Armenia is a home to a complex culture and some of the world’s greatest religious shrines. While planning your trip to Armenia, you will definitely think of including some of the heritages of Armenia’s culture, the bright examples of which are our world famous monasteries. Having this information in your pocket, you will noticeably ease your selection process.
Tatev is a medieval Monastery in Syunik Region, 280 km away from Yerevan. These unique impregnable masterpiece merged with fathomless nature conquers your heart from the very first visit. The fortified Tatev monastery was built between 9-13 centuries and consists of three churches (St. Paul and Peter, St. Gregory the Illuminator and St. Mary), a library, dining hall, belfry, mausoleum as well as other administrative and auxiliary buildings. Aside from the buildings, the monastery boasts an upright pendulum, known as the Gavazan (staff). The Legend tells us that Gavazan sustained even the 1931 earthquake when everything around — the cathedral, St. Grigor Lusavorich Church, the porch and the belfry were destroyed.
Noravank is another medieval Armenian monastery located 122 km away from Yerevan and standing at the end of the canyon, surrounded by impressive brick-red cliffs. Even though the name is literally translated as “New Monastery”, it is a 7 centuries old monastic complex, which includes the church of S. Karapet, S. Grigor chapel with an arced hall, and the church of S. Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God).
A legend tells as a story about Noravank’s origin. According to it there was an architect in Syunik region named Momik, who fell in love with the daugher of Syunik’s governor. As the later was worried about this love between Momik and his daughter, he tried to give him an impossible task, thus trying to get rid of poor architect. He ordered Momik to build a magnificent church within 3 years, and if successfully completed, he would get his daughter as his wife. Momik started building the church eagerly. The years passed and Momik built this divine church complex. The governor was worried about the successful completion of the task and before Momik would finish the construction, he sent a murderer to kill him. The unsuspecting architect was pushed from the roof and died.
Khor Virap Monastery
Khor Virap Monastery is located on a hillock in Ararat Region about 30km south of Yerevan. Its history dates back from 6th to 17th centuries. It is composed of a deep dungeon where according to the legend Trdat the 3rd imprisoned Grigory the Illuminator for 13 years for preaching Christianity. According to the Legend God then punished Trdat misdeeds by depriving him sanity. Trdat adopted the behavior of a wild boar, aimlessly wandering around in the forest. In her sleep Khosrovidukht, Trdat’s sister had a dream where appeared to her a vision from God telling her to get back from the prison Gregory who will teach the remedy of Trdats ills. This vision is repeated for five times. But no one believed that Gregory would be alive after so many years at the very sight of the snakes. But a Christian woman had taken care of Trdat bringing him a piece of bread each day. So Trdat released Grigori the Illuminator and immediately got recovered from his ills. Trdat rewarded Grigori sending him to Caesaria to be consecrated a bishop. Thus Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity in 301 AD. Later in 642 Catholicos Nerses built a chapel over the jail-dungeon. From here the most wonderful view of the Mount Ararat can be admired.
Geghard is another medieval monastery founded in 4th century by Grigory the Illuminator. Some parts of the monastery are carved out of the mountains. At the early period the monastery was called Ayrivanq, which is literally translated as monastery of caves. The main architectural complex was completed in the 13th century AD and consists of the cathedral, the adjacent narthex, eastern and western rock-cut churches, the family tomb of Proshyan princes, Papak’s and Ruzukan’s tomb-chapel, as well as various cells and numerous rock-cut cross-stones (khachkars).
As the monastery is partially carved out of the mountain, the locals have their own explanation for this. According to a legend, a sister and a brother from a noble family decided to build a temple higher up the gorge of Azat River and live there. But, they were undecided where exactly to build it and asked for the God’s help. They waited for a sign, and one morning saw that their hoe was stuck on top of the mountain. That was the sign. The siblings built the temple inside the rock with the help of a saint virgin and lived here till the end of their lives.
There is also a healing water of the spring that comes out of the rock under the north wall of the main church.
Goshavank is a bright example of Armenain medieval arcitect. Goshavank was built in 1188, adjacent to Getik monastery that was ruined during an earthquake. Nestled in the village of Gosh, it is named after Mkhitar Gosh, who was the founder of the monastery and an Armenian scholar. Afterhis death he was burried in a chapel overlooking to the main church.
Goshavank features a main church (Surp Astvatsatsin) and smaller churches to St Gregory of Narek and St Gregory the Illuminator. The tower on the matenadaran (library) was once taller than the main church. With a school attached, the library is said to have held 15,000 books before it was burned by Timur’s army in the 13th century.
Haghartsin is a 13th-century monastery nestled in the woodlands of Dilijan, Tavoush Region. The territory of the medieval monastery is vast and is occupied by St. Gregory church (11 th century), St. Astvatsatsin church (1281), St. Stepanos church (1244), the 13 th – century chapel, the tomb of Bagratids (12 th century), the refectory (1248) and various premises built in the 12 th – 13 th centuries. Located 2 km from the monastery are the ruins of medieval village of Haghartsin.
According to the legend the monastery’s name has the roots “hagh” meaning game and “artsiv” meaning an eagle. Going back to the origins, it is said at the monastery’s dedication an eagle was soaring above its dome as if playing around it, and there came the name of the monastery.
Sevanavank is a 9 century monastic complex located in the northwestern shore of Sevan Peninsula. It is comprised of two churches, Surb Arakelots (Holy Apostles) and Surb Astvatsamayr (Holy Mother of God). The architecture of both churches is almost the same; they are made of black tuff in the form of a cross. Surb Astvatsamayr Church used to preserve the most important gifts to the monastery, including 200 manuscripts, 400 printed books, jewelry, crosses, and many other items.
According to an inscription found in the territory, the monastery was built by Armenian princess Mariam, daughter of Ashot I, who later became the king of Armenia and the founder of Bagratuni dynasty. Sevanavank is one of the 30 churches that Princess Mariam vowed to build in the memory of her husband. King Ashot I, in his turn, presented six villages and gardens in the territory of today’s Garni and Yerevan to the monastery.