Handaberd Fortress - History and Facts | History Hit

Handaberd Fortress

Kyle Hoekstra

24 Aug 2021
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

About Handaberd Fortress

Handaberd is a 9th century fortress in Azerbaijan, built as the primary residence of the Armenian ruler Atnerseh I. It is located on the bank of the Levçay River.

History of Handaberd

According to the Armenian historian Movses Kaghankatvatsi, Handaberd was built by Prince Atnerseh of Khachen in the second quarter of the 9th century. Kaghankatvatsi’s 10th century History of the Country of Albania (no connection to the Balkan state) records the building’s name as “Handu berd”.

Atnerseh was possibly a member of the Siunua dynasty, which ruled over an area which corresponds to the historical Armenian province of Artsakh. Handaberd was Atnerseh’s primary residence, and it also served as a prison.

Handaberd was built on a high mountain ridge 600 metres from the right bank of the Levçay River. It is located over the Ayrım Gorge and is surrounded by forest. Nearby are caves where archaeologists have located early habitation by humans.

The fortress was substantially extended some time after its original construction. Handaberd belonged to the prince Hasan I Vakhtangyan between 1142 and 1182, according to an inscription on a memorial stele at a nearby Armenian monastery.

The castle features walls of average 1.3 metre thickness, five or six wells and is accessed by the castle’s main gate. There are smaller castles serving as satellites on surrounding mountains, including Pahak, Garavul and Jomard.

Handaberd is also known as Lev Castle, which is derived from the Armenian name for the Levçay River, and other names.

Handaberd today

Handaberd is a ruinous castle which features the remains of a monastery, an oven, the castle’s fortified walls and its gate. It is designated as a site which bears historical importance for the state of Azerbaijan. The castle’s location in the mountains means any ascent brings with it glorious views.

Getting to Handaberd

Handaberd is near the village of Knaravan in the Kalbajar District of Azerbaijan. It is located on a steep hill. Reaching the castle is achieved by travelling by foot along the south-west wall towards the gate on the north side.

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