there was a Nestorian diocese of the Persian Church of the East.

The documents of Nestorian Councils provide the names of two bishops – John and James [Касумова, 2005, с.44]. It is appropriate to suggest that the jurisdiction of the Albanian bishop covered the Albanian Balasakan – Bazgun, while the Nestorian diocese was in Paytakaran which at times was under the administrative control of Atrpatakan (Atropatene). Diocese of Amaras and Gaband Gaband with the settlement of Amaras is one of the 12 regions of the Orkhistena province, located on the right bank of the Kura and occupying the territory of the present Khojavend and Jabrayil districts of Azerbaijan. According to F.Buzand and M.Kaghankatvatsi, St.Gregory the Illuminator preached Gospel in Gaband and founded a temple in Amaras [Бузанд, 1953, кн.III, гл.6; Каланкатуаци, кн.I, гл.14]. Around 338, the grandson of Gregory the Illuminator Grigoris, bishop of Albania and Iberia, who had been killed by pagan Maskuts, was buried in Amaras. The hallows of St.Grigoris were uncovered in 489 under Albanian king Vachagan III, who erected a chapel over them and restored the church destroyed by that time. [Каланкатуаци, кн.I, гл.21-22]. In the early 5th century, M.Mashtots founded the first school in Amaras.

The Diocese of Amaras appears to have been established during the reign of King Vachagan III. Earlier, describing the arrival of the king in Amaras, M.Kaghankatvatsi emphasizes: “There was no bishop in Amaras at that time” [Каланкатуаци, кн.I, гл.21]. “The King of the Romans” presented the Bishop of Amaras with the right hand of St.Gregory the Illuminator, which had been in Constantinople. In the Middle Ages, Amaras was known as a monastery, which was a large scriptorium.

Amaras suffered frequent destruction (in 1387, it was destroyed by Tamerlane) and was rebuilt several times. Under the altar of the church built in 1858, there is a vaulted tomb made of finely hewn blocks with ornamentation characteristic of the 5th century [Казарян, 2001, с.98]. The Diocese of Amaras included in its jurisdiction the following historical regions: Myus Gaband, Sisakan Vostan, Mukhank, and Kharchlank. We know the bishops of Amaras and Gaband: Garnik (turn of the 5th–6th centuries), Romik/ Horomak (mid 6th century), Mkhitar (early 7th century), Sahak (turn of the 7th–8th centuries), Serob (second quarter of the 9th century).

 Three primates of the Albanian Church, prior to their election, had headed the see of Amaras: John II (644–668/671), Joseph I (746/748–763/765), and David II (763/765–767/769). In the historical territory of the diocese of Amaras, in addition to the monastery of the same name (4th–5th centuries), the following have survived to this day: the Katarovank monastery (5th– 17th centuries) – a complex on the top of Mount Ziarat (Dizapayt) where the sons of the Maskut king Sanatruk (Moses, Daniel, Elijah) and other Christians (disciples of St.Grigoris of Albania) were martyred in the 30s of the 4th century; the church of Okhta Drni or “Seven Doors” (6th–7th centuries) which due to its complex centric plan is considered unique and belongs to the type of very rare round multi-apside buildings; the Bri Yekhtsi monastery in Chorakli (7th–12th–13th centuries); the church of the Gtchavank monastery or “Seven brothers” near Tug (4th-13th centuries) was under the special patronage of the princes of Aranshahs; the Spitak Khach (Spitag Tag) monastery in Chinarli (14th–18th centuries); the Gtich Taglar monastery (13th century); the monastery of St.Jacob Kavak.


 Diocese of Gardman Gardman is one of the eight regions of the Otena province, which used to be on the territory of the contemporary Gadabay and Dashkasan districts. The Gardman principality had a strategically and politically important position on the western borders of Caucasian Albania. From the 6th to the 9th centuries, the region was the ancestral allotment of the Albanian princes – Aranshahs from the Mihranid dynasty [Каланкатуаци, кн.II, гл.17]. The representatives of this dynasty bore the title of “Master of Gardman and the Prince of the Land of Albania” [Каланкатуаци, кн.II, гл.21]. According to Koriun, M.Mashtots preached in Gardman, who was cordially welcomed by Prince Khurs of Gardman [Корюн, гл.XVII, XVIII]. Apart from Gardman itself, the diocese of Gardman had jurisdiction over the neighboring regions of Kolt and Kusta Parnes. The Albanian chronicler tells about the construction of a magnificent temple in Gardman by the Grand Prince Javanshir “for the whole land of Albania” [Каланкатуаци, кн.II, гл.25]. The diocese of Gardman is mentioned in the 5th century in the “List of Bishoprics” [Ухтанес, кн.I, гл.70, с.100], as well as by M.Kaghankatvatsi and in the documents of the Partaw Council of 706/707.


M.Kaghankatvatsi mentions Gardman bishops John (mid 6th century) and Eliazar (from 686), as well as the Albanian Catholicoi who had previously headed the see of Gardman: Nerses Bakur (688/9– 705), Theodore (781–785), Gagik (948–958), and Peter (964–982). The bishop of Gardman Stefan is mentioned in documents together with bishop of Syunik Methuselah as having joined the dyophysite party after the Theodosiopolis Council in 632 [Garitte, 1952, p.44]. In the 10th century, in the period preceding the formation of the kingdom of Parisos in the region, three abbots of the Parisos monastery, according to the author of the Third Book of the “History of the Albanians”, were elected as Albanian Catholicoi: David V (923–929), David VII (965–971), and Moses IV (987–993). Among the temples preserved on the historical territory of the diocese of Gardman there are: the Ayrivank church (7th–10th centuries), the ruins of the Khamshivank monastery in the village Beyuk Kara-Murad (9th–10th–13th centuries), the Charek skete on the left bank of the Shamkhirchay River (13th century). Diocese of Utik The bishop of Utik is only once mentioned in documents known to us – in the list of bishops who attended the Aghvank Council in 488 [Каланкатуаци, кн.I, гл.26]. That was the time when the residence of the Primate of the Albanian Church was in Chola/ Chora.

Nevertheless, M.Kaghankatvatsi refers to archbishop Shupkhalishoy as the “archbishop of Partaw”, thus possibly making an anachronism. If the generally accepted dating of the Council is correct, Shupkhalishoy does not have anything to do with Partaw, and the presence of the bishop of Utik at the Council indicates the archiereus who in fact was the canonical head of the vast right-bank region of Caucasian Albania where the summer residence of the Albanian kings was already located. In addition, we should remember that the Albanian chronicler who rewrote the acts of the Aghvank Council from the archival documents that were in the royal or patriarchal library, omitted or  failed to find the titles of two holy hierarchs who took part in the council meetings, i.e. bishops Ananias and Sahac.

Perhaps the names of their dioceses were erased or dropped out of the text used by the author of the “History of the Albanians” or by his scribes. This circumstance presupposes the existence of two more episcopal sees by the 5th century and earlier. Interestingly, the Albanian chronicler mentions another diocese, which should have been located in the region of Utik, associated with the small town of Gis during the reign of Catholicos Eliazar (683–689): “Then a vision appeared to St. Archbishop Eliazar, ordering him to immediately go to the anointing of the Cross of Christ. He got up early in the morning and, taking with him what he needed, hastily arrived at the said church in the diocese of Ghisavan” [Каланкатуаци, кн.II, гл.33]. The center of this diocese is supposed to be Gis, a place consecrated by many important events for Albania and its Church.

 Diocese of Mets Irank Mets Irank (Great Aran, Mesiran, as Al[1]Baladhuri [Баладзори, 1927, с.13] refers to it), is one of the twelve historical regions of the right-bank province of Orchistena. The region occupied the lands of the present Kalbajar region of Azerbaijan. The jurisdiction of the Metz Irank diocese covered three historical regions: Mets Arank, Parsakank, and Piank. An Albanian historian, speaking of the bishops of Mets Irank, mentions St.Simeon (early 7th century), St.Jovel (last third of the 7th century), and St.Abas (551/2–595/6) who became the primate of the Albanian Church. Later, from the 14th century, the diocese of Mets Irank became the seat of the Albanian Catholicoi and bequeathed to us their cathedral monastery in honor of St.John the Baptist, Gandzasar (10th– 13th centuries), a masterpiece of Albanian temple architecture.

In the historical territory of the diocese of Mets Irank, in addition to the Gandzasar monastery, there is the Khutavank (Dadivank) monastery erected in the 6th century over the burial place of St.Dadi (Thaddeus), a disciple of Apostle Thaddeus, mentioned from the 9th century, although the current buildings date back to the 13th century. Another important spiritual center of the diocese is the Aghoghlan basilica-shaped monastery built in the 5th–6th centuries. And the last but not the least monument is the Erek Mankunk (Yerits Mankants) monastery built by Hasan-Jalal’s competitors, the princes of Jraberd Melik-Israelyans, also in the 13th century. In the 17th–18th centuries, the anti[1]Catholicosate of the Albanian Gandzasar was located here.

Diocese of Mets Kuenk Mets Kuenk (Great Kuenk/Kolmank, Meskvan, as Al-Baladhuri [Баладзори, 1927, с.13] refers to it), is one of the twelve historical regions of the right[1]bank province of Orchistena. The region was located on the territory of the present-day Agdam and Tartar districts of Azerbaijan, including, in addition to Mets Kuenk, the historical regions of Vakunik and Berdadzor. This region is mentioned by M.Kaghankatvatsi who narrates about the hiding of a silver reliquary with a part of the Cross brought from Jerusalem by M.Mashtots in these lands. It was here that Mashtots’ disciples, who probably founded a brotherhood or a monastic community together with the priests who came from Jerusalem, were martyred by the Huns on the day of Easter in the Astlablur mountain gorge and in the Chlah forest valley [Каланкатуаци, кн.I, гл.28-29].

The Albanian chronicler mentions the following bishops of Mets Kuenk: David (the last third of the 7th century), Israel (the turn of the 7th–8th centuries), the enlightener of the Hunnic country Samuel (before 877), and Michael (from 877). The four primates of the Albanian Church, prior to being elected as the primates, headed the see of Mets Kuenk: David III (769–778), Joseph II (852–877), Samuel (877–894), and Sahac II (929–947). Among the temples preserved on the historical territory of the diocese of Mets Kuenk there are: the Avaptuk monastery (12th century), the Akobavank monastery (853), the Kharva church (13th century), the Anapat monastery (12th century), St.George, Karmirvank and Mekhraker churches in Kazanchi (13th century), etc.

The cathedral of the Mets Kuenk diocese may have been the procathedral of the monastery of Apostle Elishe (Yeghishe Arakyal), built in the 5th century (the contemporary building dates back to  the 12th–13th centuries) on the slope of Mount Murovdagh – the place of burial of the holy relics of Apostle Elishe and Albanian king Vachagan III the Pious. Otherwise, the main temple of the diocese could be the church of the Vankasar monastery (5th– 7th centuries), built according to a legend by king Vachagan III on a hill near the banks of the Qarqarçay river in Askeran.

 The very first record of the Vankasar monastery was made by the head of the Georgian Diocese of the Armenian Church, Archbishop Sargis Jalalyants (1819–1879), a famous writer and paleontologist: “At the top of the mountain are the ruins of a monastery, which, according to legend, was the diocesan center of this region” [Джалалянц, 1842, 1856]. Diocese of Gashua (Hosha) The canonical jurisdiction of the Gashua diocese covered the Otena regions – Shakashen and Tuchkatak – which correspond to the contemporary Shamkir, Tovuz and Ganja districts of Azerbaijan.

On the territory of the ancient Scythian kingdom, the historical Sakasena, which gave the name to the Shakashen region, R.Hewsen locates the ancient Albanian temple center Yashu Khosh (from the Uti “khash” – the Moon) [Hewsen, 1992, p.145-146]. M.Kaghankatvatsi mentions Jonah (Iunan), the Bishop of Hosh, as an attendee of the Council of Aghvank in 488, then Bishop Simeon as an attendee of the Council of Partaw in 704. The same Bishop Simeon is in the list of bishops of the Council of Partaw of 706/707.

 The center of the diocese was apparently Shamkhor mentioned by Al-Baladhuri among the most important political centers of Caucasian Albania along with Barda, Derbent and Baylakan [Баладзори, 1927, с.203]. The existence of a diocesan center in this area in the 19th century was evidenced by bishop Makar Barkhudaryants [Бархударян, 1895, с.44-45]. One of the important religious centers of the Khosh diocese was the monastery of the Virgin of Khoranashat (1211–1222) in Chinari where historian Kirakos Gandzak and vardapet Vanakan lived until 1225. Currently, the monastery is located literally a hundred meters from the Azerbaijani–Armenian border on the Armenian side.

 Another important spiritual center of the diocese was undoubtedly the capital’s Berdovank monastery, the “Fortress Monastery” in Shamkhor, which was the venue of the council convened by the Albanian Catholicos Michael between 720–730 against the Paulicians and for considering the incest issue [Каланкатуаци, кн.III, гл.13]. The council was attended by 7 Albanian bishops [Бартикян, 1961, с.32-33]. Among other temples, the remains of which have survived on the territory of the Khosh diocese, the church of Chaparly (4th–5th centuries) can be mentioned. Diocese of Tsri and Chilbka The diocese of Tsri is mentioned but once in the “History of the Albanians” in the list of Aghvank Council of 488 attendees. The diocese was represented by Chorbishop Simeon.

The Albanian chronicle only tells that Tsri was an important or capital city of the Country of Chilbs. Until now, researchers have not been able to exactly locate this “Country of Chilbs”. From the sources, it is only clear that the Lpins and Chilbs inhabited the territory adjacent to Caucasian Albania in the northeast, closer to the mountainous part of Southern Dagestan, and lived in the vicinity of the tribes listed in the Elishe list [Егише, 1971, раздел IV, с.255]. It has been argued that the Chilbs might live in the highlands north of the Alazani Valley [Еремян, 1939, с.137]. M.Hajiyev locates them in the upper reaches of the Samur and on the adjacent slopes of the Greater Caucasus Range – on the territory of the traditional settlement of the contemporary Tsakhurs.

The researcher links Tsakhurs’ endonym Yiqby (plural) to ethnonym “Chilb” [Гаджиев, 1998, с.15-16]. I.Semenov, having studied the story of the Albanian chronicle about the mission of Bishop Israel to the Huns, involving the information provided by Arab historians, comes to the conclusion that the Country of Chilbs should have been Layzan (since the time of Shahinshah Khosrow I Anushirvan – Layzan Shahdom) [Семенов, 2006, с.3-8], which is identified by V. Minorsky with Lahij Valley centered at Lahij [Минорский, 1963, с.33]. The researcher concludes that the Country of Chilbs corresponds to  Layzan, a mountainous region lying on both sides of the Konakhkend Pass of the Greater Caucasus.

However, researcher Y.Jafarov [Джафаров, 1985, с.65-80] noted that a fortress city called Tsri is only found in the work of Albanian historian M.Kaghankatvatsi and that, judging by his reports, this city had some particular status and played a significant role in the political and religious events in Caucasian Albania in the 4th–5th centuries. For the first time, Tsri is mentioned in the story about St.Grigoris, who built a church there and placed parts of the martyr’s relics in it. After that, leaving priest Daniel there as a minister, Grigoris, together with his disciples, went to the “country of the Maskuts”, where he was captured and martyred [Каланкатуаци, кн.I, гл.14]. In connection with Tsri, the Maskuts’ country is mentioned again by the author of the “History of Albania”. According to him, a certain Zoroastrian Persian tried to desecrate the church in Tsri, but died in terrible agony. This case was witnessed by an eyewitness – “the Hunnic Bishop Iunan, who was in the country of the Maskuts” [Каланкатуаци, кн.I, гл.19]. As is known, the country of the Maskuts was located on the Caspian plain south of Derbent. Meanwhile, Tsri is also mentioned by Movses Kaghankatvatsi in connection with the country of the Chilbs.

 And the Chilbs are believed to have lived north of the Kura, in the foothills of the Greater Caucasus. Moreover, the researcher draws attention to the fact that the city of Tsri had been ruled by an Albanian governor of royal lineage, Hochkorik (a bastard of King Esvalen), the only Albanian governor in Albania mentioned by the Albanian chronicler. Then, the city is predominantly referred to as pagan, having a Persian element, but at the same time there is a diocese, which, however, is represented by a chorbishop. The city of Tsri, as M.Kaghankatvatsi clarifies, is a fortress of strategic importance. And on top of everything else, the Hunnic bishop Jonah (Iunan) turned out to be in this city.

Also, the author of “The Geography of the 7th century”, Ananias of Shirak, mentions the Chilbs among the tribes of “Asiatic Sarmatia”. All this and the information given by Elishe, F.Buzand and M.Kaghankatvatsi lead to the conclusion that the author of the Albanian History means Chor/Chol (Derbent) by Tsri and he uses “Chilbs” to denote the people of Chola or a tribe that lived near Chola and constituted part of its population.

Hunnic Diocese

Another territorial-canonical entity that we conditionally include in the jurisdiction of the Albanian Church is the Hunnic missionary diocese. The area of settlement of the Sabir Huns, bordering Caucasian Albania in the northeast, is well known. Varachan, the capital Hunnic city, is localized on the site of the Shah-Senger settlement in the Kayakentsky district of Dagestan [Гаджиев, 1998, с.15-16].

 The Hunnic lands, which caused many political troubles to Caucasian Albania, became at the same time the object of special missionary care of the Albanian Church. Since ancient times, the following rule has been observed in the Church: the Church that converts a non-Christian people to Christianity on the territory that is not part of any of the Local Churches becomes the Mother Church, the kyriarchal Church, for the newly created community, diocese, church. This rule is formulated in Canon 131 (117) of the Council of Carthage in 411, which says: “since it was so decreed some years ago by a plenary council, that whatever churches were erected ... should pertain to the sees of those bishops through whom their return to Catholic unity was brought about...”.

We know that it was the bishops of the Albanian Church who spread Christianity among the Huns. The first Albanian bishop to preach among the Huns is mentioned in the story of M.Kaghankatvatsi about the events in the city of Tsri and in the list of primates of the Albanian Church, where the author enlists him before St.Jeremiah who was one of the pioneers of Albanian writing at the end of the 4th century. This bishop, Jonah (Iunan), is called the “bishop of the Huns”, and the time of his missionary activity was in the second half of the 4th century [Каланкатуаци, кн.I, гл.19; кн.III, гл.24]. Zacharias of Mytilene provides information about “Kardosta, the bishop of Aran”, who not only performed missionary activities and spiritual guidance of the Huns from 537 to 551, but also undertook to translate the texts of the Holy Scriptures into the Hunnic language. This translation, according to a Syrian author, was completed by 544 [Zachariae Rhetori. 1924, XII, 7]. Then, the same author reports that Bishop Macarius was among the Huns from 551–555 and on. In 80s of the 7th century, Albanian bishop Israel set out on a mission to the country of the Huns.

 M.Kaghankatvatsi devotes eight chapters of the Second Book of his Chronicle, from XXXVIII to XLV, to a detailed account of this mission. The Albanian historian ibidem reports on the desire of the Huns to establish a diocese in their country. They say to Bishop Israel: “We pray your holiness that you agree to be our bishop and teacher, establishing the episcopal see in our city of Varachan” [Каланкатуаци, кн.II, гл.42]. As a result, with the Albanian Catholicos Eliazar’s blessing, “The blessed Bishop Israel, out of his friendly disposition, voluntarily agreed to go to the Huns, arranged for both countries and provided guidance for the newly converted flock of Christ in order to firmly preserve the vow and the conditions of the union with them” [Каланкатуаци, кн.II, гл.45]. Later, the Hunnic diocese founded by the bishops of Caucasian Albania, along with the other seven missionary diocesan regions, became part of the Metropolitanate of Doros [Артамонов, 1962, с.93- 94; Науменко, 2002, с.544-568]. The exact time of founding of this Metropolitanate is unknown, but 787 is considered the earliest possible date, and the end of the 9th century is the latest. Three dioceses of this Metropolitanate were located along the shores of the Caspian Sea: The Hunnic, the Khval and the Astil dioceses. The Metropolitanate apparently existed for a short time, no longer than till the 10th century.

Diocese of Yeut

The bishop of Yeut is mentioned only once among the attendees of the Aghvank Council in the list of the “History of the Albanians” analyzed in the 19th century by K.Patkanov [Каланкатуаци, 1861, кн.I, гл.26]. As is known, K.Patkanov translated from a copy taken from the original in 1841 by priest O.Shakhatuni and then delivered to the St.Petersburg Asiatic Museum.

 S.Smbatyan who published “The History of the Albanians” in 1984 excludes the name of this diocese from his translation. The work on the last translation involved all known manuscripts of this work (the eleven manuscripts kept in Matendaran and three manuscripts based on microfilms and photocopies). Based on this, we must exclude the probability of the existence of the Yeut diocese, especially since its name does not coincide with any known toponym of Caucasian Albania.

As can be concluded, the spread of Christianity in Caucasian Albania was not uniform and the positions of the Albanian Church, due to the complicated political situation, were not steady in all regions. At the same time, the penetration of Christianity from cities to villages and the increase in the number of believers, observed from the 4th century, resulted in the growth of the number of ecclesiastical-administrative units, i.e. dioceses, the number of which by the 6th century was at least 15. However, a precise clarification of the issue of the territories of the medieval dioceses of the Albanian Church and the amount of the Christian population living on them is for the time being an insoluble problem requiring additional studies involving later sources for analysis. Nevertheless, having analyzed all M.Kaghankatvatsi’s reports about the hierarchs and the structural units of the Albanian Church, we have proposed for the first time such a complete list of dioceses under the jurisdiction of the Albanian Primate by the 6th century.


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İssue: ETHNOCULTURAL HERITAGE OF CAUCASIAN ALBANIA No. 2 BAKU 2021 Ethnocultural heritage of Caucasian Albania (collection of articles). No. 2. Baku, 2021, 232 p

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Главные темы последнего митинга в Гагаузии16:57«Сила Сибири — 2»: первое монгольское предупреждение11:44Саудовская Аравия планирует построить в Каракалпакстане крупнейшую в мире ветроэлектростанцию15:36Как кусочек шоколада влияет на ваш организм13:20Саудовская Аравия может потеснить Россию в Центральной Азии
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