A khachkar or Armenian cross-stone is a carved, memorial stele bearing a cross, and often with additional motifs such as rosettes, interlaces, and botanical motifs. The center square was used to burn candles.
Khachkars are characteristic of Medieval Christian Armenian art. The first true khachkars appeared in the 9th century, during the time of Armenian revival after liberation from Arab rule. The oldest khachkar with a known date was carved in 879 (though earlier, cruder, examples exist). Erected in Garni, it is dedicated to queen Katranide I, the wife of king Ashot I Bagratuni.
The peak of the khachkar carving art was between the 12th and the 14th centuries. The art declined during the Mongol invasion at the end of the 14th century. It revived in the 16th and 17th centuries, but the artistic heights of the 14th century were never achieved again. Today, the tradition still remains, and one can still see khachkar carvers in some parts of Yerevan.
About 40,000 khachkars survive today. Most of them are free standing, though those recording donations are usually built into monastery walls. Since 2010, khachkars, their symbolism and craftsmanship are inscribed in the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.