Armenia

Churches and Monasteries

Location: Aragatsotn

Established: 6 c

From Yerevan: 66 km/ 1h

Church of St. Hovhannes built at the end of the VI century in the village near the town of Talin Mastara Aragatsotn Region. Is a centrally-domed cruciform building with four apses. Survives today in the non-state with a partial reconstruction. According to the legend Gregory the Illuminator from Caesarea brought the remains of Sv.Ovannesa and one part left here and it built a church and gave its name to the village Mastara, which means "Masa container - part claimed." Church of St. John the Baptist in Mastara was founded in Vveke. The temple has sharp corners and four sides of the apse. Around the church spread out several of the same ancient cross stone blends in harmoniously with the church.

Location: Aragatsotn

Established: 5-7 c

From Yerevan: 66 km/ 1h

In the V-VII centuries. Talin was the center of Armenian principality Kamsarakanov. Here we must first examine the small church and the Great Temple.   Talin large temple (or Cathedral Church) built by Prince Kamsarakan in the VII century. Represents trehabsidnuyu domed basilica. Earthquake in 1840 destroyed the dome and much of the southern and western walls. Small church Talina built in the second half of VII century princes Kamsarakan. Located in the town of Talin. Is a cruciform church in terms trehabsidnuyu Central bathing composition. In 1840 the church was badly damaged by the earthquake. In 1947, and again in 1970-74, the years of the church was restored.

Location: Armavir region

Established: 653

From Yerevan: 16km / 19min

  “Zvartnots” complex, located not far from Vagharshapat, is of unique value; it consists of Zvartnots temple, and catholicos’s palace, situated nearby. This wonderful complex was built in 641-661 by Nerses III Shinogh’s order, who got nickname “Shinarar”(Builder) due to his construction activity.   “Zvartnots” was founded on the path, where king (Trdat)Tiridate met Gregory the Enlightener, visiting Vagharshapat, and it is supposed, that Nerses III built temple after st. Gregory to commemorate this exact event. Part of his relics is preserved in the temple. Nevertheless, the temple is known more as “Zvartnots”, because it is dedicated to angels’ joys. So, “Zvartnots” literally means “Angels meeting”.   “Zvartnots” was standing until the end of the Xth century. In the beginning of the XXth century ruined “Zvartnots” was under thick soil layer. According to the excavated materials, before the erection of this temple, there were constructions of IV-V cc here. It is supposed, that on the place of “Zvartnots” temple of god Tir (god of science and education) stood. During excavations, the temple, catholicos’s palace, the South-West of it, additional constructions (bath, cells and so on), graves, household items as well as church ruins and  stone winery (near the ruins, in South-Eastern part) were found on the spot.   “Zvartnost” had its influence on Armenian architecture as a whole; this is a unique compound of Armenian constructing practice, sculpture, decorative art of early Middle Ages. Yerevan Opera House building has many similarities with “Zvartnots” temple.   Since 1937 there have been many open and close exhibitions in the territory of the museum-reserve, which is aimed not only to represent history and architecture of “Zvartnots”, but to give people a particular knowledge about the origins of Armenian architecture, its traditions, and, of course, its role in history of Armenian culture.  

Location: Yerevan

Established: 1694

  Zoravor St. Astvatsatsin (St. Holy Virgin) is one of the oldest churches in Yerevan city. The construction was called “Zoravor St. Astvatsatsin”, as the miraculous Gospel “Zoravor” (Almighty) was kept here. The chapel-crypt of apostle Anania, one of the most important sanctuaries, is located here as well. During Soviet times, having served for different purposes, St. Zoravor, eventually, was given back to the believers. In 1975-78 under the auspices of Echmiadzin Cathedral the church was fundamentally restored.   The fresco by Haghash Hovnatanyan (a famous artist), illustrating Maria and Jesus on the cross is one of the treasures of the church. This construction is a unique monument of Yerevan in the end of the 17th century.

Location: Anipemza v., Aragatsotn region

Established: V c

From Yerevan: 103km / 1h 36min

  Yereruyk temple is three-naved church of basilica type, which is located in Shirak region of RA, near Anipemza village, on the left bank of the Akhuryan River. The temple was built during early Christian period: 4-5 cc. It is preserved in dilapidated condition. It is considered to be one of the most ancient Armenian churches of its kind.   According to folk etymology, the name derives from the architectural decisions of the construction, based on columns, due to which it seems from afar as if the temple is fluctuating. Yereruk is one the most valued construction in Armenia. According to the experts, it is one of the greatest temples of Middle Ages.   According to the architectural type, Yereruyk is a three-naved basilica, built in the 5th century. The temple is significant for its amazing construction. It was built on six-stage huge podium.  The dam of an ancient reservoir of 200 meters length was found near the temple; a unique example of Armenian engineering.   Deep canyon of the Akhuryan River (from which Arpri Lake starts) and the quietness surrounding mountains supplement all these with amazing beauty.   In neighborhood with the temple, there are holes on the ground and spacious rooms under them: exits of the two rocks are in the lower part. One of the exits is ruined; the mentioned holes are the lighting apertures (yerdik), due to which it is light enough inside the rocks. There are special holes on the walls, which served as shelves and sitting places. In one of the salons there are two oppositely located stones, which look like a table and two chairs with handles. Nevertheless, these were fragments of some construction.   The temple is dedicated to Hovhannes Mkrtich (John the Baptist). There are child graves in the territory. It is supposed that Hovhannes Mkrtich (John the Baptists) offered to bury non-christened children there.   The embossed stones, spread all around, prove that here traces of only early Christian period are preserved. There are only a few traces of the Middle Ages. The complex functioned and developed during early Christian period, during pre-Arab years. Later on, the complex reached the peak of its development during period of prosperity of Ani capital: in 10-11 cc, and then in 13th century, but with less activity.

Vorotnavank, or Vaghatin Monastery is located 2 km. to the south-west from Vaghatin village, on the edge of Vorotan canyon. According to Stepanos Orbelian, the monastic complex was one of the most important in Armenia. The oldest church of the complex, Sourb Grigor church (now ruined), was founded by Grigor Lusavorich (Grigor the Illuminator). In the Middle Ages it was a pilgrimage church and was famous for its magic ability to treat snakebites.

The monastic complex consists of two churches, a porch and auxiliary structures. In 1000 Syunik king Smbat’s wife, Shahandukht built St. Stepanos Forerunner to the north-east of St. Grigor church. It has two side-chapels, prayer-room and a porch. St. Karapet church was built by Shahandukht’s son (rother of Syunik king Vasak), prince Sevada in 1006-1007. In the yard of the monastery queen Shahandukht placed an octahedral column called gavazan (demolished during 1937 earthquake) like the one in Tatev Monastery. It’s a religious structure, a symbol of Episcopal power meaning that monks were ordained and princes crowned in the monastery. St. Karapet church is cruciform inside, domed structure with three altars. There are side-chapels in each corner of the church. It was decorated with frescoes. A starry sky with an angel in the centre of it is painted on a preserved fragment. Porches are attached to the both churches, which served as a burial vault for princes. The founders of the monasteries queen Shahandukht and her son Sevada are buried there. The monastery was surrounded by a fortress wall, only a part of which preserved till now. All the structures of the monastery are built from local basalt stone. The monastery was ravaged during Seljuk Turks and Mongol invasions. In 1438 priest Sargis Angekhakot restored the dome of St. Karapet church. Vorotnavank was an educational centre. Prominent Armenian philosopher Hovhan Vorotnetsi, Grigor Tatevatsi and many others lived and worked there. The monastery functioned till the beginning of XX century. All the structures of the monastery suffered during 1931 earthquake. Reconstruction started in 1980, but the works are not completed till now.

 Location: Syunik region

Established: 10 c.

From Yerevan: 311  km/ 4 h. 30 min.

  Monastic complex Vahanavank is located 5 km South-West of Kapan city of Syunik region, on the right bank of the Voghj River. According to Stepanos Orbelyan (Armenian historian), the founder of the monastery was Vahan, son of Syunik duke Dzagik; the monastery was named after him. The first establishment of the complex: St. Gregory church, was founded in 911; this is a cross-domed construction, built of reddish basalt. The church has two entrances: from West and South.   Vahanavank is one of the greatest works of Armenian architecture, the priceless treasure of Syunik region. Vahanavank complex is surrounded by forests. Up today there is an operating water source of 10 the century in the territory; it is made of clay pipes.   This complex was popular for being a cultural center; it had a school, where pupils from different settlements of Syunik got education. The monastery was financially secure; had it own villages, large tracts of land.

Location: Tegher v., Aragatsotn region

Established: XI c

From Yerevan: 40km / 50min

  The Monastery of Tegher (XI c.) was built with dark grey basalt on the southern slopes of Aragats, in the valley of the River Tegher. The complex consists of a domed church and a narthex, It was built under the auspices of Mama-khatoun, Prince Vacheh Vachoutyan's wife by the architect Aghbayrik Vardapet. Mamakhatoun stopped at this elegant magic world from where all roads led to Amberd, her husband's eagle-nest. 'Stop, I am going to build my cathedral here to protect my husband, the prince of princes,' she said. And so the cathedral-fortress came to life. Then the great princess looked at Ararat, and her soul calmed down. Then came  wild nomadic tribes, but the fabulous Monastery of Tegher, austere and strong, is still looking at the Ararat Valley.   The church (1213-1232) is a domed gallery with two-storey sacristies in its four corners with austere forms and an absence of decorative adornment. The narthex is larger than the church. By its architectural forms it repeats the four-column types of the XIII c. narthexes.   Closer to Tegher, at an elevation of 1750 m above sea level you will find Academician Paris Herouni's world. The scientific centre houses the first radio-optic telescope of great precision, which enables penetration into remote galaxies and their nuclei. A sun station was built in 1992-1994; a sun calendar showing the time of the day and the month was created. Herouni thought that in Qarahounch there had been an observatory,; which is 7500 years old, older than the British Stonehenge.

Location: Syunik region

Established: X c

From Yerevan: 253km / 3h 18min

  Tatev Monastery is located in Syunik Province of RA, in the South of Tatev village. According to the preserved materials, the monastery was named after Eustache - one of St. Thaddeus’ s disciples. The monastery was founded in the 4th century; in the 5th-8th cc it was an advanced educational center; in the 8th – the residence of Syunik bishopric. The building works went on step by step: basically, from the end of the 9th century up to the beginning of the 10th century and in 17th-18th centuries.   In 895 the monastery became alarmenian cultural center, where Tatev University functioned with the efforts of Hovhan Vorotnetsi and his disciple Grigor Tatevatsi. Matenadaran (repository of manuscripts) of the monastery (10th century) stood until 1911-12, and the preserved 140 manuscripts were sent to Echmiadzin and then to Yerevan Matenadaran. In the composition of the monastery miniature school was very popular.   Besides the main constructions, in the 10th century a fluctuating obelisk(“Gavazan”) was built in the center of the park: the only construction, which was preserved after lots of earthquakes, which signifies the building mastery of Armenian architects.   The monastery fresco has it special place in the history of medieval art, especially taking into consideration the fact, the European fresco of the 10th century is almost not preserved.   All money from cable car “Tatever” goes to the “Tatev Revival" fund, which has the purpose to restore the monastery and to develop the local community. The official launch of the project took place on the 16th of October 2010 – on the opening day of the cable car.   There is a beautiful legend about the origin of the name of the monastery. When the master finished his work on the construction, he asked God to give him wings, so that he could see the magnificent beauty from the sky. God, listened to his request and made it come true. Word “tatev” is translated from Armenian as “give me wings”. Approaching the monastery you feel why it is called so. Tatev, surrounded with abysses from all sides, as if soars above the gorge.

Location: Vernashen, Vayots Dzor

Established:  VIII c

From Yerevan: 135km/2h

  Tanahat Monastery is an early medieval church complex South-East of Vernashen village of Vayots Dzor region. Historians mention about it from the 8th century. The complex was also called “Red Monastery”, because it was built of red stone. The monastery is located on the place of a pagan temple, dedicated to Anahit, the Armenian goddess of maternity. In the 5th century a Christian temple was established here.   St. Stepanos, the main church of the complex, was built in 1273-1279 under the auspices of Proshyan dukes. Inside the construction is of cross-domed type, with two vestries on four corners; outside it is rectangular. Proshyan dynasty banner is illustrated on the Southern wall; an eagle with a ram in its claws.   Some scientists consider that Gladzor Monastery operated in the composition of this monastery. The university was the most prominent medieval educational establishment in Armenia, founded in 1282.

Location: Vagharshapat c., Armavir region

Established: 1694

From Yerevan: 20km / 22min

  St. Shoghakat is a small church but a wonderful architectural monument. This is the newest construction of the whole church complex in Echmiadzin. The church was built in 1694 by Duke Aghamal Shorotetsi, on the Western side of St. Hripsime.   According to Agathangelos, Roman emperor Diocletian, a pagan, wanted to marry Christian Hripsime. Nun Hripsime, mentor Gayane and thirty other nuns run from Diocletian’s persecutions to Armenia.  Having learnt about virgin’s escape, the emperor sends a letter to Armenian king Trdad III (Tiridade III) with a request to find them and execute, and send Hripsime back. Nevertheless, Trdad III decided to marry Hripsime himself, but he wasn’t able to persuade her. In anger he ordered to isolate the virgins and kill them. On the place where Hripsime was killed, there is a church and her crypt in it. According to the legend, St.Shoghakat church was built on the place, where «sun ray came down» on the dead virgins.   Several constructions on the territory were ruined. Only the Southern facade of the whole complex was left in the 1980-ies; it was ruined in the March of 1982. The parish was located on the Western part; the octagonal rotunda of the belfry is on it.   Ruins of the small chapel of 6-7 cc was found near the church. Form and parameters of the plan of the church are characteristic to the Early Medieval churches of that kind, which allows assuming that St. Shoghakat was built on the fundament of 6-8 cc church. The dome with octagonal drum is located not in the center of the very construction, but the two pairs of wall columns, like similar ancient churches.   During excavations on the South-Western side of the church ruins of the one-naved church of 4th, built of polished stone, were found. Outside the semi-sircular apse, probably, the ending of the column hall, is located on the Southern part. There are two exits: from Western and Southern part; the vestries are characteristic to the 4-5th cc.   The church is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Location: Gegharqunik region

Established: IX c

From Yerevan: 68km / 52min

  Sevanavank is a monastic complex, located on Sevan peninsula of Gegharkunik region.   According to found materials, the first st. Harutyun church (Resurrection) was built on the island of Sevan (now peninsula) in 305 by Gregory the Enlightener on the place of a pagan temple.  It was destroyed because of the earthquake of 995. In the 9th century monk Mesrop Eghivardetci (Catholicos Mesrop Eghivardetsi in future) founded st. Arakelots monastery. According to ecclesiastic sources, nowadays monastery was built in 874 by the order of Ashot A's daughter duchess Mariam. Then the monastery was surrounded by walls, which were destroyed in 16-17th centuries.   In Middle Ages Sevanavank was a prominent historic-architectural complex, which besides the churches included constructions for different purposes (printing house, guest houses, warehouses, refectory, and so on). Sevanavank had the following churches: st. Astvatsamayr (Holy Virgin), st. Lusavorich (Enlightener), st. Hovhannes Mkrtich (John the Baptist) and st. Nshan; this names were used for the monastery for long years. Up today only st. Astvatsamayr and st. Araketots churches are preserved.   There are ruins of old buildings, cross-stones (khachkars), graves in the territory of the complex. In 1956-1957 the churches were restored.   According to the legend, King Ashot Yerkat (The Iron) and his brother Abas swore, that they would withdraw Arab invaders from the territory of Armenia.  The defense was concentrated in Sevanavank. Nevertheless, the forces were unequal.  The morning came, and Sevan was covered with thick fog. Armenian ships, furnished with burning torches, began the movement. King Ashot, continuing following a fisherman's advice, bypassed the enemy from behind and made them run away. Furthermore, sun rays were hitting Arab's eyes so hard that morning that they couldn’t point properly on Armenian ships, and had to surrender. The moral of the story is that Ashot the Iron, being a king, listened to reasonable advice of even a fisherman or a soldier.  

Location: Sanahin v., Lori region

Established: X c

From Yerevan: 180km / 2h 20min

  Sanahin Monastery is located in Lori region of The Republic of Armenia, in the same name village. Sanahin was founded by Ahsot Voghormats (Merciful) in 966. The complex became administrative center of Kyurikyan Dynasty, their ancestral crypt (up t to the second half of the 12th century) as well as the residence of the leader of Kyurikyans’ eparchy (until the second half of the 11th century ). In 10th-11th cc the monastery was acultural center; had high school and rich library. Humanitarian sciences, music and medicine were taught here, scientific works (treatises) were written here as well. Great writers, artists and miniaturists worked in this monastery.   In the end of the 11th century in the composition of Tashir province Sanahin passed to Zakaryans as ancestral residence. Sanahin again became cultural center, got large estates due to donations.   Very often Sanahin monastic complex was plundered by enemies. Part of the constructions was burnt, and the monuments were stolen by Seljuks and armed groups of Persians. Sanahin was largely damaged by natural disasters, especially, by the earthquake of 1139.   The monastic complex includes: st. Astvatsatsin (Holy Virgin) and st. Amenaprkich (Almighty) churches, 3 parishes, printing house, belfry, academy, st. Gregory chapel. The oldest building of the complex: st. Astvatsatsin church, was founded in 928-944 and is one the examples of churches with domed hall. There are still traces of fresco preserved on the walls.   50 cross-stones (khachkars) were preserved in the territory of the complex, in the cemetery, in the former settlement. Cross-stones Gregory Tutevordi and Sargis are of special value; the best examples of sculpture art in medieval Armenia.   According to the legend, Sanahin was built on the spot where Gregory the Enlightener placed cross in the 4th century. Sanahin complex was built earlier than Haghpat monastery. Sanahin (Sa na hin) is translated as “This one is older than that one (Haghpat)”.

Location: Aragatsotn region

Established: 13 c

From Yerevan: 34,2 km / 34 min

  Saghmosavank was built in the 13th century by duke Vache Vachutyan. Lots of parchments were written and painted in the library of the main church of the monastery. In 1215 duke Vache Vachutyan built St. Sion church and presented a village to the monastery. The church, located 5 km of Hovhannavank, has cross-domed rectangular hall with two two-storey vestries. The church facades are decorated with «Armenian holes» (narrow slits similar to the ones for windows). The drum of the dome has cylindrical form, which gives the whole construction perfect symmetry. In the first quarter of the 13th century, Vache Vachutyan built the four column parish to St. Sion church; the central part has tent form cover, as well as round yerdik (lighting aperture) with six column rotunda on it. Other parts of the cover (mirror, cylindrical, with intersecting arches, and with decorative tromps) are diverse and unique as well. The library-church is located on the South-Western side of the main church. It was built by Vach Vachutyan and his wife Khorishah in 1255 in memory of their daughter Mamakhatun, who left life very early. St. Astvatsatsin church (St. Holy Virgin) is situated on the South of St. Sion church, beside the Western walls; it was built in 1235. This vaulted construction has rectangular plan with semicircular altar from the Western side. The cemetery is located in the North of the monastic complex, where there are noteworthy khachkars («cross-stones») and khachkar-monuments of 13-14th century. For some time Grigor Tatevatsi taught in Saghmosavank. Saghmosavank was and educational center. There are several written and copied manuscripts, saved here. Some of them have special value: sermons, copied by scribes Mesrop and Mkhitar in 1185-88, Gospel of 1496, rewritten by father Hovhannes and other manuscripts. In 1611 father Sargis S met with priest Kirakos in Jerusalem; having come back to Armenia, they founded the Syunyats Mets Anapat (Big Desert of Syunik). In 1669 the abbot of Saghmosavank was Voskan Yerevantsi. Saghmosavank was renovated by father Gabriel. Saghmosavank was partially damaged because of the earthquake of 1988. Nevertheless, renovation of 2000 returned the complex former splendor and luxury.  

Location: Aragatsotn region

Established: 5th century

From Yerevan: 28,3 km/ 34 min.

 Oshakan is a village, 3 km South-East of Ashtarak city. According to the legend, Noah together with his family came down Mount Masis (Ararat) and saw Oshakan, free of water. Seeing this, they claimed «Osh akan», which is translated as «a miracle in front of our eyes». Being in the Arshakyans' (a royal dynasty in Armenia) estates, the village was their property.   Mesrop Mashtots is the creator of Armenian alphabet, founder of Armenian school and literature. In 394 he became a priest-teacher; accompanied with his pupils he preached Christian doctrine in different regions. Mesrop Mashtots translated the Bible into Armenian; this translation is considered to be the best in the world. Mashtots was born in village Hatsekats of Taron region, in family of a builder named Vardan. The presumable date of birth is 361.   After his death millenary Vahan Amatuni and colonel Hmayak Mamikonyan transferred the teacher's body to Oshakan, where in three years: in 443, Vahan Amatuni built a chapel. In sign of his deep respect and reverence towards Mashtots, catholicos Hovsep A Hoghotsmetsi entrusted Koryun (Mashtots' s pupil) to write history of life and activity of the great teacher.   Then in 1875-79 catholicos Gevorg D built a church-basilica on the place of the old chapel. The crypt of the teacher is located under the altar; in the Eastern side a belfry of cylindrical form was built in 1884. It is unique in Armenian architecture with its location as well as construction. In the 1960-ies fresco inside the church was done by H. Minasyan.   A monument (1962), dedicated to the 1600th anniversary of his birth, was established near the entrance of Oshakan. The monument consists of two slabs, and Armenian alphabet is carved on the left one. Exactly here international symposiums and seminars, in particular, events on «Translator's Day» are held.

Location: Odzun v., Lori region

Established:  IV c

From Yerevan: 177km / 2h 20min

The Domed Basilica of Odzun

Early medieval Armenian architecture (4-7 centuries) has exclusive significance for the history of ecclesiastical architecture of Armenia. After adopting Christianity as the state religion in 301 a new stage of development begins with the introduction of new setup, new artistic and constructive principles that became the basis of the medieval Armenian architecture. One of the masterpieces of that period is the temple of Odzun built in 6-7 centuries. The temple is situated in Odzun village of Lori region, on the high hill surrounded by wonderful northern nature of Armenia, the colorful images of which become more fantastic in autumn. The temple represents a domed basilica with a rectangular plan stretching from west to east; inside it is divided into 3 halls by 3 pairs of pillars; the central hall is wider and ends in the main semicircle altar, and from them the entrances to depositors are opened. The dome that is placed nearly in the middle of the porch dominates in the whole setup of the church. From the north, west and south the temple is surrounded by parlors. The northern and southern ones are distinguished for the arcades; the arched entrance of the church opens from the western parlor. The small bell-towers can be seen in both sides of the eastern facade. The setup of the temple is filled up by the artistic expressive means of the monument. The facades are decorated by different bas-reliefs which present vegetative decoration patterns, encircled crosses, high-reliefs set in the walls; one of them presents Holy Mary with infant Christ in her lap. Some of these high-reliefs belong to the period of building the temple; the others are older and are supposed to have been transferred from other monuments. There is a tomb solemnly situated in the north-eastern side of the temple which is one of the best examples of the early medieval Armenian memorial architecture and sculpture. There between 3 arched struts placed on a high pedestal stand two quadrilateral monuments of 5 meters height wholly decorated with highly artistic bas-reliefs of religious scenes with rich geometric and floral ornaments. One of them is very interesting; it portrays a man with a pig’s head holding in hand a cane crowned with a cross in the end. It is assumed that this image is related to the tradition connected with Armenian king Tiridates III according to which he has been transformed to a pig. The images of apostles and Mary with the child can also be seen on the bas-relief. Kobayr monastery is located not far from the temple.

Location: Vayots Dzor region

Established: X c

From Yerevan: 119km / 1h 59min

  Noravank is the generalized name for the monastic complex, built in the 13th-14th cc. It is located 3 km North-East of Amaghu village of Vayots Dzor region.   Noravank was built by bishop Hovhannes; in 1105 he expended the monastery territory, gathered hermit monks, and got the order from Seljuk authorities (those time Syunik region was under Seljuk yoke) on recognition of the monastery as bishopric.   During the following two centuries Noravank was expended due the efforts of Orbelyan dynasty, which ruled Syunik region at that time, and became cultural and educational center, as well as Orbelyan ancestral crypt. The monastic complex, protected with fortress walls includes: 2 neighboring churches, parish, church-crypt, two-stored church on the Eastern side, 2 chapels behind the walls. According to Stepanos Orbelyan, this place was a sanctuary since early Middle Ages.   There are lots of valuable khachkars in the garden, surrounded by the fortress walls. The most prominent ones are: a khachkar by Momik on memory of Duke Tarsaich from Tamta Khatun, and a khachqar, dedicated to Burtel and his son Ivane (it was found in 1982-83), which has the illustrations of Jesus Christ and his 12 disciples on both sides on the upper part. Noravank is one the best monuments of Armenian architecture due to its peculiarities and combination of different arts.   The inseparable part of Noravank history is the contribution of the prominent Armenian architect and sculptorMonik (1250-1339). He was the secretary, chief artists, architect and sculptor  of ancestral house of Orbelyan dynasty. His employees were metropolitans of Syunik Stepanos Orbelyan, Hovhannes Orbelyan, Stepanos Orbelyan, Burtel Orbelyan the Elder and duchess Tamta Khatun. Sculptured bass-reliefs on the upper part of the main st. Stepanos church exit and window, as well as bass-reliefs of st. Astvatsatsin (St. Holy Virgin) church are also referred to Momik. The khachkar, dedicated to Momik’s memory is situated in the territory of the monastery. In 2010 on the 750th anniversary of his birthday Museum after Momik was opened; medal and stamp were released. Prominent Bird Cave, where the oldest shoe in the world was found, is located near Noravank.

Location: Ashtarak c., Aragatsotn region

Established: XIV c

From Yerevan: 24km / 27min

  St. Gevork (St. George) church is located on the edge of Mughni village in Aragatsotn region. According to the 17 century historian father Zachariah, the monastery was founded by the representatives of Hovhannavank monastery, who had the purpose to move St. Gevork’s relics here. Most probably, it was in the end of the 13th century, because already in 1278 manuscripts were copied in the monastery. Part of St. Gevork’s relics was moved to Georgia to cure the Georgian prince. Afterwards, St. Gevork church was founded in Tbilisi to save the relics. St.Gevork church is located in the center of the monastic complex surrounded by fortress walls, beside which the other constructions are situated: refectory, warehouse, the water course. The church is a rectangular domed basilica, built of black, yellow-red treated stones. From the Western side, besides the very building of the church, a four-arch porch was built with the 12 column belfry-rotunda in it. The central arch of the porch is wider and higher, which emphasizes the architectural expressiveness of the Western front. It is noteworthy that, unlike other medieval churches, which windows overlook the four side of the world, windows of this church deviate from this principle to some extent. The dome cover has fan shape. The drum exterior is decorated with 5 lines of yellow-red stones, and above the windows, crosses and symbols of the 4 evangelists (man, calf, lion, eagle) are located. St. Gevork church of Mughni is one of the best Armenian constructions of the late Middle Ages due to the high level of aesthetic parameters of architectural forms. There are several khachkars (“cross-stones”) in the garden of St. Gevork church: the oldest is of 932, the latest – 1975. Interestingly, the latest was set at night, so no one knows who could possibly bring it here. From the Kasakh River up to Mughni a secret road of 1 km length was built for water obtaining, emergency escape in a dangerous situation, as well as manuscript saving. Within the shrines, kept in the monastery of Mughni, St. Gevork’s right hand, apostle Thaddeus’s and evangelistMathew’s relics are here. The pilgrimage day of St. Gevork monastery is celebrated on the last Saturday of September.

Location: Shirak region

Establishment: 10-11 cc

From Yerevan: 134 km/1 h. 57 min.

  Monastery Marmashen is located in the South-Western part of Varamaberd village of Akhuryan region, on the left bank of the Akhuryan River. The complex was a prominent religious and cultural center of medieval Armenia; it had a huge depository of manuscripts, a school.   The monastery consists of three structures: the main – Katoghike and two small churches. Armenian national architectural forms lie on the base of this monument. According to the cuneiforms, the main church was built by patriot duke Vahram Pahlavuni in 988-1029. The interior and exterior are done with reddish treated tufa, and the fundamental parts are built of basalt. The church is central-domed; it is based on the decorated columns, which are linked one to another by not less exquisite arches. There are lots of inscriptions on the walls; sun watches are depicted on the Southern wall. Vahram Pahlavuni’s crypt with a grave inscription is located in the parish. Despite the number of earthquakes, the construction was preserved quite well; only the Northern wall is destroyed.   The monastery was largely damaged during Seljuk invasions, though in 1225 Vahram Pahlavuni’s grandsons archbishop Grigor and his brother Gharib, renovated Katoghike.   Another, also central-domed church of the 11th century is situated on the Southern part of Marmashen; today it is in dilapidated state. In the Northern part of the main church, in half-kilometer distance, nonfunctioning church of the 7th century is located.   There are cave settlements and crypts on the territory. 2 km of Marmashen, on a natural cliff Urartian (Urartu was an Armenian kingdom) king Argishti A’s inscription on his victories in Shirak region is still preserved. The ruins of Marmashen fortress are here as well.

Location: Achajur v., Tavush region

Founding: X c

From Yerevan: 151km / 2h 5min

  Makaravank is a monastic complex of the 13th century, which is located in Tavush region, 3 km South-West of Achajur village, on the slope of Mount Paytatap. At this moment it is being renovated. Makaravank plays an important role inArmenian architecture due to the uniqueness, richness and diversity of decorations. Makaravank is one of the unique architectural monuments of medieval Armenia. All the constructions of the complex are built of a reddish tufa, dark pink andesite and greenish stones. Once, the monastery was surrounded by walls. The monastery includes 3 churches and a parish. There are 2 cemeteries, arched gate, water course, as well as ruins of domestic buildings. The main church was built in 1205, according to the inscription on the khachkar (“cross-stone”) on the Southern side of it. The surface of the altar front is covered with masterpieces of Armenian medieval art: bass-reliefs of octagonal stars and octagonal polygons. Zoomorphic, floral ornaments and biblical scenes (Job whale in throat), etc are noteworthy in the sculptural decoration. Vache Vachutyan’s emblem with the illustration of two eagles is here as well. Illustrations of fish are special in Armenian medieval art with the realistic style. The sculpture of the architect (sculpturer) with instruments in his hand and his mane “Yeritasard” (“The young”) are on one of the stars. St. Astvatsatsin (St. Holy Virgin) church was built by the abbot of Makaravank Hovhannes in 1198. The small vaulted chapel of medium height is in the Northern part of the church. The destruction of the monastery was facilitated by several factors. The first was the landslides and the second was the fact, that andesite, used during the construction, does not endure moisture and crumbles. Last time Makaravank was renovated in 1970-1980. During "Green Armenia" tour you can visit Makaravank as well as other places, reflecting beauty and charm of Armenian nature.  

Location: Lori region

Established: 1171

From Yerevan: 166km / 2h 20min

Kobayr Monastery is one of the greatest monuments of Armenian architecture of the developed Middle Ages. The history of the monastery is closely related to the Kyurikyan branch of Armenian feudal dynasty Bagratuni, famous in the Middle Ages, and pro-Georgian representatives of Zakaryan dynasty. In written testimony Kobayr is noted to be established and glorified in the 13th century already. The name of the monastery derives from word “ayr” (“rock” translated into English) /Georgian word “qob”/.   Due to the harmonious combination of the monuments and picturesque nature of the deep rocky gorge the panorama of the monastery becomes incredibly impressive. There is a steep cliff on the East of the monuments; the waterfall jets from the cliff complement the inspiring landscape with the monotonous melody.   The complex is significant for its architectural monuments, high level of stone machining and polishing, fresco, which is the crown of Armenian medieval monumental painting. The complex was one of the most importanteducational and cultural centers of the Middle Ages, which is closely related to the activity of the outstanding historian David Kobayretsi. Most of the Armenian and Georgian inscriptions on the walls show the chronology of the construction of the monuments, social-economic situation in medieval Armenia and other problems. The complex is significant from the point of Armenian-Georgian relations, religious requirements in the construction of spiritual buildings.   In the second half of the 12th century Kobayr was passed from Kyurikyans to Zakaryans, turning from a Monophysite establishment into an Orthodox one (Georgian). Exactly this explains the presence of evidences in Georgian on some of the monuments, as well as Georgian style element.   Only part of the monuments looks more or less holistic. Only walls (full height or partially) are preserved in vast majority of the monuments. In Kobayr amirspalasar Zakare’s son Shahnshah is buried, his sons George and Mkhrgrdzel, as well as outstanding spiritual and public figures.   The popular Hnevank is in the same region.

Location: Ararat region

Established: 642

From Yerevan: 44km / 38min

Monastery-Fortress Khor Virap is located near Lesser Vedi village of Ararat region; on a hill. According to Agathangelo, during times when Christianity was rejected in Armenia, king Trdat the Third throwsGregory the Enlightener into the pit of royal prison, where he spends 13 year. A widow fed him, every day secretly throwing a loaf of bread into the pit. After st.Gregory saved the kind from an incurable disease, Trdat the third let him free. As soon as st. Gregory got freedom, with the king’s support, he declared Christianity as official religion in Armenia. In 642 catholicos Nerses G Tayetsi founded st. Gregory church on the the pit; its structure has similarities withZvartnots temple. The steep stairs (now steel) on the right side of the main altar lead to the cellar, where the pit of 4,4m diameter and 6m height is located; it has fluted domed cover. During cleaning the thick secular layer of soil a crypt with a priest’s body was found under the pit (probably it is Nerses Tayetsi’s crypt), which was, though, untouched and covered with soil again. From the 13th century, being a sanctuary, the monastery became alarmenian cultural and educational center as well. In 1255 Vardan Areveltsi founded a high school here, which prominent disciples are Esai Nshetsi, Hovhannes Erznkatsi, Gevorg Skevratsi, Nerses Mshetsi and others. In the 16th century constructions of the monastery were damaged because of the hard political and economic situations. In 1666-1669 David Virapetsi built the protective walls and restored all the constructions of the monastery. In 1703 full restoration of the main st. Astvatsatsin (Holy Virgin) church was completed. In the end of the 19th century the belfry on four decorated columns was added to the Western front of the church. In the Western part of the monastery “Oteats Khach” sanctuary is situated, where, according to the legend, apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew met. Every year in June Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates one of the main holidays “St. Gregory’s deliverance from the pit day” and “St. Gregory’s commitment to the pit day” in March. Celebration of Khor Virap takes place on the Sunday following the Eater Sunday. One-day sightseeing tour "Southern Armenia" offers you to get acquainted with our history and culture visiting Khor Virap, Noravank, Areni and Jermuk.  

Location: Tsakhkadzor, Kotayk region

Established: II

From Yerevan: 58km / 51min

  Monastic complex Kecharis was one of the most important religious and cultural centers of 11-13 cc. It is located in the North-Western part of Tsaghkadzor city of Kotayk region. Kecharis complex includes 4 churches, a parish, 2 chapels, as well as lots of khachkars of 12-13 cc. Gregory the Enlightener church has a domed hall with 2 two-storey vestries on both sides of the altar. Domed St. Nshan churchis located on South of the main church; it is supposed to be built by Grigor Magistros in 1051. As a result of Seljuk Yoke in 12 century it was fundamentally damaged. In the 1151-65 amirspalasar Zachary released the monastery and revived spiritual and cultural lives of the complex. St. Katoghike, located on the South of complex, was built in 1203-14 by duke Vasak Khabakyan.   A small St. Harutyun is outside the monument complex (120 m far); the parish at Western facade together with the composition of the church makes a single unity. There are lots of khachkars (“cross-stones”) of 12-13th cc on the territory of Kecharis, which gives the complex unique brightness, becoming its inseparable elements.   During its history, Kecharis monastery was renovated for several times. First the churches of the monastery were repaired after Mongol invasions in 1248. Domes of the churches were renovated in 1947-49; the territory was surrounded by fortress walls. In 1990 St. Gregory the Enlightener and St. Katoghike churches were reconstructed. In 2000 Kecharis monastery was consecrated again. St. Gregory the Enlightener church is a Kotayk Diocese today.   In the territory of the monastery architect Vatsik is buried; the cross-stone tomb (13 c) perpetuates his memory. Kecharis monastery perfectly harmonizes with the surrounding landscape. Not far from the complex hotel “Russia” is located, popular with the high quality of offered services.

Location: Ashtarak, Aragatsotn region

Established: VII c

From Yerevan: 23km / 30min

  Karmravor or St. Astvatsatsin (St. Holy Virgin) church is situated on the elevated location of Ashtarak. It seems to dominate over the whole city, but not because of its huge parameters. In fact, it is quite a small, neat church, clear, but not simple: its beauty is hidden exactly in that. Unfortunately, the concrete date of foundation and the name of the architect are still unknown, but the inscription, stretching the walls: the birth certificate of the church, allows to suppose, that it was built in the 4th century.   According to an old legend, three sisters fall in love with the same man, named Sargis. The two elder sisters decided to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their smaller sister’s happiness. They dressed in red and orange (color of apricot) garments and threw themselves into the deep canyon. The sister, having heard about the fact, dressed in white garment and threw herself into the canyon as well. Sargis became a monk because of grief. Further, three churches were built on the edge of the canyon: Karmravor (“karmir” - red), Tsiranavor (“tsiran” - apricot), Spitakavor (“spitak” - white).   Inside the cross-domed church fresco, characteristic to the 7th century Christian art, is till preserved. There are many interesting khachkars (“cross-stones”) in the territory; the most noteworthy is Tsak-Kar (stone with a hole), which got its name from the hole on the pedestal (1268).   From the 18th century to 1813 Karmravor was a monastery. Here antiquities are preserved up today, which deserve special attention. The first one is the patterned Indian curtain from Kolkata, brought in 1798-99, and the second one is Shukhonts Gospel: hand-written Gospel, presented from Shukhonts family from Ashtarak in 1873.   In the garden of the church famous Armenian poet G. Emin is buried. He wrote his last will in the form of a composition with the request to find his last shelter in the garden of Karmravor.

Location: Vagharshapat c., Armavir region

Established: 618

From Yerevan: 19km / 22min

St. Hripsime church was founded by catholicos Komitas A Akhtsetsi outside the fortress walls of Vagharshapat city, in 618.     St. Hripsime church is one of the excellent examples of spiritual structures of medieval Armenia and one of the most difficult architectural compositions. St. Hripsime is a cross-domed structure. It has altars and apses, which provide unique style. Inner space is holistic, spacious and elegant. It has rectangular form; there are four rooms in the corners, which are linked to the prayer hall with corner apses.   It was destroyed in the 5th century by Persians; Sahak Partev built a new one. In the 7th century catholicos Komitas built st. Hripsime church on the place of the chapel. In later centuries the temple was surrounded by fortress walls and towers (1776); a belfry was built above the parish (1880); Western and Southern walls of hewn stones, living house and additional structures were constructed in 1894. During excavations near the church a burial of pre-Christian and Christian period, as well as single-naved church of Middle Ages were found in the territory.   According to Agathangelos, Roman emperor Diocletian, a pagan, wanted to marry Christian Hripsime. Nun Hripsime, mentor Gayane and thirty other nuns run from Diocletian’s persecutions to Armenia.  Having learnt about virgin’s escape, the emperor sends a letter to Armenian king Trdad III (Tiridade III) with a request to find them and execute, and send Hripsime back. Nevertheless, Trdad III decided to marry Hripsime himself, but he wasn’t able to persuade her. In anger he ordered to isolate the virgins and kill them. On the place where Hripsime was killed, there is a church and her crypt in it.

Location: Ohanavan, Aragatsotn region

Established: 1216

From Yerevan: 28km/35min

  Hovhannavank or otherwise called Hovanavank is a monastic complex, located near Hovanavan village of Aragatsotn region. Hovhannavank is dedicated to Hovhannes Mkrtich (John the Baptist). The most ancient construction of the complex is a basilica, built in the 4th century by Gregory the Enlightener. From the Northern side the basilica neighbors with the church of the first Christians (4th century), which, most probably, was built on the place of a pagan temple. The wooden dome of the church was replaced by a stone one in 554; it was completely renovated in 1652-1734. The main st. Karapet church neighbors with the basilica from the Southern side. It was built in 1216-1221 under the auspices of duke Vache Vachutyan, but the construction was finished by his son Kurd. This complex with its architectural style and solutions is within the most prominent constructions of the 13th century. On all the constructions of Hovhannavank from inside and outside as well about 100 inscriptions about dynasties (especially about Vachutyan dukes), buildings and supports are carved. They were collected and published by a well-known Armenian historian and epigraphist Karapet Ghafadaryan. The educational center of Hovhannavank was one of the most ancient cultural centers of Ararat province. In the end of the 16th century calendar art, philosophy and music was taught in Hovhannavank School. About 20 manuscripts, found in Hovhannavank are kept in Yerevan Matenadaran after Mesrop Mashtots. In Hovhannavank village and in the territory near cyclopean fortress (2-1 millennium BC), a monument (5 century), living house of the monastery (17-18 cc), a cemetery with khachkars (“cross-stones”) (9-17 cc) were found.

Location: Lori region

From Yerevan: 164 km/ 2 h. 7 min.

    Hnevank Monastery is located in Lori region, on the right bank of Dzoraget. The half-destroyed complex included three churches, a parish, living, household and additional constructions. The main church (6th century) is a rectangular outside and crossed inside domed construction.   According to the Georgian inscription on the dome, the church was renovated in 1154 by Smbat, son of amirspalasar Ivane Orbelyan. Only a part of the columns were preserved from the parish of the Western part. Comparatively better was preserved the domed church with semicircular altar on the Southern part (according to the Georgian inscription above the Southern entrance, it was built in the 13th century).

Location: Hayravank v., Gegharqunik region

Established: IX c

From Yerevan: 82km / 1h 3min

Monastic complex Hayravank is located on rocky plateau of Hayravank village. The first church with four altars was founded in 9-13 cc. In the 20th century the parish was attached to it. Castle «Spitak Berd» («White Fortress») is situated 1 km of the monastery. According to the legend, Hayravank was once connected to the castle with underground way, and that is why it was called Ayrivank («Cave Monastery»). The monastery has cross-domed project; according to the inscriptions on the parish wall, it was built of black, smooth basalt in 1211. It has been preserved up today in dilapidated condition,   without the dome. In 1211 brothers monks Hovhannes and Nerses restored the church and built double column parish with lighting aperture («yerdik») and octagonal dome, decorated with stalactite. In a small garden of Hayravank, protected by stone walls, there are lots of ruins of 6th century gravestones and cross-stones («khachkars»), and ruins of cells and many other constructions outside the fence. Hayravank functioned until 9th century. In 1980 the monastery was restored, and the dome was rebuilt. Name «Mardaghavnyats» («aghavni» is translated into Armenian as «pigeon») of «Hayravank» is connected with the legend, which we have got from Catholicos Ghazar A Jahketsi. According to the legend, in 1381, during Tamerlane invasions, mentor Hovhan could turn people into pigeons and let them free from the church. In the 13th century Tamerlane was trying to conquer Armenia and massacred people by all possible means. When he reaches Hayravank, the mentor threw himself into the sea, so that not to see the destruction of the monastery. Nevertheless, on God's will, he did not sink. Instead, he started to run on the surface of the sea. Impressed Tamerlaneordered the monk to come and promised that he would make his any wish come true.  The mentor asked Tamerlane to give him as many people as the monastery could house. Tamerlane did as the mentor wished. People stared to walk in; the monastery could suite absolutely everybody, no one was in the street. Then amazed Tamerlane noticed that people were turned into pigeons and could escape death. From then on the monastery was called Hovhannavank or Hayr Hovhan Monastery («Father Hovhan Monastery») after mentor Hovhan, «Mardaghavnyats» (People-Pigeons Monastery» lit.transl.) and later – Hayravank («hayr» - father)... Here there are possibilities, practice and traditions on rest organizing and development of tourism. Here there are all the conditions for agrotourism development.  

Location: Harich, Shirak region

Established: 1201

From Yerevan: 111km / 1h 50min

  Monastic complex Harichavank is located in Harich village of Shirak region, on the Northern slope of Aragats Mount. The monastery was built in the 7-13th cc. This monument is one of the pearls of medieval architecture, rich in exquisite bas-reliefs. The construction is unique with its simplicity, perfect contours. The monastery served as ascientific center. Avetik Isahakyan, a prominent Armenian poet, studied in the local school in 1887-1889.   In the beginning of the 11th century Harichavank was destroyed because of Seljuk invasions. In a century on the initiative of vardapet (learned monk) Gregory, the abbot of the monastery, the establishment was renovated. The complex included two churches (St. Gregory and St. Astvatsatsin (St. Holy Virgin)), a parish, vestries, a belfry, a chapel, a school and other constructions.   In 1850 Harichavank became summer residence of catholicoses. Those years the territory of the monastery was notably widened; cells, a refectory, a school, a dormitory, guest rooms and other household premises were constructed.

Location: Haghpat v., Lori region

Established: X c

From Yerevan: 185km / 2h 25min

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

 Haghpat Monastery is located in the South-Eastern part of Haghpat village: on a high plateau. It was founded in 976 during the reign of Ashot G Bagratuni. Haghpat was one of the prominent spiritual and cultural centers. From the second half of the 12th century up to 14th century Haghpat Monastery was the eparchial center of Kyurikyan dynasty. The ancestral crypt of kings was moved here from Sanahin. In the 11th century Tashir was plundered by Seljuks and Arabs. From the second half of the 12th century the monastery passed to Artsruni dynasty from Mahkanaberd, then to Zakaryan dynasty. In 1223 by Ivane Zakaryan’s order Haghpat fortress was built to protect the monastery.   Haghpat monastery is one the most prominent monastic complexes of Armenia, which has unique peculiarities ofArmenian medieval architecture: picturesqueness, harmony with nature, territorial balance. The monastery includes the following churches: st.Nshan, st.Astvatsatsin (Holy Virgin), st.Gregory, parish, printing house, library, belfry, refectory, chapel-tombs, cross-stones (khachkars).   In 11th-13th cc Haghpat school and printing house were popular. Here grammar, oratory, philosophy, theology, music and other subjects were taught. Haghpat was also known for its miniature school. Under priest cloak Armenian famous composer Sayat-Nova spend here several years.   There are lots of legends, concerning with the name “Haghpat”. One of them tells, that once upon a time Duke ofSanahin invite the well-known master to build a monastery. He went to the Duke with his son. During work father and son had a dispute. Having had a long dispute son left the work and went away. On the road he met another duke, who offered him to build a monastery. When the walls of monastery were seen from Sanahin, workers told the master about it. He went to watch his son’s construction on a non-working day; he examined everything scrupulously. People were looking forward for his estimation, and, finally, he pressed the wall and said: “Akh pat” (“What a strong wall”). And then father and son embraced and forgot about the dispute. From then on the monastery has been called “Haghpat”.

Location: Haghartsin v., Tavush region

Established:  X c

From Yerevan: 104km / 2h

  Exact date of foundation of Haghartsin monastery is not discovered yet.  Research Center Haghartsin was mentioned within leading cultural centers of 13th century (Konstantin D Bardzrberdtsi, Stepanos Orbelyan). Haghartsin started to flourish in the 30-ies of the 13th century, during Khachatur Taronetsi’s leadership. Before that the monastery had been abandoned for a long time. The composition of the monastery includes: 3 churches, 2 parishes (1 is destroyed), refectory, chapels, khachkars (cross-stones). The oldest is St. Gregory’s church (about X century); domed structure with 4 apses; crossed inside, rectangular outside.   In 1281 with the support of virtues father Hovhannes and father Sargis the main church of the complex was restored:St. Astvatsatsin (Holy Virgin) church (founded supposedly in the 10-11th century). The church has domed hall with a pair of pylons; there are “Armenian holes” (narrow crevices like one for windows) on the fronts of the church (except Western one ). High drum of the dome is decorated with an arcade; portals of Southern and Western doors are characteristic to the 13th century. Two ktitors on the Eastern front keep the monastery mock in their hands.   The refectory of the monastery is one the best examples of Armenian architecture with its architectural solutions and fine arts. There are ruins of other construction in the Western part of the refectory (probably dining-room, bakery and other). In the North-Eastern angle of the Western yerdik (lighting aperture) word «Minas» is inscribed; letter «M» is more likely to the first letter of the architect's first name.   There are several chapels in the territory of the monastery: on rock slopes. 350 kg bronze cauldron, found here, is an example of highly artistic art of metal forging. Inscription on the top of the cauldron notes the date of production – 1232. Four holders of the cauldron are sculptures of lions with decorated legs.

Location: Yerevan

Established: 2001

 

Gregory the Enlightener was the first catholicos of all Armenians. According to Agathangelo, during times when Christianity was rejected in Armenian, king Trdat the Third throws Gregory the Enlightener into the pit of royal prison, where he spends 13 year. A widow fed him, every day secretly throwing a loaf of bread into the pit (Khor Virap). After st.Gregory saved the kind from an incurable disease, Trdat he third let him free. As soon as st. Gregory got freedom, with the king’s support, in 301 he declared Christianity as official religion in Armenia. So, Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as state religion. Armenian Church is also called Gregorian in honor of Gregory the Enlightener.

To the 1700th anniversary of adoption of Christianity in Armenia, the leader of Ararat Patriarchal Diocese Garegin archbishop Nersisyan met with catholicos of all Armenians Vazgen A with an offer to build a new church. Very soon, by the order of catholicos of all Armenians, the preparing works started. Architect Marutyan offered to build a church with the same model as Zvartnots temple, though it was declined, because a number of representatives of intelligentsia and political leaders were convinced that the 20th century church should correspond with the requirements of modern architecture. As a result of the competition Stepan Kyurkchyan’s plan was affirmed.   The consecration of the foundation of the church was accomplished by the former catholicos of all Armenians Garegin A in 1997, during the celebration of St. Mary's Annunciation. This church complex consists of St. Mother of God, St. Trdat, St. Ashkhen queen chapels. The belfry built of 30 arches and the parish are located in front of the church entrance. Gregory the Enlightener's relics are kept in the parish; they were brought here by Garegin the Second in 2000 from the same name church of Nepal.

Location: Gosh v., Tavush region

Established:  XII c

From Yerevan: 115km / 2h

 Goshavank monastery is located at 15 km to the east of Dilijan, in the valley of Getik river, the tributary of Aghstev. In the 12th century there was a monastery named Getik which was destroyed in 1186 of earthquake. The greatest medieval thinker and legislator Mkhitar Gosh applied to Ivane and Zakare Zakarian princes to provide a land for establishing a monastery. He built the monastic complex which was originally named New Getik and after the death of Gosh it was renamed as Goshavank.   Goshavank was one of the most important cultural centers of medieval Armenia that had a high spiritual school-catechism. In this school the students were taught theology, philosophy, architecture, painting, art of writing, music. It is located on the top of a hillock. It was constructed during the 12-13th centuries. The Architectural complex included different small churches on different sides of the monastery, such as St. Astvatsatsin church, St Grigor Church, bell tower, and the tomb-chapel of Mkhitar Gosh which, accor-ding to tradition, contains the remains of Mkhitar Gosh.   The first church built in the monastic complex is church of St. Astvatsatsin entrance of which is from the porch which was built in 1191-1196 by carpenter master Mkhitar. Almost all the structures of the monastic complex are distinguished by high value interior, especially the entrances, which are decorated with rich tiny ornaments. The architecture represents a unique style in the two-story, bell tower, the first floor of which was built as a writing house and half a century later the second floor was added as a belfry.   The important part of Goshavank is the crossstone put on the west side of St. Gregory Church. In 1291 master Poghos erected this wonderful cross-stone which is famous for its tiny craft, which received, the name of "cross embroidery".

Location: Gndevaz, Vayots Dzor

Established:  X c

From Yerevan: 158km/2h 20m

Gndevank is a medieval Armenian church complex, which is located in West of Gndevaz village of Vayots Dzorregion, on the left bank of the Arpa River. The monastery is situated not far from resort Jermuk. The complex was constructed in 931-938 under the auspices of duchess Sopia (Sophia), the wife of the Syunik (region in Armenia) duke of dukes Smbat. The monastery was called after martyr Supan Gnduni.   The construction was built of treated basalt; it is a cross-domed type, has four altars. Parts of bas-reliefs with illustrations of Christ as well as Virgin Mary are still preserved in the church. Duchess Sophia solemnly celebrated the finish of the construction and left an inscription on the wall of the church: “Vayots Dzor was a ring without a stone. I built this complex as a stone to it.”   There are khachkars (cross-stones) of 10-16 cc as well as grave stone of cradle form from the same period in the yard of Gndevank. Lots of lithographic inscriptions are preserved in the territory.

Location: Shushi, Artsakh

Established: 1868

From Yerevan: 316km / 4h 10min

St. Savior Ghazanchetsots Cathedral (Surb Amenaprkich Ghazanchetsots) is located in the center of Shushi city of NKR. St. Savior Cathedral is the pride of Shushi city. This monumental construction is harmoniously combined with the environment. Chazanchetsots was built in 1868-1887 on the place of a small single-nave church by means of inhabitants, emigrated to Shushi from Chazanchi (Shahkert) village of Nakhichevan; by architect Simeon Ter-Hakobyan’s project. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1888, on 20th of September. St. Savoir Chazanchetsots Cathedral, built of smooth cream limestone, is one of the most prominent Armenian churches (length: 35 m, width: 23m, height: 35m).   The Cathedral is situated not only on a high plateau, but over great Karkar gorge. The dome, slender drum of which makes the whole construction look glanderous and elegant, is particularly impressive.   Ghazanchetsots is one of the most prominent places of worship in Armenia, which clearly reflects the genius of Armenian builder. The composition of the externally cross-domed church, based on four pillars, is similar to the Holy See of Echmiadzin. Some time the Right Hand of st. Gregory was kept here.   One of the basements is popular with mysterious phenomena. This is just a semispherical room, though it has interesting acoustic properties. When a person stands under the groove, made on the ceiling, his/her voice becomes unbelievably loud; a person standing in a meter of him/her hears ordinary sound. If two people stand on the diametrically opposite points, the one hears even whispers of the other, whereas others do not hear anything at all.   The Cathedral functioned up to 1930; it was partially restored in 1981-1988 by Master V. Babayan’s efforts. In 1988, after expulsion of Armenians from Shushi, Azerbaijanis destroyed sculptures of angels, and the Cathedral was turned into an armory. After liberation of Shushi on the 8th of May, 1992, the restoration of the church and belfry was continued and finished in 1998.   St. Savior Chazanchetsots Cathedral (Surb Amenaprkich Chazanchetsots)was reopened and officially consecrated on the 19th of July, 1998, on the transfiguration of the Lord Day.   Shushi is not only a great destination but also a revealing place where visitors can enjoy their stay in the ecotourism. High quality Shushi Grand Hotel offers best conditions for organizing your rest.

Location: Kotayk region

Established: IV c

From Yerevan: 36km / 47min

 Geghard is one of the most popular monasteries of medieval Armenia, one of the unique cultural monuments. According to the legend, the monastery was founded during the first years of adoption of Christianity as state religion (the beginning of the 4th century). In the remote past the monastery was called “Ayrivank” (monastery in rock) because of the constructions, dug into the rock; from the  XIII century it was also called Geghard in honor of the spear, kept in the monastery (spear, which Jesus Christ was pierced with on the cross). Before that the cherished spear was kept in st. Echmiadzin. Nevertheless, it was moved from Echmiadzin to Ayrivank because of the unstable domestic and foreign politics. Due to the fact, the monastery started to be called “Geghard” as well. The foundation of the monastery is attributed to Gregory the Enlightener. The main church: st. Mary Virgin or “Katighike”, according to the lithographic inscription found on the Western front exit, was built in 1215 (during the reign of Zakaryans). In the 13th century Duke Prosh bought the church from Zakaryans and started the construction of premises in the rocks (under architect Galdzak’s control). Geghard Monastery was one of the spiritual and cultural centers of medieval Armenia, where besides religious buildings a school, a library, a typography, lots of cells for local monks were established. Mkhitar Ayrivanetsi (Mkhitar from Ayrivank) and Simeon Ayrivanetsi (Simeon from Ayrivank) lived and worked right here. They had great contribution in the development of calligraphy art. Geghard is popular with wonderful bass-reliefsand exquisite khachqars. The school had a repository of manuscripts. A part of the manuscripts is kept in Yerevan Matenadaran after M. Mashtots. There were lots of attempts to invade the monastery, but it stood inaccessible, and Geghama mountains were its loyal guardians.

Location: Vagharshapat c., Armavir region

Established: 630

From Yerevan: 21km / 26min

St. Gayane church is one of the main shrines of Armenian Apostolic Church. This church of basilica type, surmounted by a dome, is located in Echmiadzin city and is one of the brightest monuments of Armenian architecture. St. Gayane church was built by catholicos Yezr in Vagharshapat city, in 630.  In 1652 the walls and the dome were restored. In 1683 a hall was built to the front of the church. St. Gayane church is an example of basilica type domed church of VII century. Window shape is also characteristic to the VII century. The church is significant for its simplicity, architectural design, impressive spatial forms, and exquisite interior.   Outside the plan is characterized with the same simple architectural solutions, as the interior. On entering the church a solemn, inspiring and fascinating space opens; the design elements: arches, tromps, domes, wall surfaces together with the main altar form internal architectural appearance.   There are graves of outstanding spiritual and social leaders in nearby cemetery. All the elements of the church: arks, columns and others are harmonic and expressive. St. Gayane's grave stone is under the main altar.   According to Agathangelos, Roman emperor Diocletian, a pagan, wanted to marry Christian Hripsime. Nun Hripsime, mentor Gayane and thirty other nuns run from Diocletian’s persecutions to Armenia.  Having learnt about virgin’s escape, the emperor sends a letter to Armenian king Trdad III (Tiridade III) with a request to find them and execute, and send Hripsime back. Nevertheless, Trdad III decided to marry Hripsime himself, but he wasn’t able to persuade her. In anger he ordered to isolate the virgins and kill them. On the place where Gayane was killed, the church is located.   Since the ancient times the Armenian people are known for their warm hospitality and wonderful cuisine. "Agape" restaurant by all means is trying to prove this statement.  

Location: Martakert region, Artsakh

Established: 1240

From Yerevan: 348km / 4h 47min

Gandzasar is a monastic complex, spiritual and cultural centers. The monastery is located in Martakert region of NKR, on Gandzasar hill, near Vank village. The complex was called after the hill; silver and other metals mines were found in its depths. Gandzasar was the residence and ancestral crypt of Khachen's Hasan-Jalalyan dukes. Due to the efforts of Hasan-Jalalyan dukes Gandzasar preserved the role of spiritual center. The monastery had rich repository of manuscripts, school, where valuable manuscripts were created, spiritual leaders were educated. They had their great contribution in the development of spiritual and cultural lives of Khachen and nearest settlements.   St. Hovhannes Mkrtich (John the Baptist) church was built in 1216-1238 by duke Hasan-Jalal. From 1400 up to 1816 Gandzasar was the residence of the Catholicos of Aghvank. In the beginning of 18th century Catholicos Yesai Hasan-Jalalyan gathered here the leaders of liberation movement of Karabakh and Syunik. Gandzasar had preserved the role of liberation movement center until 1815. From 1923, after forcible annexation to Azerbaijan, the monastery, unfortunately, did not function. It was possible to restore the complex only in 1993-1997.   The monastery is significant with its architectural trim. In the external ornament of the church the architect highlighted the drum of the dome. The drum is divided into 16 triangular grooves, where bass-reliefs of the two churchwardens, Adam and Eve, Christ and Holy Virgin are. The richly ornamented exit: the compositional center of Western front of the parish, strikes with uniqueness and mastery of the work.   According to the historical records, here Hovhannes Mkrtich's skull, Hovhannes Mkrtich's father Zacharia's blood, Gregory the Enlightener's jaw, holly relics of Healer Panteleimon and other martyrs are buried.   The monastery was the main religious center of Western provinces of Armenia for centuries. Sculptured bass-reliefs of biblical characters and the members of princely family are still preserved. Basically, there are 200 manuscriptspreserved in the monastery. The parish of this church was the ancestral crypt of Khachen dukes. Churches and monasteries in Armenia will surprise every visitor.

Location: Echmiadzin

Established: 303

From Yerevan: 23km / 25min

The Holy See of Echmiadzin is the main religious construction of Armenian Apostolic Church, one of the unique architectural monuments of early Christian period; its architectural solutions became the basis for building of many Armenian churches. According to the legend, Gregory the Enlightener, who was preaching Christianity in Armenia, had a dream of Jesus Christ coming down from heaven with a hammer in his hand and hitting on the place, where a pagan temple was located. Gregory the Enlightener told his dream to king Trdat (Tiridate), and he ordered to build a temple on that spot and call it Echmiadzin (Only begotten came down). The temple was built in the beginning of the IV century after adoption of Christianity as state religion in Armenia. The building is situated on the place of a pagan temple, the foundation of which is under the main altar. At first the church had basilica style, but in 480 Duke Vasak Mamikonyan rebuilt it; the temple got crossed layout with a dome, based on four separate columns. The painting work in the Holy See is done by Naghash Hovnatan (illustrations on the upper part of the dome and Holy Virgin’s depiction on the inner marble of the main altar are preserved). Periodically Harutyun and Hakob Hovnatanyans worked for the Holy See. The main elements of the interior of the building are painting and machine tool works by artist Naghash Hovnatan. He depicted saints, priests, other thematic illustrations. There is a museum in the building of Holy See, where different works of Armenian spiritual art, manuscripts and other artworks are kept. Here there are also collections of coins, carpets, paintings and other valuable materials.  One of the treasures of the museum is Geghard (which Jesus Christ was pierced with) and a remnant of Noah’s Ark. The temple was rebuilt in 7th century by Komitas and Nerses G Catholicoses; in 17th century the belfry was constructed and in the 18th – the The Treasury Museum of Echmiadzin.

Location: Artsakh

Established:I century

From Yerevan: 400km / 6hours

The Monastery of St. Dadi, otherwise called Dadivank or Khutavank is one of the most remarkable medieval architectural complexes of Armenia, especially due to its variety of valuable ecclesiastical and secular structures and with the uniqueness of the internal and external structural improvements. Dadi or Khuta Temple is constructed in a beautiful valley in the place where Gharabagh and Mrav mountain chains get closer by a sloppy hill on the left bank ofTartar river. Etymology of "Dadi" and "Khuta" names are explained in two ways as it is described in the found lithograph; one connected with the Armenian custom, the other connected with the district. According to the tradition the monastery was built in the first century AD in the place where St. Dadi was buried. St. Dadi was one of 70 disciples of Apostle St. Thaddeus and died in Artsakh while preaching Christianity there. The church was also named Khutavanq as it was built on a small hill (in Armenian “khut” means small hill). It is notable that the relics of St.   Dadi Apostle were found under alter of one of the churches of the monastic complex during the excavation and renovation works in 2007. It is known that in XII century Armenian thinker and writer Mkhitar Gosh lived in Dadivank while working on his famous “Datastanagirk”, the first code of law in medieval Armenia.   The monastic complex of Dadivank consists of two groups of structures; the ecclesiastical structures in the north and the secular buildings in the south: two bell towers, 2 ancient churches, monk cells, guest house, bookhouse, etc. The most important construction period of Dadi temple is the first half of 13th century, when the construction of new buildings took place in the monastic complex. One of the first buildings of that period is considered to be Grigor Bishop’s vestibule-chapel. The inscription on the right side of the door shows that it was built in 1224 by Grigor Bishop. Numerous cross-stones were put inside the vestibule’s walls.   However, the pearl of the monastic complex is St. Katoghike Astvatsatsin Church built by princess Arzukhatun, the wife of Verin Khachen's prince Vakhtang, in 1214. She built church in memory of her husband and 2 sons who died in the war. St. Katoghike is a church with cross-shaped plan, two-storey depositors inside and with rectangular composition outwardly. The dome and the facades are designed with the decorative arch ornaments. The southern wall of the church is covered with the sculptures of sons of Arzukhatun princess, Hasan and Grigor with the model of the church in their hands, and the bust portrait sculptures of St. Dadi and lord Vakhtang are on the eastern facade of St. Katoghike Church.

Location: Aragatsotn

Established: 7 c

From Yerevan: 48,5 km/ 45 min.

 St. Grigor church (Aruchavank) is the main monastic complex of Aruch village, located on the foot of the Eastern slope of Aragats Mount, in Aragatsotn region. Aruch monastery is one of the most important spiritual and architecturalmonuments of Armenia. Aruch is the largest early medieval domed church of Armenia (34.6 x 16.95 m); significant for architecture as well as preserved fresco. According to the testimony, left by historians, the church was built during the reign of Armenian duke Grigor Mamikonyan and leadership of catholicos of all Armenians Anastas Akoretsi.

Location: Amaras v., Artsakh

Established:  IV c

From Yerevan: 375km / 6h

  Amaras monastery was a spiritual and cultural center of early medieval Artsakh; an episcopacy. The monastic complex is located in Martuni region of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.   The complex was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Enlightener (according to historian Pavstos Buzand), though its construction is connected with the name of Grigoris, the first bishop of Artsakh diocese and grandson of Gregory the Enlightener; he is buried in the Eastern part of the church. There is a crypt on his grave. The creator of Armenian alphabet Mesrop Mashtots opened here the first school of Artsakh in the 5th century. At the same time there were 36 additional buildings for different purposes.   In 487Armenian king Bachagan G found Grigoris’s grave and built a chapel on it and later – the church. The complex was attacked by Arabic hordes of Buga, Mongols, who could destroy only the part of the monastery as they met resistance from the clergymen. Nomadic tribes destroyed the fortress walls and the church, though the school still operated.  Even in the comparatively stable years: the second half of the 19th century, the monastery lost its religious and cultural role in the region, transferring into just a fortress and later into Russian-Persian customs point.   The monastery is one of the most prominent Armenian architectural monuments of Artsakh of early period, which you can visit during tour to Artsakh. Amaras is built on a flat location; it is a regular rectangular construction with high walls, fortified with round towers at four angles. There are living and administrative building, constructed along the whole perimeter of the walls.   In the end of the 19th century the monastery had estates: fertile lands, a garden and a mill. After the declaration of the Soviet rules it was left and abandoned. Again it opened as a working monastery in 1992  in the composition of theArtsakh diocese. Every year hundreds of people visit Amaras.

Location: Akhtala v., Lori region

Established:  X c

From Yerevan: 194km / 2h 50min

Akhtala city is situated in Lori region of Armenia, on the foot of Lalvar, on the left bank of the Debed. In the Middle Ages the city was called Pghndzahank (“Copper Mine”). Kirakos Gandzaketsi in his “History of Armenia” mentions, that duke Ivane Zakaryan died in 1241 and was buried in Pghndzahank, which he conquered from Armenians and converted into Georgian (that is to say into Orthodox) church. It is about the church of Akhtala. According to Gandzaketsi, Ivane A’s son duke Avag (died in Bjni in 1250) was also buried in the same church.   In 1887-1880 French archaeologist and architect Jacques de Morgan found stone crypts in Akhtala; clay, bronze, iron objects, dating back 8th century BC. Here a crypt of times, when people were buried seated was found as well.   Monastery of Akhtala is one of those Orthodox complexes, construction of which coincided with Armenian Renaissance. The monastery was built in 1188 by Kurike G Kurikyan’s daughter Mariam. The complex of monuments harmoniously combines Armenian, Georgian and Byzantine architectural elements.   St. Astvatsatsin (St. Holy Virgin) church was the largest Orthodox monastery in the Northern Armenia; in 12-13 cc it served as spiritual, educational and cultural center. In the establishment Armenian and Georgian chronicles was studied best of all.   In St. Astvatsatsin church the gorgeous fresco is well preserved, and only the illustration of Holy Mother’s face was damaged during the invasions of Tamerlane. The hill in front of the fortress in called after him. The fresco was done in the 13th century when the church was converted into Orthodox. According to the color solutions it has similarities with Byzantine constructions though the theme choice is completely Armenian. They say, the too bright colors distracted believersduring the liturgy, and the priest ordered with anger to cover the illustrations with lime.   The territory of the monastery is surrounded by enclosure of the 10th century, built during the reign of Bagratuni Kyurikyans; the walls stretch from the North to the South, along the whole perimeter of the area.
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