The fortress planning was carried out in two stages. The foundation of the fortress was designed at the first stage, while during the second, the construction was moved from the relatively quiet eastern section to the west which had a much rougher terrain. Most of the construction ac- tivities commenced under the rule of the son of Panah Khan, Ibrahim- Khalil Khan (1760-1806), who forti- fied the walls of the Shusha fortress. It is worth indicating that the Askeran fortress was erected by Ibra- him Khan’s brother, Mehrali Khan [ref]Ahmed-bek Javanshir, The History of the Karabakh khanate, Baku, 1961; P. Zubov, The Historical Caucasus novel. A Karabakh astrologist or the establishment of the Shusha for- tress, St. Petersburg, 1834; V. Dorn, The Caspian, St. Petersburg, 1975; The Caucasian Calendar for 1855[/ref].
Major researches have been dedicated to studying Azerbaijani architecture in modern times. These researches have identified the main features of the formation and devel- opment of the country’s architec- ture and its unique national forms.
The evolution of Azerbaijan’s architecture represents a complete cycle which fits quite well into the development of the Near East and subse- quently of Central Asia and Western Europe.
The architecture of Caucasian Albania is a link in this single process. Alban architectural monuments emerged as a visible expression of the people’s powerful creative potential. Every monument contains features characteristic of the epoch in which it was created. The monumental cult architecture of Caucasian Albania was noted for its uniqueness and identity, as is the case in other countries of the Chris- tian world. It wasn’t like any other architecture. But at the same time, it was subordinated to the tendencies (development laws) we have been observing in other countries and regions.
Holding a special place in the Caucasian Albania architecture are the cult structures of Karabakh. Their appearance in this his- torical region meant that people’s religious beliefs had significantly strengthened. Therefore, cult structures acquired a certain social, political, cultural and ethnic function [ref]R. Geyushev, Christianity of Caucasian Albania, Baku, 1984; D. Akhundov, The Architecture of ancient and early medieval Azerbaijan, Baku, 1986; G. Mamedova, Cult architecture of Caucasian Albania, 1997[/ref].
Rectangular temples triggered the development of hall-vault churches. The performance of cult rituals necessitated the construction of domes, which led to the creation of central dome temples and basilicas.
Information about the construction of Christian cult structures in Karabakh is mainly preserved in Alban narrative sources, most notably “The History of the Country of Al- bania” by Moses of Kalankatuyk, the main reference on the history and architecture of Caucasian Albania. The author dwells upon the first church built in Karabakh after Christianity was declared state religion. This is how the Amaras temple emerged. Archaeological excavations have re- vealed that this is a three-aisled basilica. A chapel was built in the same monastery in the early 6th century during the times of Vachagan III [ref]R. Geyushev, Christianity of Caucasian Albania, Baku, 1984[/ref].Another chapel of St. Panteleimon was built in Dutakan, the native village of King Vachagan III. Moses of Kalankatuyk suggests that Alban Catholicos Gregory built a church “in the great city of the Agvan rule, Tsri”. The historian also provides detailed information about the monasteries built by the great Alban prince Javanshir.
Describing the history of his country and the deeds of Alban kings and princes, Moses of Kalankatuyk pays special attention to their construction activities. Vachagan III alone built as many churches as there are days in a year. Also engaged in the construction of cult structures and landscaping were Alban princes. The wife of Prince Spram built a monastery and deco- rated it in a splendid manner.
One of the most important di- rections of Christian architecture in Karabakh was the rapid development of monastery complexes [ref]V. Kerimov, G. Mamedova, Complex of St. Elisha and its architectural paral- lels in adjoining countries. Reports of the Second International Sympo- sium, Baku, 1997[/ref].
The construction of cult buildings inside large monasteries, which also served as family shrines, was considered particularly prestigious. Monasteries were viewed as cen- ters of spiritual and public life of the country. In fact, major monastic ensembles emerged, such as Agoglan (Lachin District), Khudavank (Kalbajar District), Amaras (Shamkir District), Gutavan (Gadrut District). They reflected the most advanced architectural and construc- tion achievements of the time. The examination and research of the cult structures that were part of these ensembles provide a glimpse of the monumental architecture of that epoch. In Karabakh, monasteries appeared in the early middle ages. This represents irrefutable evidence that as early as in the 5th century there was a large number of mon- asteries in Albania that played a certain role in the economic and cultural life of the state.
Due to the overall cultural development in Azerbaijan in the 12-13th centuries, the construction of monasteries reached its heyday and remarkable architectural ensembles started emerging. The monumental buildings reflected new ideas of artistic expression and courageous design solutions. This was a period when monasteries became centers of spiritual and secular culture.
One of Karabakh’s biggest monasteries is Khudavank or Dadivank. A legend links its name with Dadi, one of the students of apostle Faddei. Faddei, the brother of apostle Thomas, was one of 72 junior apos- tles sent to pagan countries for ser- mon [ref]F. Mamedova, Political history and historical geography of Caucasian Albania, Baku, 1986[/ref].
Moses of Kalankatuyk writes, “We, residents of the East, have received apostle Faddei who died the death of a martyr at the hands of Sanatruk”. The legend goes that one of his students Dadi, who also died as a martyr, was buried in Small Sunik. A monastery was subsequently built on his grave and named after him.
The monastery was refurbished and new buildings constructed in it in the 13th century at the expense of Alban Prince Vakhtang ( Vakhram). The main church of the Alban Catholicos was built here by Princess Arzu, the wife of Prince Vakhtang, in 1214. Further south of the cult ensemble there is another church of the Khudavank complex – the church of Great Hasan.
The Ganjasar (Ganzasar) monastery, established on a tall and picturesque highland on the Khachinchay river near the Vank- lu village, represents an interest- ing combination. This is the best- known Alban monastery that was a residency of the last Alban Catholicos until 1863 (R. Geyushev, On the confessional and ethnic background of the Ganzasar monastery. Azerbaijan’s material culture, Vol. 6, 1965).
The Gutavan monastery com- plex is mentioned in “The History of the Country of Albania” in connection with the Partav cathedral. The same-named fortress adjoining the monastery was the residency of Alban princes from the 9th century.
Karabakh’s cult architecture is represented by numerous monuments. It embodies strong construction traditions going back to the depth of centuries. The monastery ensembles harmoniously interlocking with mountain views are clear evidence of the high level of skill of Alban architects. At the same time, these monuments form an integral part of the centuries-long Karabakh architecture.