Amberd is a 7th century fortress located at 2,300 meters (7,500ft) above sea level, on the slopes of Mount Aragats at the confluence of the Arkashen and Amberd rivers in the Province of Aragatsotn in Armenia. The name translates to as the “Fortress in the Clouds” in Armenian.
The site started as a Stone Age settlement. During the Bronze Age and Urartian periods, a fortress had been built that is now obsolete. The castle of Amberd and some sections of the walls were constructed in the 7th century as a possession of the noble House of Kamsarakan.
Amberd was invaded in the 1070’s by the Seljuk Turks who turned it into a military base. In 1197, a joint army of Georgians and Armenians led by General Zakareh Zakarian liberated the fortress. The noble Vache Vachutian purchased Amberd in 1215, making it a key defensive site in the region. Within a short period of time, the Mongols captured and destroyed the fortress in the year 1236. The site remained abandoned and untouched until the 20th century, when reconstruction and archaeological excavations began.
The castle ruins of Amberd comprised an area of 1,500m². Its walls are constructed of roughly hewn basalt blocks set in place with mortar. Tower walls are inclined to make it easier to fire on invaders below. The palace had three levels, each floor separated from one another by wood planks clinched on logs. The interior of the castle had three-stories, each floor separated from one another by wood planks clinched on logs.
The structural configuration is thought to have not changed since it was first built in the 7th century. Excavations have shown that the interior of the castle and the rooms were quite lavish with elegantly carved decorations in the rooms, oil lamps, incense holders, and walls decorated with silks and brocades, and with bronze, gold and silver ornamentation.
The nearby church of St. Astvatsatsin (The Holy Virgin), also known as Vahramashen Church, was built for Prince Vahram Pahlavuni and completed in 1026. It seats between the fort and near a wall on the promontory with the Arkashian River in the canyon below.