BAGAWAN, an ancient locality in central Armenia situated at the foot of Mount Npat (Gk. Niphates, Turk. Tapa-seyd) in the principality of Bagrewand west of modern Diyadin. The name means literally “town of the gods.” It is attested in Greek as Sakauana (for *Bagauana) in Ptolemy (Geography 5.12.7). Agathangelos (par. 817) explains it as dicʿ-awan “town of the gods,” but Moses of Khorene as bagnacʿn awan “town of altars” (see Hübschmann, p. 411). Bagawan was one of the chief shrines of pagan Armenia and a perpetual fire was kept burning there (Moses of Khorene, 2.77, tr. Thomson, p. 225); the New Year’s festival on the first day of the month of Nawasard was celebrated by the royal family at Bagawan (Agathangelos, par. 836; ed. and tr. Thomson, pp. 371f.). The account of Moses of Khorene (2.56) of the altar erected at Bagawan by the “last Tigran” and his attribution of the establishment of this festival to King Valarsaces (Vałaršak) are probably his own inventions (cf. Moses of Khorene, tr. Thomson, pp. 493-94 notes). After the conversion of Armenia to Christianity (ca. 314), it is here that King Tiridates (Trdat) the Great and his court are said to have been baptized by St. Gregory the Illuminator in the Euphrates (Agathangelos, par. 832), whose southern arm (Muratsu) takes its source nearby. St. Gregory is said to have founded the important monastery of St. John the Baptist here from which the town received its Turkish name Üç Kilise “the three churches.” According to Moses of Khorene (3.67; tr. Thomson, p. 347) Shah Yazdegerd (Yazkert) II of Iran camped at Bagawan during his invasion of Armenia in 439.

The church of St. John the Baptist at Bagawan was erected on the left bank of the Euphrates in 631-39. It was surrounded by a high wall flanked with towers which protected the monastic buildings within. The monastery was pillaged by the Kurds in 1877 and was totally destroyed after 1915.



L. Ališan, Ayrarat, Venice, 1890.

S. T. Eremyan, Hayastanə əst “Ašxarhacʿoycʿ”-i, Erevan, 1963, p. 42.

T. X. Hakobyan, Hayastani patmakan ašxarhagruṭʿiwn, 2nd ed., Erevan, 1968, pp. 90, 135, 136, 371.

Idem et al., “Bagavan,” in Haykakan sovetakan hanragitaran II, Erevan, 1976, p. 196.

H. Hübschmann, Die altarmenischen Ortsnamen, Strasburg, 1904, repr. Amsterdam, 1969, pp. 380, 411.

H. T. Tozer, Turkish Armenia and Eastern Asia Minor, London, 1881, pp. 392-94.

C. Toumanoff, Studies in Christian Caucasian History, Washington, 1963, pp. 319-20.

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(R. H. Hewsen)

Originally Published: December 15, 1988

Last Updated: August 22, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 4, pp. 407-408