Sights

DESCRIPTION OF SITES INCLUDED IN EXCURSIONS OFFERED BY AQUARIUS TRAVEL

THE ECHMIADZIN CATHEDRAL

The Armenian Apostolic Church is the first Christian church in the entire world and since Christianity was adopted in Armenia as state religion earlier than in other parts of the world, the Armenian Apostolic Church is considered the elder sister of all Christian churches.

In 301 A.D. Christianity was adopted in Armenia as the official religion of the state. In 303 the St. Echmiadzin Cathedral was build in Vagharshapat, the capital city of that time. Echmiadzin became the Sea of the Armenian Catholicos. Today it is the religious center of all Armenians. The Cathedral occupies a territory of 80 thousand square meters accommodating the residence of the Catholicos, the theological seminary, the editorial office and the printing house of the magazine named “Echmiadzin”, the hotel, the conventual chambers, the museum of Alek and Marie Manoukians and other structures.

The legend goes that God’s son descended here and showed Gregory the Illuminator the spot where the first Christian church had to be built. Hence, the name Echmiadzin, meaning “the God’s son descended here”. The Cathedral has undergone an endless number of reconstructions, was ruined and rebuilt again. This is why its initial forms were disturbed. In the 18th century the church was bedecked with the beautiful frescoes of Naghash Hovnatan, restored in the 1950s.

The museum of the Cathedral holds a multitude of relics among which the most famous ones are the Spear that pierced the rib of Christ in the hands of the Roman legionary, a piece of wood the Noah’s Arch, the right hand of Gregory the Illuminator symbolizing the power of the Catholicos.

The development of the Armenian education and national culture is closely related to the Armenian Apostolic Church that has always been and is now the primary factor of unity of the Armenian people across the world.

ST. HRIPSIMEH CHURCH

One of the masterpieces of the Armenian architectural genius, the church of St. Hripsimeh is a sacred place for the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The name of Hripsimeh takes us back to a legend. In the earliest stages of diffusion of Christianity, 36 Christian virgins fled to Armenia to find a sanctuary from the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

T he Emperor dispatches a letter to the Armenian King Terdat III
that read: “There are 36 of them. Their leader is Gayaneh, but the most beautiful among them is Hripsimeh. You can take her as your wife”. At the sight of Hripsimeh’s beauty, the king decides he should marry her, but the Christian virgin does not wish to become a wife to a pagan king. Beside himself with fury, Terdat III releases an order to torture Hripsimeh and her virgin friends until death. On Hripsimeh’s grave a small chapel is later built and in 618 Komitas Catholicos builds this beautiful church, one of the most vivid exemplars of the Armenian architecture. Hripsimeh’s remains rest in the crypt below the main altar.

TEMPLE OF ZVARTNOTS

The Temple of Zvartnots has been a masterpiece of the early medieval Armenian architecture. Built in 642-653 by the Armenian Nerses III Catholiocos called Nerses the Constructor because of his extensive construction activities, the temple was ruined by the mighty earthquake of 930.

After scrupulous studies, the famous Armenian architect Toros Toramanyan redeveloped the miniature model of the temple. Another miniature model discovered during the archaeological excavations in the ruins of Ani, the ancient capital city, confirmed the theory of Toros Toramanyan. According to the architect, the temple was a rotunda edifice, cruciform on the inside and had three floors or circles.
This new type of temple was abundant with decorations performed by an assortment of methods. Each niche of the first circle was adorned with frescoes. The main motif of ornament was grape clusters, vine leaves and pomegranate. The arches and the ceiling were richly decorated with bas-reliefs of pomegranates and branches. The temple walls were bedecked by the sculptures of the constructers with their instruments. The round windows were encircled with decorated frames.

The temple rose on its circular fundament and looked effective against the background of the Mount Ararat covered with eternal snow cap.
The temple of Zvartnots is a wonderful exemplar of not only the Armenian, but the entire architectural mind of all times.

ST. VIRGIN’S CHURCH IN ASHTARAK, “KARMRAVOR”

This church is located in the town of Ashtarak in Aragatsotn District of Armenia. It was erected in the 7th century and is attributed to the small cruciform type of Christian churches. The cupola is tiled and partially renovated.

The “Karmravor” church is enclosed on the territory of an ancient cemetery. Externally, its shape is simple, deprived of any décor. On the internal walls one can still observe the traces of old frescoes.

THE OLD BRIDGE IN ASHTARAK

In old days bridges had an utmost importance in servicing caravan roads. From the engineering point of view, these were quite complicated structures sometimes built in difficult, out-of-the-way places – upon full rivers flowing in deep ravines.
In respect to its absolute dimensions, technical level and complexity of construction, the triple-span old bridge in Ashtarak is quite an attraction. It was built in 1664 on the river Kasakh on the wrecks of the medieval viaduct. It is a three-arch bridge that integrates beautifully into the landscape of the Kasakh river canyon. The left bank of the bridge is high and mountainous, and the right side is low and flat.

MOUGHNI – ST. GEVORG CHURCH

This church is located in the village of Moughni in Aragatsotn district of Armenia. This is one of Armenia’s most eminent monastic complexes of late Middle Ages. The compound comprises the church and a number of civil and utility buildings enclosed within a high wall. The church is strictly in the center of the premises.
According to historic information, the remains of St. Gevorg (George) rest here below the church.

In the initial stage there stood only an unsightly church. In 1660-70s the construction of today’s structure was completed as a vaulted basilica. Remains of the old beautiful frescoes can still be seen along with several cross-stones. Concurrently with the church, the hall with the triple-dome bell tower was built.
Both entrances, as well as the windows with their affluent decoration, distinguish themselves from the general simple and modest exterior of the church. The multi-color masonry is also quite pleasing for the beholder’s eye. The cupola drum and the pediment are laid with combination of dark and light tufa stone in onion skin and chess board architecture.
The church and its adjacent monastery buildings form a harmonic unity in accord with the spirit of the period’s architecture.

SAGHMOPSAVANK

The first references of this church date back to the Middle Ages, but it was completed in the 13th century by father and son Vache and Kurt Vachutyans, descendants of the royal family. Saghmosavank is located in the village of Artashavan of Aragatsotn district of Armenia, on the verge of the Kasakh river canyon. The monastery complex comprises 2 churches, the chapel, the library and a number of cross-stones.

The principal church is named after St. Sion and was built in 1215. It is a vaulted hall with no decoration on the external walls.

The chapel adjoins the principal church from the west. There are no indications as to the year it was built. Through its interior entrances the chapel connects with St. Sion church, the library and St. Virgin church. Externally, the chapel is deprived of decorations except for the western fronton accommodating the fine-looking entrance. St. Virgin’s church was built in 1235 and is more like a chapel. The walls of the main altar still bear some remnants of frescoes.

The library was built in 1255 and is located in-between the principal church and St. Virgin’s church. Many long years it was a dwelling of scholars who translated psalms and created and maintained a multitude of manuscripts. There was a time when the monastery complex was enclosed within a high wall and protected from the eastern side by the canyon of the Kasakh River.

HOVHANNAVANK

This church is located in the village of Hovhannavan of Aragatsotn district, on the verge of the Kasakh river canyon, on a territory that housed a single-nave basilica built in the 5-6th centuries. In the 13th century, upon the order of the father and son Vache and Kurt Vachutyans, descendants of the royal family, a new church and a bell tower were built. The oldest structure here is the single-nave basilica named after St. Hovhannes Mkrtich (john the Baptist) with its bell-tower on the southern part. The principal church built in 1216-21 is named Katoghike. It is an example of cruciform vaulted structure with two-storied vestries on the western side. Various means of decoration have been applied here. The wall behind the stage is heavily decorated with a belt of relief adorning the upper parts. Especially abundant with embellishments is the front door opening into the bell-tower bearing a fascinating bas-relief about wise and unwise virgins. Cross-stones decorate the right side of the entrance.

The bell-tower was built in 1250 and in its form is not in proportion with the longitudinal axis of the principal church. The bell-tower dome is adorned with columns – an exceptional phenomenon in the structures of this period. Remarkable in terms of decoration is also the western wall with its three-leaf arches. The monastery was destroyed in the devastating earthquake of 1918. But even in its half-ruined state, Hovhannavank is admired by its numerous visitors.

TEGHER MONASTERY

The Tegher Monastery is located on the foot of the Aragats Mountain, in the village of Tegher, on the right side of the Arkhashian river canyon. The monastery complex consists of the church and the bell-tower. It was built in the 13th century under the sponsorship of Vache Vashutian’s wife Mamakhatun. The principal church is named after the St. Virgin. It represents a cruciform vaulted construction with vestries on four corners and double triangular cavities on interior frontons that are devoid of any decorations.

The bell-tower was built in 1213-21. It belongs to the type of bell-towers with four columns and is unusual in its spatial construction: two small chapels rise on its north-western and southwestern corners. The entrances to those chapels are from the roof of the bell-tower where you can ascend through the secret cavity in the ceiling. Back in 1468, the premises of Tegher were enclosed within a solid wall, which is partially ruined today. In its integrity the monastery complex is beautifully in harmony with the natural surrounding.

AMBERD


This is the only one of the medieval fortresses of Armenia that is still standing today. Amberd was built in the 10th century during the reign of the Bagratuni royal family, under the sponsorship of which the walls, the castle and probably the bath house were built. In 1026 Vahram Pahlavouni built the Amberd church.

The fortress is built in a naturally confined picturesque spot on a triangular high-level cape on the southern slope of the Mount Aragats, protected on both sides by the abyss.

The fortress has two main parts: the palace and the castle surrounded by their own walls and towers. Apart from the entrances, the fortress had two secret tunnels leading to the canyon. The palace was provided with its own water storage in the form a reservoir that supplied the bath house and the entire fortress.

The church was built in the central part of the fortress. It is a vaulted structure noteworthy for its simple and modest décor. Especially remarkable is the arched fron door.

In the 13th century the fortress was attacked by Mongolian tribes and later in 1408 was ruined. But its ruins with the small church still rest proudly on the slope of the Aragats mountain overlooking the deep canyon.

AROUCH (CARAVANSERAI)

In the 12-14th centuries, concurrently with the development of crafts, trade and cities, the construction of caravanserais and bridges expanded rapidly. This was considered a highly important activity and was being carried out on a full scale according to a specific program. The construction of caravanserais was being carried out by the resources of the royal families and other wealthy people. They were built on the crossroads of trade routes.

The caravanserai in Arouch is partly submerged in the ground and only its south-western part is over the ground. The building has 6 arches and is lit by the windows up in the ceiling. From the side of the ravine the building has protuberances in the form of pyramids that provide the structure a fortress-like appearance.

CATHEDRAL OF AROUCH

The cathedral is located in the village of Arouch of Aragatsotn district of Armenia. In terms of its form and size this is a vaulted church and is one of the largest and relatively best preserved churches. It rises proudly over the panorama and is seen from a large distance.

The cathedral of Arouch, as well as the palace within the same territory, was built in the 7th century. There are three entrances to the praying chamber from the southern, western and northern parts, all decorated with columns. The expansive main altar has three windows: the central one in the façade, and two in the side niches.
From the architectural point of view, the eastern fronton is the most remarkable one. Here the two niches and the middle part of the wall are adorned with a belt of three frescoes. The internal walls of the cathedral were once covered with frescoes still visible in some places but badly deteriorated. The cupola over the main altar manifests a fresco of saint resurrection. On the blue background the massive image of Christ is illustrated between two angels. Six of the Apostles are reproduced on the northern wall of the cathedral. It can be presumed that the other six Apostles were shown on the southern wall and Virgin Mary with angels was between the windows. During its long-lasting history the cathedral was renovated several times. It once even served as a castle surrounded by protection walls in certain places. The premises still contain the remains of the 7th century palace. Once its main hall was adorned with columns, three of which partly survived. The palace in Arouch is one of the masterpieces of Armenia’s palace architecture.

CATHEDRAL OF TALIN

The cathedral is located in the vicinity of the town of Talin in Aragatsotn district of Armenia. It was built in the second half of the 7th century and is an exemplar of cruciform basilica.

The interior is expansive and solemn divided by vaulted arches. On the surface above the main altar there are two circular windows. The lateral altars are enclosed in semi-circular conches. There is one window in the central part of each conch. The interior walls still bear marks of the old frescoes. In the niches adorned by columns and connecting arches ornamental patterns of plants and flowers can still be seen. Similar ornaments have been used on the cupola. The cathedral used to have five entrances with front doors.
The architectural eloquence and ornaments of the cathedral in Talin harmonize with each other beautifully and form the unique overall picture this one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Twice the cathedral suffered from earthquakes, its cupola is partly preserved. At a distance of about 200 meters from the cathedral is the 7th century St. Virgin’s church with three altars. Its cruciform naves and uneven: the western one is deeper and has entrances from the south and the front part. In the central part of all frontons and beneath the cupola there are windows adorned with ornaments. The church is in a relatively good shape.

GLADZOR UNIVERSITY

The University of Gladzor is located in Vayots Dzor district of Armenia, not far from the famous Noravank. The university buildings did not survive till our days. Scientists and historians believe that the university was once on the territory of the Tanahat monastery mentioned in historic documents of the 7th century.

In the 13th century, 7 km to the south-west from the village of Vernashen, the most important buildings were erected.

The University of Gladzor was founded in 1282 and was open until 1388. From the first days of its foundation the university gained an estimable reputation and became quite famous with its professors lecturing on theology, philosophy, mathematics, the art of copying, miniature painting, etc.. Around 350 priests were educated here later to become prominent scientists. The university collected and stored numerous ancient manuscripts. Armenian artists founded the School of Miniature Painting here, well-known in the medieval Armenia.
In 1984 the Armenian people celebrated the 700th anniversary of the Gladzoro University. In the village of Vernashen the museum of Armenian Medieval Art and Intellectual Heritage was opened.

GNDEVANK MONASTERY

Gndevank is located in the village of Gndevaz, in the vicinity of the Armenian resort Jermuk. From the village the church in inaccessible.

It was founded in 936 and the Siunik Dutchess Sophia said the following with this regard: “Vayots Dzor was a signet-ring without a stone. I built this church and placed it as its precious stone.” Quite expressive is the St. Stephen church in its ideal plainness and absence of decoration, with its triangular cavities on the façade that go in harmony with the picturesque panorama of the Arpa river canyon.
The bell-tower was built in 999 as an exceptional treasure of the medieval Armenian architecture. It is a single-nave vaulted structure with two vestries. On the left-hand wall of the main altar one can behold a beautiful fresco of Mother Mary with baby Christ in her lap. In the late Middle Ages a high wall was built around the territory of the monastery with a fate opening on the north-western corner. The utility buildings were constructed beneath the southern wall, including the hermitages, the refectory, the kitchen, the storages. Etc. Vayots Dzor, the Canyon of Moans still contains a multitude of mysteries.

KHOR VIRAP MONASTERY

The monastery of Khor-Virap is in the district of Aragatsotn, on a knoll near the village of Pokr Vedi. This monastery is a sacred place for the Armenian Apostolic Church and a pilgrimage destination for the Armenian people across the world. This is the cradle of the Armenian Christianity.

In the beginning of the millennium when the Armenian capital city was in Artashat, the convicts used to be brought to this knoll where there was a prison. The legend accounts that the Armenian king Terdat III threw into this dungeon Gregory the Illuminator who was Christian and was promulgating his faith in Armenia. Gregory spent the 15 years of his life in this underground dungeon. This story is also associated with the legend about Hripsimeh and her friends, the 36 Christian virgins. In 300 A.D., following the atrocious torture and assassination of the Christian virgins, a dreadful disease fell upon the king. His body turned into one of a wild boar and for a long time he was called King Boar. It was at this point that the king’s sister, Khosrovdukht saw a dream where the angels told her that her brother would get well only if he released Gregory from the Khor Virap dungeon. The king was desperate and was compelled to follow his sister’s advice. Gregory healed the king. After this episode, Terdat III acknowledged Christianity and declared it the official religion of his state. Later, Gregory became the first Armenian Catholicos as Gregory the Illuminator.

In 642 Catholicos Nerses III built a chapel in the place of the Khor-Virap dungeon. In 1662 another church was constructed right upon the underground dungeon where Gregory Illuminator was confined for 15 years. At the end of the 17th century St. Virgin’s church was built along with the monastery wall, the refectory, the guest house and other structures.

The pictorial silhouette of the monastery complex stands out beautifully against the background of the biblical Mount Ararat.

NORAVANK

This architectural complex is one of the most wonderful historical monuments of the medieval Armenia. It is sited in the Vayots Dzor district of Armenia, about 5 km away from the village of Amaghu, in a picturesque yet difficult for access spot.

In 1980s a new road leading to the Noravank monastery complex was built along one of the tributes of the River Arpa. Today visitors can easily reach the Noravank monastery complex above the canyon where the tribute starts.
In 12-13th centuries Noravank was the spiritual center of Siunik princedom. The oldest of the churches called St. Karapet is badly deteriorated. In 1221-27 the principal church of the Noravank complex was built and named after St. John the Baptist. In old days it used to have a church-porch that was ruined in an earthquake. In 1321 the porch was restored by the talented and well-known architect and miniature artist Momik. The porch is remarkable for its bas-reliefs: the Father, the Virgin with baby Christ, and various motifs from the Bible with wonderful ornamentation. A treasure of the Noravank complex is the two-floor mausoleum church St. Virgin also built by Momik. The church is an ideal combination of strictness and embellishment.
Several chapels, crypts and artfully crafted cross-stones are still exposed here. Among the cross-stones especially beautiful are the ones cut out by Momik himself. The great architect rests right here in Noravank and there is an intricate cross-stone installed upon his grave.

ZORATS KARER

On a large plateau a few kilometers north-east from Sisian there rise huge rocks, some placed in a circle and some scattered irregularly across the terrain. Some of the rocks are 2 meters high, others are less
in size, but some of them have circular cavities on their pointed tops. These stones are buried in the ground with their massive foundations.
This plateau is the home of the most ancient spiritual site of Armenia – the prehistoric Zorats Karer (Zorats Stones) or Karahunj. The 28-30 meter long cromlech is a circular arrangement dated back to the 2nd millennium B.C. It is assumed to have served a burial site associated with the relevant ceremony. This type of megalithic monuments is usually attributed to the cult of the Sun and it is not coincidental that the Temple of Ar, the God of Sun used to stand here. Unfortunately, that temple did not survive the cataclysms of time. This is a real paradise for archaeologists. The prehistoric site is antedated to the Copper Age, viz. the 5th millennium B.C. or even earlier, the Stone Age. Archaeologists and historians assume that the Zorats Stones are the twin brothers of the famous Stonehenge translated into Armenian as Karahunj.

TATEV MONASTERY

Tatev is situated in Siunik, the largest administrative district of Armenia. Siunik is a land of high mountains, deep canyons, forests and lakes. The capital city is Kapan at a distance of 316 km from Yerevan.

Tatev, this masterwork of the Armenian architectural mind is located in the village of Tatev. It comprises a number of religious and secular monuments erected in different historic periods.

The monastery complex enclosed within high walls is strewn on a cape surrounded from the east and south-west by deep canyons and naturally well-protected, especially from the side of the Vorotan river canyon. It is in wonderful harmony with the natural precipitous landscape forming an exquisite combination of manmade and natural magnificence.

The creation of the Tatev monastery goes back to the 9th century. Its bloom and evolution are associated with the medieval Armenia when the foundation of prominent Tatev University made it a major spiritual and cultural center. From the 12th century Tatev Monastery was the diocese center of Siunik.
In the days of the Seljuk invasion Tatev was ruined. In the 17-18th centuries a high wall was built around the monastery along with other buildings.
The principal church built in 895-906 is called St. Paul and Peter. The beautiful frescoes did not survive. To the south of the church in 1285 another church was built named after Gregory the Illuminator. In the south-eastern corner of the monastery wall St. Virgin’s church was built in 1085. This was a unique building since it served also as an observation point.
In 1390-1453 the reputation of Tatev grew as a scientific center due to its university, one of the outstanding and most successful educational facilities of medieval Armenia that continued the traditions of the famous Gladzor University. The Tatev University had departments of theology, philosophy, mathematics, grammar, etc. Students were taught the art of copying, miniature painting, music. The university had its library of manuscripts.
A fascinating item for visitors is the swinging crozier in the courtyard. It was placed here after the completion of the principal church construction in 904 and named the Holy Trinity. The 8 meters high crozier is placed in an octahedral pit. The phenomenon of swinging has an incredible explanation: it is caused by the cross-stone on the top.

Due to the restoration activities of the last 30 years, the monastery complex of Tatev was able to regain its significance and reputation. The monastery is functioning today and is the residence of the head of Siunik diocese.

GARNI

At a distance of about 30 km from Yerevan, the village of Garni accommodated one of the most incredible historic monuments of Armenia, the pagan temple Garni. The Kotaik district, where the village is located, is famous for its historic monuments related to different periods.

The temple of Mihr, the God of Sun, is a unique Hellenistic edifice. It was preserved even after the official adoption of Christianity in Armenia. The reason for that is the fact that the temple used to be on the premises of the royal summer residence. The temple was built in 77 A.D. by the Armenian king Terdat I. In 1697 it was badly affected by the earthquake and restored in 1970s.

The pagan temple of Garni is a wonderful exemplar of the antique construction mastery. On the façade and the laterals it is adorned by Ionic style columns in 6 on the front and 8 on both sides. The capitals and the interior ceiling, the central and lateral frontispieces are performed with exceptional dexterity and skill.

The Temple of Sun is located on the premises of the Garni citadel, which used to be impregnable due to its position and the citadel wall made of enormous basalt rocks. The fortress once accommodated the palatial courtroom and the dwellings of the royal legions that did not endure.

Extremely lavish is the royal bath house built in the 3rd century. The bath house was heated through hot air. The flooring of the cloakroom was completely covered with mosaic images borrowed from the Greek mythology, namely the origin of life from marine deities. The mosaic still bears an inscription in Greek that reads: “We labored yet did not obtain”.

GEGHARD

The monastery complex in Geghard is the most peculiar and the most famous among the high medieval period monuments of Armenia with its churches, mausoleums, chapels, over a 100 cells, buildings and cross-stones overground and carved into solid rock. The monastery is named Geghard (Spear) because for centuries one of Jesus Christ’s relics was kept here. It is the head of the Spear with which the Roman legionary pierced Jesus Christ’s rib to make sure he was dead on the Cross. Before that the monastery was called Airivank. The holy relic is now in the museum of the Cathedral in Echmiadzin.

The Airivank monastery is a unique architectural monument. Its existence dates back from the 4th century. During its long history, the monastery has been repeatedly attacked by the Arabs, ruined and robbed.

The complex itself was built in the 13th century during the reign of the Zakarian princes. The principal church was built in 1219. The southern entrance is remarkable with its intricate and lavish ornaments. Later the four-column porch was built. Very interesting is the ventral porch anchored on four columns, a complicated structure made of stalactite stone and leading up towards the illumination opening in the ceiling. The northern wall is the natural rock containing two entrances into the churches gouged into the rock.

In the 13th century the first rock-carved church was built and named Avazan by using the forms of the criss-cross dome system. The next entrance leads into the mausoleum divided into two arched openings by the natural rock column in the center. You can see the coat of arms of the Proshian noble family carved on the rock: two lions with an eagle in the centre holding a calf in its claws and the head of a bull above.

The most extensive is the bell-house cemetery built in 1288 gouged into a massive body of rock. This hall has incredible acoustics.

LAKE SEVAN

“Verily a piece of sky descended in-between the mountains”, said the famous Russian writer Maxim Gorky enthused, when he first saw the Lake Sevan.

Sevan is one of the world’s largest sweet-water mountain lakes. The enormous lowland at an altitude of 2000 meters above sea level is filled with vital water. The total lake surface is 1400 square meters. A number of small rivers flow into the lake and Sevan gives birth to the River Hrazdan. The lake is rich with living creatures. Typical are the trout, white-fish and koghak. The majority of scientists believe that the lake Savan formed in the crater of an extinct volcano; others try to prove that millions of years ago the volcano lava blocked the river bed giving birth to this huge lake.

The surroundings of the lake are rich with sightseeing spots of various historic periods. The former island that is now a peninsula houses the Sevan monastery. The principal church is called St. Apostles and the smaller church is called St. Virgin’s. both were built in 874 by Marian, the daughter of the Armenian king Ashot Bagratuni II. There is an exceptionally beautiful cross-stone of the 13th century in the church of St. Apostles. The Sevan monastery is one of the holy places of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

NORATUZ

The village of Noratuz is located in the Gegharkunik district of Armenia, 1/3 of which is occupied by the Lake Sevan. Archaeologists discovered here armor, ceramic items and ornamentals that relate to the bronze and iron ages. St. Virgin’s church is in the center of the village constructed at the end of the 9th century. Its single dome hall was ruined in the 14th century by the Persians and reconstructed in the 15th century.

Particularly well-known is the Noratuz cemetery with dozens of beautiful cross-stones, most of them on pedestals. The Noratus cross-stones date back to the 13-17th centuries. This kind of monuments can be found only in Armenia or at least belong to an Armenian artist. Cross-stones (in Armenian – “khachkars”) did not only serve as gravestones but would also be erected in memoriam of some prominent event like a victory in some battle or foundation of a city or as a corner stone of some important building.
Cross-stones require great mastery for their elaborate ornaments that can never be replicated, and their axle, the wreathed cross considered the symbol of life tree. There is a peculiar construction within the Noratuz cemetery the chapel named after Gregory the Illuminator, built in the 13th century. This is a single nave building, inside of which two interesting pieces of the wall are preserved. The interior vestries have the shape of a bird. Part of the Noratus cross-stones has been grouped to represent the burial ground of this or that family. The reason why there are so many cross-stones in the vicinity of this village remains a mystery.

HAGHARTSIN

The Haghartsin monastery is in the Tavoush district of Armenia in the north-east of the Republic of Armenia. Ijevan is the center of Tavoush. It is 137 km away from Yerevan.

The monastery of Haghartsin was built in the 10-13th centuries at a distance of about 18 km from Dilijan, in the gorge of the river Haghartsinka. As all the other Armenian churches, Haghartsin is located in a picturesque spot, in a deep forest.

The first building, St. Gregory the Illuminator church was constructed in the 10th century. It is simple shaped cruciform vaulted structure. The principal church, St. Virgin, was built in 1281, and another church, St. Stephan’s, was built in 1244 and served as a baptistery. In the 13th century the porch of St. Gregory Illuminator’s church was built.
Very interesting is the refectory of Haghartsin monastery built in 1248. It is one of the two survived largest refectories of medieval Armenia. The second one is in the Haghpat monastery.

GOSHAVANK

Goshavank monastery is also in the Tavoush district of Armenia. It was built in 1188 by Mekhitar Gosh, the greatest jurist and fable writer of the Middle Ages. Goshavank was built strictly in on the spot where in older days stood another church destroyed by the earthquake.

The Goshavank monastery complex comprises St. Virgin’s church built in 1196; St. Gregory church built in 1231, St. Gregory the Illuminator church built in 1241, the library built in 1291 and the school built in the 14th century. Many amazing cross-stones have been preserved on the territory of the Goshavank monastery, among the most beautiful of which is a cross-stone by Poghos Aghbar (Brother Paul) is called “Embroidery”. Historic sources verify that Goshavank used to have a university and a library that stored numerous ancient manuscripts, so highly revered in Armenia.

In time Goshavank was repeatedly disturbed by the numerous attacks of foreign invaders, frequently ruined and robbed but restored to life again. It was in Goshavank that Mekhitar Gosh wrote his first “Datastanagirk” (Judgment Book).

ODZOUN

Odzoun, one of the largest villages of the Republic of Armenia is in the district of Lori. The city of Vanadzor is the center of Lori District located at about 145 km from Yerevan.

The village of Odzoun houses one of the most notable monuments of early medieval architecture, the Odzoun church. This is a single-nave basilica. The exact date of construction is unknown, however the architectural style and peculiarities of construction manner certify to the 6th century. Later the Odzoun church was renovated and is relatively well protected.
The architectural merits of this edifice essentially complement its artistic expressiveness.

In the northern part of the temple there is a 6th century obelisk, a monument that acquired wide recognition as an exquisite exemplar of memorial architecture and sculpture. The obelisk is 8.5 meters high.

HAGHPAT MONASTERY

6 km south from the town of Alaverdi lies the largest monastery complex of Medieval Armenia – the Haghpat Monastery. It was built in the 3rd century by King Ashot III Bagratuni. In 991 the St. Neshan church was built with its frescoes still visible over the main altar. Its architect was Terdat, the one that built the Armenian capital city Ani. As many other monasteries, Haghpat also used to have a rich library that played an exceptional role in the creation and preservation of Armenian manuscripts and chronicles.

Many times was the Haghpat monastery ruined, robbed and divested by foreign invaders. During the Seljuk campaign in the 12th century part of the manuscripts was concealed in the caves by the monks. The saved ones are demonstrated today in Matenadaran.

The Haghpat complex includes the large refectory covering a surface of 340 m2, the largest one in Armenia. In the 1245 the sophisticated bell tower was built. In 1257 father Hamazasp built a large chapel that was later called Hamazasp’s House. The complex also comprises the tiny St. Gregory church (1005) and the St. Virgin chapel (13th century). The porch of St. Neshan church also refers to the same historic period. A number of cross-stones stand in the backyard, the most famous of which is “The Savior” reflecting the scene of crucifixion and other Biblical motifs.

The name of the ingenious Armenian poet and composer Sayat-Nova is associated with the Haghpat monastery. Sayat-Nova was born in Sanahin but lived and created mainly in the palace of the Georgian king as his court songster. In 1775 he was exiled to Haghpat and lived there ill the end of his days as a monk. On a clear sunny day the Haghpat monastery is visible from far away and on a foggy only the bell ring is audible.

SANAHIN MONASTERY

The monastery is in the district of Lori, in the village of Sanahin not far from the town of Alaverdi. It refers to the 10th century and comprises several churches, porches, the library, chapels and other buildings. The principal church is called the Savior and was built in 967-972 by the Armenian Queen Khosrovanuish. The oldest edifice is St. Virgin’s church built in 928-944. Later in the 10-11th centuries St. Gregory church was built along with the library and the Academy of Gregory the Grandmaster. The bell-house and the porch were built in the 13th century.

The Sanahin Matenadaran or the library of ancient manuscripts is a unique construction for medieval Armenia. The four semi-columns of the hall are incrusted artfully with wonderful ornaments. Each one of the columns symbolizes a science.
Of great interest in the Academy of Gregory the Grandmaster in Sanahin located in-between two churches. Many of the period’s celebrated theologists and scientists studied and lectured here.

MUSEUMS

EREBUNI (the historic museum of Yerevan’s foundation)

As opposed to many old cities of the world, the origin of which lies in the depths of history or accounted in legends or mythology, the city of Yerevan has its “Birth Certificate” the authenticity of which is beyond any doubt.

During the archaeological excavations in 1950s, on Arin-Berd hill in the vicinity of Yerevan, the archaeologists discovered a cuneiform inscription from basalt, which read that Argishti I, King of Urartu built this city to frighten his enemies. The word “Erebuni” translates as “Victory”. From this word the name of Yerevan was formed in successive centuries.

Today Yerevan is 2787 years old. The Museum of Erebuni was founded in 1968 in the south-eastern part of the Armenian capital, on the slope of the hill Arin-Berd. The fortress of Erebuni once stood on this hill. The museum is only a part of a museum compound that incorporates the archaeological monuments and findings at Shengavit and Karmir Blur.
The Erebuni Museum displays a multitude of cuneiform inscriptions of the Urartian period, adornment items, armor and other remarkable exponents. The visitors may climb up the hill and view the restored portions of the Erebuni fortress.

MATENADARAN

The Armenian language represents a discrete branch in the family of the Indo-European languages. The Armenian alphabet was created in 405 by scholar Mesrop Mashtots and served a solid base for the development of the national language and culture. The legacy of Armenian manuscripts is abundant.

The museum of ancient manuscripts Matenadaran, which is named after the great Mesrop Mashtots, is a home for more than 25 thousand manuscripts of priceless value for the study of the language and culture of the Antiquity. Apart from the Matenadaran volumes, numerous manuscripts are retained at the libraries of Vienna, Venice, London, Jerusalem and other cities of the world.

The scientific research institute of ancient manuscripts accommodated in Matenadaran is truly considered one of the most spectacular attractions of the Armenian capital. In the main show-room visitors can behold and admire 5-6th century manuscripts of various contents: the Bible, historic, theological, philosophical treatises, studies in natural history and so on. Many manuscripts amaze the viewers with their stunning miniature paintings.
In front of Matenadaran there stands the statue of the creator of the Armenian characters Mesrop Mashtots. At both sides of the entrance the statues of several prominent Armenian scholars are placed: Movses Khorenatsi – the great chronicler, Anania Shirakatsi – the famous mathematician, geographer and astrologer, Frik – the renowned poet of 13th century, Mekhitar Gosh – the author if the first Judgment Book, Khachatur Taronetsi – the distinguished philosopher, and Toros Roslin – the celebrated miniature painter. The frescoes in the lobby are made by the prominent Armenian painter Van Khachaturian. They symbolize the three most important periods of the historic past of the Armenian people.

THE STATUE OF MOTHER ARMENIA

The statue of a female on a 36 meter pedestal holding a sword in her hands and a shield at her feet symbolizes the struggle of the Armenian people for peace and protection of their motherland. The monument was erected in 1960s.

From this spot you can admire the panorama of the city of Yerevan. The Armenian capital is situated at an altitude of 1200 meters above sea level, on the bank of the River Hrazdan that originates from the Lake Sevan. An integral part of the city view is the biblical Mount Ararat at a distance of some 50 km. The legend goes that Noah’s Arch landed on the Mount Ararat after the great deluge.

STATUE OF SASUNTSI DAVID

The statue of the hero of the Armenian epic poem David of Sasoun is located in the square in front of the railway station in Yerevan. The author is the celebrated Armenian sculptor Yervand Kochar. David of Sasoun symbolizes the struggle of the Armenian people against foreign invaders and their strive for independence. The image of this hero has always been a symbol of our city.

VERNISAGE

Vernisage is a week-end open-air market of arts and antiquities located in the center of Yerevan, in the vicinity of the Republic Square. This is a colorful bazaar of applied arts of various periods. You can find wonderful pieces of art by Armenian masters, items of precious and semi-precious stones made by skillful jewelers. Especially interesting are the souvenirs and adornments made of obsidian stone, the glass of volcanic lava in black or dark brown color. In ancient times Armenians called it “the satan’s nails”.

Yerevan Vernisage displays also the works of modern Armenian artists that can be a delightful reminiscence of the days spent in this ancient country. You can also order your quick portrait.

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