Lori Castle, Armenia
Lori Castle, also known as Lori Berd, is an Armenian medieval fortress nestled between two rivers near the small town of Stepanavan. One of the few remaining castles in Armenia, this charming palace provides a fun respite from the country’s litany of churches and monasteries.
History of Lori Castle
Historical sources indicate that Lori Berd Fortress and its corresponding settlement were founded in the early 11th century under David Anhoghin, ruler of the medieval Kingdom of Lori. The castle was strategically located along a northern trade route which connected the major cities of Ani, Dvin, Dmanisi and Tbilisi.
Between the 11th and 13th centuries, Lori Berd had about 10,000 residents. The settlement is also mentioned in Georgian historical sources as the site where Georgian King Giorgi III besieged his nephew King Demna in a dispute for the throne in 1177. A few decades later, Queen Tamar of Georgia bequeathed Lori Region to Sarkis of the Zakaryan Dynasty, whom she had appointed commander-in-chief of the Georgian army. The sons of Sarkis, Zakare and Ivane Amirspasalar, would later restore the statehood of northeastern Armenia after liberating it from foreign control.
In 1236 the Mongols captured and nearly destroyed Lori Castle, which was later rebuilt. Between 1562 and 1734, it served as a military stronghold under alternating Turkish, Persian and Georgian control. During the 18th century, Lori Castle gradually lost its military significance and instead became a refuge for displaced peoples from the wider area. Over time, all of Lori Berd’s residents eventually abandoned the settlement for nearby villages.
Excavations of Lori Castle have uncovered an array of tools, pottery and coins, as well as imported items from Georgia, Persia and Central Asia which confirm that the fortress once served as a crossroads of international trade.
Lori Berd is situated on a rocky plateau almost 1500 meters above sea level. It is surrounded by a 214-meter-long wall which measures up to 25 meters high and 20 meters wide. Round and square towers along the wall enabled soldiers to easily scan the perimeter, while a large moat dug along the length of the wall provided further protection from the enemy.
Inside the fortress were a palace, baths, chapels and private apartments. An underpass which ran to Miskhana River enabled residents of Lori Berd to access potable water and stay in touch with the outside world. Numerous Armenian cross-stone khackhars can also be seen on the territory.
Lori Castle Bridge
Near Lori Berd is a bridge which is associated with the castle and regarded as the finest example of medieval Armenian bridgework. Built on the Miskhana River between the 11th and 13th centuries, it is a single-span bridge made of smooth basalt stone which measures 9 meters long and 2.8 meters wide. The bridge remained in use for centuries, and after being severely damaged in a flood in 1918 was repaired by local residents.