Orbelian Grave at Noravank Monastery

Orbelian Grave at Noravank Monastery

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Noravank monastery is located in Vayots Dzor province, 3 km northeast of Amaghu village. The name of the monastery is translated as “new monastery”. Noravank was built in the 13-14th centuries. The monastery complex is located on a steep mountain ledge, near the cliff. The territory is “framed” by unusual cliffs of bright red color, which create a very picturesque background for the buildings. Noravank was an important cultural and spiritual center in the Middle Ages it also served as the residence of the bishops of Syunik province. Noravank monastery is one of the most visited attractions in Armenia. The complex is a magnificent architectural and artistic creation. The monastery was completely restored.


Noravank was founded in 1105 by Bishop Hovhannes, a former abbot of Vahanavank near the present-day city of Kapan in Syunik. The monastic complex includes the church of S. Karapet, S. Grigor chapel with a vaulted hall, and the church of S. Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God). Ruins of various civil buildings and khachkars are found both inside and outside of the compound walls. Noravank was the residence of the Orbelian princes. The architect Siranes and the miniature painter and sculptor Momik worked here in the latter part of the thirteenth and early fourteenth century.

Visiting Matenadaran &ndash depository of ancient manuscripts, guarded by the statue of primordial alphabet-giver St. Mashtots. There are conservation rooms for the 17000 manuscripts in dozen languages.
Excursion to Erebuni fortress, founded by King of Urartu Argishti I in 782 BC, and Erebuni museum which is housed in the ancient citadel of Erebuni, the predecessor of the present-day Yerevan. Its display includes bronze and iron tools, earthenware, weapons, ornaments and other articles made by Urartu craftsmen. All these have been discovered during excavations of the ancient town-fortress.
Visiting the Memorial in Tsitsernakaberd dedicated to the victims of the Genocide in 1915. Seeing the Visiting the State History Museum in Republic Square. The important archeological collection from Stone Age through Medieval periods are shown there. One should note a Latin inscription from Ejmiatsin attesting to the presence of a Roman garrison.
Visiting National Picture Gallery. It has a huge collection of Armenian, Russian and European works, some of the latter copies or else spoils of World War II divided among the various Soviet republics.

Visiting the Hellenistic fortress of Garni, which has a different charm in each new season. The Greco-Roman-style temple was build around 77 AD under King Trdat I. This is the only architectural monument saved up to our days from Hellenistic period. The Temple is dedicated to the God of Sun Mher. It collapsed from the earthquake in 1679 and was reconstructed in 1970-s.
Route towards Geghardavank, a supremely beautiful architectural monument built in the 13th century. &ldquoGeghard&rdquo means a &ldquospear-headed metal object&rdquo in Armenian, housed in Geghard, with which Christ was wounded in the side. Now it is saved in the Ejmiatsin treasury.
Trip to wonderful resort-town Tsaghkadzor, founded in 1049, called Darachichak in Persian times. &ldquoTsaghkadzor&rdquo means &ldquovalley of flowers&rdquo in Armenian. Visiting Kecharis, founded early in the 11thc.
Trip to famous Lake Sevan (1900m above see level), that enters recorded history with the Urartians. King Rusa I conquered Sevan basin and made it the eastern frontier of the kingdom of Urartu sometime around the 720 BC. A number of boundary markers of Artashes I written in Aramaic, the Middle Eastern lingua franca, show the presence of the Artashesid dynasty in Hellenistic times.
Visiting Sevanavank, a construction, sponsored by Princess Mariam Bagratuni, which is a vivid example of an important religious regional school, under the guidance of the future Armenian Catholikos Mashtots Ervandatsi.
Back to Yerevan

Pilgrimage to the first official Christian Church in the world and the seat of the Supreme Patriarch &ndash Catholicos of all Armenians. Excursions to the ancient temple of St. Hripsime. Tour around Ejmiatsin town, visiting the Cathedral &ndash religious centre of all Armenians, and the Cathedral Museum.
On the back way observing the ruins of Zvartnots (7th c.). The temple collapsed from the earthquake in the 10th c.
Visiting Vernisage &ndash a place where one can buy Armenian souvenirs. Free time for shopping.

Route towards Khor Virap. Seeing the historical site of Khor Virap with an overwhelming view of Biblical Mount Ararat. There are two deep stone cisterns there, one of which is said to be the pit where Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 13 years by king Trdat III. Visiting to Karahunj ancient observatory. It is considered to be more than 7500 years old, more ancient than its British analogy Stonehenge.
On the back way visiting famous Complex of Noravank, situated on a ledge of a deep winding gorge of a tributary of the Arpa river near the village of Amaghu, Yeghegnadzor District. Noravank ensemble stands amidst the bizarre-shaped precipitous red cliffs. Built in place of an ancient cloister, it grew in the reign of Princes Orbelian of Syunik. In the 13th-14th centuries it became a residence of Syunik's bishops and, consequently, a major religious and later cultural center of Armenia, closely connected with many of the local seats of learning, primarily with Gladzor&rsquos famed university and library.
Back to Yerevan

Trip to Aragatsotn region.
Route towards Ashtarak town. &ldquoAshtarak&rdquo means &ldquoTower&rdquo in Armenian. It is endowed with many historical, architectural and religious monuments. Visiting Amberd fortress. Amberd is occupying a rugged promontory between the Amberd River and its main tributary. The fortress reached its zenith as the seat of the Pahlavuni feudal family in the 11th c.
Visiting burial site of Mesrop Mashtots at Oshakan. South from Ashtarak is Oshakan, which is most famous as the resting place of the creator of the Armenian alphabet Mesrop Mashtots. The first phrase ever written in Armenian using Mashtots alphabet was the one translated from the Old Testament. Visiting burial site of Mesrop Mashtots at Oshakan.

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Akhtala Monastery: History

Akhtala monastery is located 185 kilometers (114,885 miles) north of Yerevan. Being one of the very few orthodox monasteries in Armenia it was erected in the times of the Armenian Renaissance (note that Armenian Renaissance occurred much earlier than the European.) Some historical data claim that the settlement was called Agarak. Some later inscriptions and manuscripts dating back to the 12th-13th centuries mention it as Pghndzavank. It was called so because of the rich copper mines found there. The name Akhtala is thought to be first mentioned in 1438.

What does Akhtala mean? One suggested point is that the name has Turkic origin and means “white glade.”

Akhtala carried great significance it protected the northwestern regions as well as the road that took from Armenia to Georgia. Akhtala Fortress was built in the late 10th century by the Kyurikids, who by the end of the 12th century starting losing their influence. It’s the period when the Seljuks appeared there. The towers and the walls of the fortress are made of bluish basalt and lime mortar.

When most of Armenia was liberated due to Armenian and Georgian united forces led by the Zakarids, that’s when Akhtala came to life again (Zakarids were a noble Armenian dynasty). In 1180s Akhtala belonged to Ivaneh Zakarian, who had accepted Greek Orthodoxy in the Georgian court and consequently, turned the Armenian foundation into Chalcedonian.

“Ivane, Zakare’s brother, also died [that year] and was buried at Pghndzahank’ near the church which he himself had built, taking it from the Armenians and making it into a Georgian monastery,” writes Armenian historian Kirakos Gandzakeci. From the works of Kirakos Gandzaketsi and Vardan Areveltsi who have referred to this place intheir writings, it becomes clear that the place was known as Pghndzavank. That was back in the 13th century, and as already mentioned the region was called so because of the rich copper deposits.

The 1220s were disastrous for Armenia because of the Mongol invasions, which weakened the influence and control of the Zakarids. Ivaneh’s son Avag had to recognize his subordination to the Mongol leader. The Mongol rule continued until 1340 but was interrupted by attacks made by Turkic tribes, which took control of most of Armenia in 1400. It didn’t last long, since there came Turkic-Mongol ruler Tamerlane. Interestingly, the rocks around Akhtala are known as Lenk Timur (Tamerlane). A legend has it Tamerlane’s wife was buried in one of the rocks with lots of treasures and gold put in her grave. Later, the soldiers who had buried Tamerlane’s wife were killed upon his command. It was done so that nobody knew where the wife was buried and the treasures were not stolen. Another legend says that Tamerlane’s son was in love with an Armenian girl and wanted to be with her and also stop his father’s invasions. Lenk Timur got furious learning about that and therefore locked his son in one of those rocks. Locals claim that voices, particularly screams are sometimes heard from the rocks, which they take for Lenk Timur’s son’s shouts.

In 1763 Georgian King Erekle II settled 800 Greek families in Akhtala. They were to work in the gold and silver mines. The Greeks called the monastery Meramani. They have left inscriptions on the monastery walls. Later, French bought Akhtala deposit and the Greeks – that of Alaverdi. In this respect, another legend has it, that Charles de Gaulle who was to become the President of France was born in Akhtala.

In the 19th century Melikovs that were an Armenian noble family in Georgia assumed power over Akhtala.

Akhtala Monastery: Surb Astvatsatsin Church

The monastery’s main church Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God or Holy Virgin) was probably erected in the 11th-13th centuries. No exact data is known. According to Kirakos Gandzakeci, Ivaneh was buried there in 1227. In his turn, Stepanos Orbelian who was a 13th century Armenian historian referred to the church in 1216. Researches show that the church murals date back to 1205-1216. A record made in 1188 on the back of a khatchkar recounts about the construction of Surb Astvatsatsin Church in Akhtala. The record was left by Princess Mariam and it reads, “I, the daughter if Kyurikeh, Mariam, erected Surb Astvatsatsin at Pghndzahank, those who honor us remember us in their prayers.” Kyurikeh II was the third king of the Kingdom of Lori. There are other assumptions regarding the church construction as well. One of them suggests the church was built by Byzantine Emperor of Armenian extraction Heraclius in the 7th century, another one claims it was built by Georgian King Vakhtang I Gorgasali in the 5th century. All these points can neither be accepted, nor denied since there is no any evidence proving or rejecting them.

The church carries religious significance because the cross with which John the Baptist is believed to have baptized Jesus Christ was being preserved there. Ivaneh Zakarian, however, sold it to the monastery of Noravank for a rather large amount of money.

The murals of the church are what momentarily grasp attention. They were made after the church was converted into Chalcedonic. Notably, the colorings are characteristic of Byzantine art, whereas the thematic solutions are Armenian. The frescoes feature scenes from the New and Old Testaments. Other than that they depict different saints including Saint Gregory the Illuminator. Holy Virgin’s image holding Jesus can be found on the dome. Only parts of it have survived. Some of the murals were renovated in 1979. There is an interesting thing about the bright and vivid colors of the murals. The locals say that they used to distract visitors from the Mass, and it was so much annoying for the priest that he ordered to cover the frescoes with lime.

In 1975-1978 the the top parts of the walls were repaired. The tin roof was removed. It was replaced by basalt slabs. The main entrance and the pillars were also repaired. There was also a 14th century ramshackle wooden belfry, which was ultimately removed from the yard.

Akhtala Monastery: Archaeological Excavations

Archaeological excavations have brought forth rather interesting things about Akhtala region. Still in 1887-1889 archaeologist Jacque de Morgan discovered rectangular 8th century sepulchers near Akhtala. Also a crypt dating back to the third millennia BC was discovered there. It belonged to the times when people were being buried sitting. Having studied the area Jacques de Morgan wrote, “Older than Europe and Greece, it still retains the traces of those civilizations that were the cradle of our own.”

The monastery has pilgrimage days, which last two days and are held on September 20-21. In this respect, Armenians, Greeks and Georgians come to visit the monastery.

Eventually, Akhtala is one of the most valuable and beautiful samples of Armenian-Chalcedonian architecture and Armenian medieval culture. It entices not only with its murals, breathtaking surrounding and striking history but also with the legends that seem to haunt it and make it even more miraculous and mysterious.

Orbelian Grave at Noravank Monastery - History

* See the top attractions of Armenia - one of the oldest countries in the world, the contemporary of Babylon and Assyria, with a capital older than Rome, a country with rich cultural heritage and ancient history on the crossroads of East and West

* See the oldest official Christian church in the world - Echmiadzin Mother Cathedral as Armenia is the first country in the world to embrace Christianity as a state religion in 301 A.D.

* Visit some of world&rsquos oldest and most beautiful remote Christian monasteries and churches tucked away in remote forested mountain settings, abandoned cave villages frozen in time.

* Ride the world's longest cable-car &ldquoWings of Tatev&rdquo built by the Swiss (5.7km) to see the 9th century Tatev Castle-Monastery * See the real Silk Road and one of the most notable medieval caravanserais in the world

* Experience the uncommon Armenian hospitality at its best meeting the friendly locals sample delicious and authentic Armenian cuisine

* Visit the oldest winery in the world which is 6100 years old excavated in Areni-1 Cave Complex and taste some of the most refined wines in the world in Areni village, the oldest wine making site in the world

* Marvel at the beauty of biblical Mount Ararat (5165 m), always snow-capped, where Noah's ark landed after the Great Flood

* Explore Yerevan, a magical European capital with thriving nightlife under the gaze of Mount Ararat. There are hundreds of local cafes, wine-houses and restaurants spread all over the sidewalks that will give you a chance to taste the local cuisine, beer, wine and famous Armenian cognac, known as the best in the world

Price of the tour is based on private tour at 4 star hotels from 2 persons Included

Accommodation at 4* hotels in DBL/Twin rooms (7 nights)

Transportation with a comfortable cars with AC

Entrance fees to all visited places

Armenian bread Lavash making in a local house in Garni village

Wine tasting in Areni village

6 Lunches during the tours

2 dinners at the hotel in Goris and Sevan

Visa to Armenia (if required)

Arrival. Transfer to your. hotel in Yerevan. Hotel check in. Rest. Overnight in Yerevan

Today you explore the secrets and hidden gems of Yerevan, the pink &ldquopearl&rdquo of Armenia, a beautiful European city mostly built with different shades of local pink stone called "tuf" quarried in Armenia. Founded in 782 B.C. Yerevan is reputedly one of the oldest cities in the world to have been continuously inhabited. We start the exploration with the "Victory Park" and "Mother Armenia" monument offering a "bird's-eye" view of the city with the fantastic view of the majestic snow-capped Mount Ararat (5165m) dominating the skyline. Continue to the colossal monument of Cascade and Cafesjian Center for the Arts which includes a world-class sculpture garden and indoor modern art museum with works from Botero, Chihuly, Arshile Gortky, Jennifer Bartlett, Lynn Chadwick, Barry Flanegan and Jaume Plensa and many others. Exploring the Republic Square, Abovyan Street, one of the oldest streets in Yerevan which used to be a part of the Great Silk Road, we walk down the Northern Avenue and arrive at the Freedom Square, the home of the Opera and Ballet Theatre (architect A. Tamanian). The design and layout of the building was awarded with Grand Prix in 1936 World Exhibition in Paris. A cultural showcase not to be missed is Matenadaran, one of the world&rsquos largest and oldest repositories of Armenian, Greek, Persian manuscripts. Marvel at the illuminated pages of some of those manuscripts within their glass cases. Tour of "Goom" bazaar of Yerevan, a real museum of food with pyramids of fresh and dried fruits stuffed with different kinds of nuts, honey, cinnamon and other spices, colorful strings of "sweet sujukh", orange beads of dried peaches(&ldquoalani&rdquo) stuffed with walnuts, piles of "lavash" traditional Armenian bread, many kinds of cheeses some of them aged in clay pots, pickles, beans and other organic products offered by local farmers. *Lunch in a traditional Armenian restaurant where you sample a big variety of appetizers, salads and meat dishes prepared by old recipes.

Mount Ararat & Khor Virap Monastery – Areni 1 cave – Noravank Monastery - Winery Tour – Karahunj - Goris

Today is a long but fascinating day! It is dedicated to exploration of Southern Armenia combining the magic of Armenia's finest medieval architecture with stunning landscapes. Our first stop is at Khor Virap Monastery, one of the most popular destinations in Armenia for a number of reasons, primarily because it is where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 13 years before curing King Trdat III of a disease. This caused the conversion of the king and Armenia into the first officially Christian nation in the world in the year 301. Its location, near the closest point to biblical Mount Ararat within Armenian borders, offers a spectacular view of the mountain, the national symbol of Armenia. We continue to the south driving through the agricultural heartland of Armenia, Ararat Plain offering fantastic scenery of fruit orchards, endless vineyards at the foothills of Ararat Mountain. As soon as we pass the Ararat Valley we can experience the untamed beauty of Southern Armenia - surreal red rocks providing an eerie echo, honey-colored villages sandwiched between them. Our next stop is the Monastery of Noravank, an architectural gemstone nestled among brick-red cliffs, just above a deep gorge. It&rsquos only here where you can see a bas-relief with the representation of Father God with almond-shaped eyes which look far ahead. Lunch in a local restaurant with stunning views, where you will taste the cuisine of Vayots Dzor region - local cheese and yogurt, salads prepared with organic and fresh herbs and vegetables growing in Armenia, and chicken barbecue from &ldquotonir&rdquo oven is our main dish today followed by a local pastry &ldquogata&rdquo as a dessert with tea/coffee. Visit Areni, the village of winemakers. We will tour of the world-class archaeological site, the cave complex Areni-1 to see the oldest winery in the world (6100 years old)! We drive to the best local winery to taste their blow-your-socks off Areni (a deep, full-bodied red) wines made according to traditional wine making techniques used in Armenia thousands of years ago, including the fermentation in terracotta vessels, called karas in Armenian. Afterwards we journey for approx. 3 hours to the small town of Goris where we stay the night. On our way we visit Karahunj known as the &ldquoArmenian Stonehenge&rdquo, the oldest observatory in the world which is 7500 years old. There are 223 vertically standing stones 84 of which have holes. The ancients were gazing the stars using them as telescopes.

Goris – Tatev – Silk Road & Orbelian Caravanserai – Noratus – Lake Sevan

Explore Goris town, one of the most beautiful towns in Armenia. It&rsquos a town in orchards where the houses have the same unique architecture with red tile roof. See old Old Goris cave town from the viewpoint. Riding the world&rsquos longest aerial tramway (5.7 km) you&rsquoll reach the miraculous Tatev Monastery, a formidable monastic complex founded in the 9th century. It&rsquos the biggest monastery in Armenia located on a rocky peninsula more than 100 meters above the Vorotan River. Lunch with stunning views of the Vorotan Canyon. Driving through Vardenyats Mountain Pass famous for its fascinating colorful mountains we reach the Orbelian Caravanserai on the Great Silk Road at the highest point of the pass (2410 m). Here little has changed since the fourteenth century. The Caravanserai offered hospitality to travelers along the highway crossing the Selim mountains. Visit the Stone Garden - Noratus, the largest field of Armenian exquisite cross-stones in the world. Proceed to Lake Sevan National Park. We drive to the Lake Sevan, the world&rsquos second largest highest lake at 1900 m above sea level and the most beautiful lake of Armenia taking up 4% of the territory of Armenia.

Lake Sevan – Old Dilijan town – Haghartsin – Tsaghkadzor – Yerevan

Breakfast in our hotel. Marvel at stunning turquoise waters of the Lake Sevan and dramatic mountain scenery after climbing up the peninsula hill where we visit the 9th century Sevanavank Monastery (optional, over 240 steps to get there). Drive to Dilijan spa town in Dilijan National Park, a protected area renowned for its serene lakes, picturesque hill trails and peaceful villages. Words alone can&rsquot describe the natural beauty of Dilijan. Many poets used to say, "If there are woods, mountains, streams and mineral waters in paradise, it must be like Dilijan&rdquo. Due to its forested mountains and mild climate, Dilijan is named "Armenia's Little Switzerland". Take a stroll in Old Dilijan Complex on historic Sharambeyan street. Lunch in an authentic restaurant where we sample Armenian dishes prepared by 450 year-old recipes. Then we continue our journey to Haghartsin, a fairy-tale medieval monastery nestled in the middle of the forest. On the way to Yerevan we&rsquoll visit the town of Tsaghkadzor, the biggest ski resort of Armenia with forests. In the summertime, people go there to get away from the city life of Yerevan, and the heat, for the fresh air in the mountains. In the winter, the town is completely overtaken by skiers and people who just want to relax and enjoy the snow and scenery. The modern rope-way will take you to the top of Teghenis Mountain, where the greens of land and the blue of the sky get in fusion. Back to Yerevan.

Yerevan – Echmiadzin – Zvartnots – Vernissage Market – Yerevan

Today we embark on our journey to the lands of ancient treasures of Christian history&hellipVatican City of Armenia, Holy Echmiadzin with its world&rsquos earliest Christian churches included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Visit Echmiadzin Mother Cathedral originally built by Saint Gregory the Illuminator in 301-303A.D., when Armenia became the first officially Christian state in the world. Continue to St. Hripsime Church built in 7th century, a masterpiece of early medieval Armenian architecture. Also visit the Ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral, a majestic cathedral dedicated to St. Gregory. The remnants of Zvartnots, even in ruins, are a majestic sight. Authentic lunch during the tour. Back to Yerevan to visit the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum. Visit Vernissage market, the largest outdoor arts & crafts bazaar in the Caucasus.

Yerevan – Garni - Geghard – Azat Canyon “Symphony of Stones” - Yerevan

We drive to Garni Fortress, the royal summer residence of the Armenian kings and visit Garni Temple of the Sun, the only standing Hellenistic temple in the Caucasus and the former USSR. It resembles Parthenon in Greece but its dimensions are smaller as it was built only for the Armenian royal family to worship the Sun God. We continue to Geghard Monastery (UNESCO), the most beautiful rock-cut medieval monastery in the world with its fascinating natural setting and decorative art carved inside the solid rock. It is the only place in Armenia where you can see a large number of the Armenian exquisite lace-type cross-stones carved on the rocks. Lunch in a local house in Garni village where you sample local dishes. Master class of traditional Armenian bread &ldquolavash&rdquo being baked in tonir (underground oven). The preparation, meaning and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia has been inscribed on UNESCO&rsquos Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage on Humanity. After a hearty lunch we will explore the most surreal site in Armenia, the stunning Garni Gorge where you can marvel at basalt rock formations - columns looking like honeycombs or pencils. The site stretches for a kilometer along the river.

Armenian Heritage

Though its status rests in its medieval achievements, Noravank also shows signs of having been a place of worship from a much earlier time. A cloistered monastery was built at the site in the early Christian era, the basis of its transition into one of the preeminent communities of prayer, learning and politics in the 13th-14th cc. Noravank is also where some of Armenia's most famous medieval artists lived, worked and are buried.

Noravank was founded by Bishop Hovhannes, abbot of Vahanavank (near Kapan), who moved Syunik bishopric to Noravank in 1205 when he became the bishop of Syunik Diocese. In the following two centuries the monastery grew with the fortunes of the ruling Orbelian clan of kings, who bequeathed riches on the church, establishing it as the center of the Church in historic Siunik while commissioning patrimonial sepulchres at the monastery.

Mongols looted the monastery in 1238, but a truce between the Agha Khan and Prince Elikum Orbelian brought peace to the region and the chance to rebuild the monastery, establishing a new golden age that lasted until the Timurid invasions in the late 14th c.

Noravank was a major cultural center of its time, closely tied to religious and educational centers like the universities at Gladzor and Tatev Monastery, among others. Owing to its Orbelian benefactors, the monastery was also a fulcrum in the political developments of the time. One of its most famous bishops was Stepanos Orbelian, author of History of the State of Sisakan (ca. 1299), and largely responsible for forging the Siunik bishopric into a powerful political, cultural and religious center.

Noravank and Momik

The monastery is connected to the sculptural work of one of the most prolific and accomplished Armenian figures of the Middle Ages, the artist, architect and sculptor Momik (1250?&ndash1339).

Momik began his career as an artist of manuscript miniatures in Cilicia (Kilikia), where he was exposed to the art of the late gothic style, introduced by crusaders. Bishop Stepanos Orbelian is said to have brought Momik to Vayots Dzor from Cilicia in 1286, and he quickly found fame in his new home, especially for his sculptural work, creating khachkars (stone crosses) that are among the greatest of its time.

Momik was the architect and sculptural artist for St. Astvatsatsin in nearby Areni (1321).His exquisite bas relief sculptures adorn the gavit portal at Noravank. He also added a number of khachkars to both complexes, which are still considered masterpieces of the art form. It is commonly believed to think that his last work was at Noravank, where he created the Orbelian sepulchre church of Astvatsatsin (&ldquoBurtelashen&rdquo), two striking bas relief sculptures on its west and south walls, and a small, simple khachkar - his memorial stone, which is at the south side of the building.

St. Stepanos Nakhavka domed church, the main building in the complex (An 1840 earthquake destroyed its dome) connected to the gavit by the only (western) entrance, was rebuilt by the architect Siranes on the initiative of Prince Smbat Orbelian, in 1261. An earthquake in 1321 damaged the building, and was rebuilt possibly by Momik, who had just finished Astvatsatsin Church in neighboring Areni.

The 1931 Siunik Earthquake destroyed much of the site, including the dome of St. Stepanos. Repairs to the roof and the upper walls of the sepulchre-church were made in 1948-1949.The renovation of the entire complex begun in the 1980s and was completed in 2001.

The complex includes the 1339 St. Astvatsatsin (&ldquoBurtelashen&rdquo) sepulchre-church, St. Stepanos Nakhavka and gavit, the St. Grigor Church and Stepanos Orbelian Sepulchre, the remains of medieval chapels and residential quarters and a modern office and hall.

Places to Visit in Gegharkunik Region

Lake Sevan

The biggest freshwater lake in the Caucasus, also known as the Blue Pearl of Armenia, is the mesmerizing Lake Sevan. It is one of the most beautiful and important natural landmarks in the country.

Lake Sevan is a high-altitude lake surrounded by Gehamal Mountain where it is possible to see the amazing landscape, ancient churches situated on the top of the islands, and rocks.

The natural wonder is located approximately an hour away from Yerevan in the Gegharkunik region and it is easy to reach Lake Sevan from Yerevan.

Sevan Writers’ House

One of Armenia’s most notable and iconic masterpieces of Soviet Modernism is the Sevan Writers’ House situated on Sevan Peninsula.

The Sevan Writers’ House was built in 1963 and you can still technically stay there today. We actually would love to see this place get a bit of attention and better up-keep in the future. It is such a gem!

Noratus Cemetery

Armenia is the land of khachkars and that typical artform only exists there. In the countryside next to Lake Sevan and near the city of Gavar, you will find Noratus Cemetery, a medieval cemetery with a large collection of ornate khachkars.

The cemetery spans from the 9th to the 17th centuries and today, it is possible to see more than 800 khachkars with different artwork styles stories. Noratus is definitely one of the best day trips from Yerevan.

Hayravank Monastery

Located in a spectacular location right on the edge of Lake Sevan is Hayravank Monastery.

The 9th-century ancient Armenian monastery is located in the Gegharkunik region near Noratus Cemetery and it is a great location to bike to! It is a fantastic stop off of the main highway.

German citizens need a passport to enter the country, which must be valid for five months after the trip.

The national currency is the dram (AMD). You may exchange US dollars and euros. Businesses and service providers are not officially permitted to accept foreign currencies, so you must make payments in dram.

Most restaurants, shops, and hotels, for high demands, accept major credit cards, with an increasing number doing so outside Yerevan's capital city.

There are numerous ATMs in the Yerevan city center where cash can be withdrawn with debit and credit cards.

Outside Yerevan, cash is not widely available through ATMs ATMs are available in the provincial capitals.

Travel outside the capital only with sufficient cash in hand.

Avoid traveling to the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

It is not possible to cross the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan or between Armenia and Turkey.


Vahanavank (Armenian: Վահանավանք ) is a 10th-11th century Armenian monastic complex located approximately 5 kilometers west of the town of Kapan in the Syunik Province of Armenia, situated at the foot of Tigranasar mountain along the right bank of the Voghdji River.

The monastery was built over a Bronze Age grave field (13.-11. BCE) by Prince Vahan Nakhashinogh, of which it gets its namesake, the son of Prince Gagik of Kapan in the early 10th century. The Armenian historian Stepanos Orbelian (c. 1250 – 1305) wrote that the prince had taken on a monk's robe and lifestyle to cure himself of demonic possession. In the year 911, Prince Vahan gathered 100 like-minded clerics and built the church of Surb Grigor Lusavorich. It is the oldest among the structures at Vahanavank. The church is a domed hall like building with a main temple and a pair of sacristies. The drum rises on huge steeple rocks. The church has a west and south entrance. Prince Vahan was buried near the door to the church.

A spiritual school was opened at the monastery where young boys from Baghk and other provinces studied. Prince Vahan Nakhashinogh's nephew Vahan Jevanshir II, was educated at the monastery and rose to become the Bishop of Syunik around 940 and then Catholicos around the year 960. During his reign he built many great monuments, many of which remain in ruins.

The vestibule and portico first half of the 10th century. The latter stretches to the south of the church and the narthex. Kings and princes of Syunik are buried here. The cornices of the vestibule are decorated with vegetal and animal ornamental motives which border the southern and northern walls.

Vahanavank became the religious center for the kings of Syunik in the 11th century. In 1086, Queen Shahandukht II of Syunik and her sister Katan built the church of Surb Astvatsatsin as a burial site for her and her relatives. They also constructed the southern entrance to the monastery as well as the vestibule to S. Astvatsatsin.

There are other structures, household buildings, khachkars and tombstones that date back to the 10th –11th centuries as well.

In 1978 restoration efforts began at the monastery and in 1990 they ended before their completion.

Watch the video: Noravank Monastery in Armenia. XIII century. (February 2023).

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