Sevanavank Monastery, Armenia

On the northwest part of the lake, on the narrow rocky peninsula there stands one of the most  prominent landmarks of medieval Armenian architecture – Sevanavank monastery.

In antiquity the peninsula was stand-alone island. It was separated from the shore by 3 km of transparent water full of fish which was caught by the monastery. The monks came there in the end of the 8th century, erected a small chapel and few cells. The island position was so convenient that the growing monastic brotherhood started to build a monastery there. First they cut down a ledge in the rock and laid big stone blocks on it. Very soon the wall with the watch tower and little gate surrounded the island. Later three churches, cells and other structures were constructed.

The remnants of the monastery constructed in the 9 th century include only two temples – Surb Arakelots and Surb Astvatsatsin standing among numerous khachkars. The church buildings were constructed from black tuff which probably gave the monastery its name “Sevanavank” - “the Black Monastery”. The churches are cross-shaped buildings. They are distinguished by their masonry from cut stones in combination with encasement of the drums and similar eaves and arches.

Sevanavank Monastery, Armenia
Sevanavank Monastery, Armenia
Sevanavank Monastery, Armenia

In the end of the 9 th century the monastery was a ground of the great battle between Armenian tsar Ashot nicknamed “Iron” for his strong character and Arabs led by commander Bashir whose purpose was to conquer these territories. Ashot and his very small detachment with a group of monks heroically defended the monastery for a few months not allowing the enemies to reach the island; then he fought the Arabs in open battle and defeated them. The island with the Black Monastery was repeatedly attacked by other invaders: Tamerlane's hordes, Persians and so forth. The monks fought off the raids and the monastery lived on. In the 16 th – 17 th centuries it lost the walls, though. The monastery ceased to exist in 1930 when the last monk left the island.

Today the two black temples of Sevan stand deserted like two guards of this ancient lake. The view from there is simply magnificent: the mountains surround lake from all sides and snow tops are seen almost on the entire perimeter and disappear behind horizon. And behind the horizon of the dark blue open water space shrouded in fog are the green mountain slopes whose tops are covered with snow even in summer.