Noravank Monastery, Armenia

Noravank Monastery, Vayots-DzorNoravank means “New Monastery” in Armenian. However, today this name does not match as it is already more than seven centuries old. The most beautiful Noravank complex was constructed in the 13 th century on the ledge of narrow winding gorge of the river Amaghu near the city of Yeghegnadzor. The gorge is famous for its steep red rocks towering behind the monastery. The monastery is sometimes named Amagu Noravank to distinguish it from Noravank monastery the city of Goris. Amagu is the name of a small settlement which used to stand over the gorge. In the days of Orbelyan princes the monastery became the large religious centre, and in the 13th-14th centuries it became a residence of Syunik's bishops. Consequently, a major religious and later cultural center of Armenia was closely connected with many educational institutes, primarily with Gladzor’s university and library. According to a legend, a piece of cross stained with the blood of Christ was hidden there.

The most ancient structure of the monastery is the ruined Surb Karapet church (St. Karapet) constructed in the 9 th – 10 th centuries. In 1216-1223 the main temple of the monastery was built and named Surb Karapet. The temple is distinguished by strict decorative ornamentation. Inside it are deep niches with khachkars.

In 1275 modest rectangular Surb Grigor church, which served as the tomb of prince Smbat Orbelyana, was added to the northern side of the main temple. Its walls from both sides of the altar are decorated with khachkars and images of pigeons. The most magnificent building of the monastery is the two-storeyed St. Astvatsatsin church constructed in 1339 by prince Burtel Orbelyane. The building is a monument of architecture. Rectangular temple building rests upon the powerful high foundation which makes it majestic and monumental. The main facade of the temple is cross-shaped and is decorated with carved cross. In the temple's centre the beautiful dome decorated with arched columns and modelled eaves towers. The semi-basement floor of the church served as the tomb of Orbelyan family. Above the tomb there is the cross-shaped chapel. The decoration of church is more reserved in the lower part of the building and more elegant in the upper one.

The western facade of the building is especially well-decorated. There are two cantilever staircases leading to the second level. The staircases begin on the left and right of the tomb entrance. Over the ground floor door is the bas-relief showing the Mother of God with the baby Christ and archangels; and over the top entrance there is the image of Christ and the figures of Apostles Peter and Paul.

In the 17 th – 18 th centuries the monastery was surrounded by fence with adjacent structures. Behind the fence from the eastern side are the ruins of a chapel and one khachkar reminding of the hotel erected in the middle of the 13 th century.

Noravank complex thanks to its magnificent medieval architecture and beautiful landscape looks very impressive.

In 2002 the temple was included into UNESCO World Heritage Sites List.