B j n i

   Bjni is one of the oldest settlements of Armenia. The first recorded mention of the village was by the 5th to 6th century chronicler and historian Ghazar Parpetsi.

  Artik priest from Bjni was one of the most devoted friends of Vahan Mamikonyan, who was an Armenian army leader.

In the 11th century, the lands of Bjni were passed to the Pahlavuni family. Around this time, King Hovhannes-Smbat made the decision that the lands should become an Episcopal settlement. In 1066, the election for the Patriarch took place in Bjni. At the beginning of the 13th century, the lands were passed on to the Zakharyan family  

The French traveler Sharden visited the village in 1673, aBjni.jpgnd in 1770 it was visited by the traveler Turenfor.   During the middle ages Bjni was one of the most important centers of education in Armenia. Some manuscripts in Armenian from Bjni dated to the 12th to 17th centuries have survived. The largest of the churches and the most important representative of the middle age architecture is Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Virgin), which is situated just in the middle of the villge built in 1031 by Grigor Magistros. Unique and original, this church has stone shelves built 5m high stretching around the walls. It was reconstructed in 1947.

The walls of once impregnable fortress may be seen from the church. Bjni was called “impregnable Bjni” and “the place where Gods live” for the thing that the fortress was impossible to occupy. The secret was that the village was connected to the neighboring village through three underground ways and that is why the people attacked always were provided with the food.

One of the ways starts from the church St. Astvatsatsin. The remains of the 9th to 10th century Bjni Fortress of the Pahlavuni family sit along the top and sides of a mesa that divides the village almost in half. The larger portion of the village is located west of the mesa and curves south, while a smaller portion is east. The walls of the fortress may only be seen from the western side of the village, and are easiest reached via a dirt road that forks (take the left fork) and goes up the side of the hill. At the top of the mesa, there are some sections of walls still preserved, traces of where foundations  once had been, the stone foundation of a church from the 5th century, a medieval structure that still stands (currently being rebuilt), two cisterns one with vaulting still partially intact, and a covered passage that leads to the river.

     Some nice khachkars are built into the walls of the structure. On the eastern portion of the village a top a rock outcrop next to a modern cemetery is the church of Surb Sarkis built in the 7th century. It is the smallest of all of the churches. There is supposedly three other chapels/shrines in the vicinity, one of which sits between the fortress and the village and is constructed of very large stones.

 But the settlement and the castle existed much earlier – on a single rock in the east of the fortress a small Surb Sargis church (VII cen.) stands (one of most miniature cross-vaulting dome churches in Armenian territory).   

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