Gegharkunik monasteries and churches

Hayravank Monastery

Hayravank Monastery, located on the banks of Armenia’s Lake Sevan in Gegharkunik Province. Hayravank Monastery was built between the 9th — 12th centuries. Its oldest structure is St. Stepanos Church, which is distinguished for its square-based central dome. A small chapel was added to the complex in the 10th century and was embellished two centuries later with the construction of a distinctly Armenian gavit. Historical sources referencing Hayravank mention two monks, Hovhannes and Nerses, who added a two-columned, octagonal domed hall to the chapel in 1211.

Monastic life at Hayravank ceased in the 19th century, and it was not until the 1980s that the monastery was renovated and opened to the public. In the fenced yard of Hayravank are old tombstones and scattered cross-stone khachkars, while the ruins of monks’ cells may be seen just outside the fence.

According to legend, in the 1380s a monk by the name of Hovhan was living at Hayravank when the troops of Tamerlane (Amir Timur) invaded the land. When Amir Timur reached Hayravank, Hovhan decided to jump into the lake rather than watch the obliteration of his beloved monastery. Yet God miraculously saved him by granting him the ability to walk across the lake.

Tamerlane, shocked by the sight of a man walking on water, promised Hovhan that if he would meet with him, the conqueror would grant whatever the monk wished. Hovhan agreed and met with Tamerlane, pleading with him not to kill anyone who could fit inside the monastery. Tamerlane agreed, and people began to seek refuge inside the compound. Surprisingly, everyone was able to fit inside, for Hovhan was turning people into doves so as to allow more space in the churches for people to escape death.

From that point on, the monastery was called Hovhannavank or Hayr Hovhan Monastery, meaning “Father Hovhan’s Monastery”. The compound has also been called Ayrivank, meaning Cave Monastery, for according to another legend Hayravank was once connected to Spitak Berd Castle (also known as Berdkunk Fortress) by a series of underground tunnels.

Sevanavank monastery

Sevanavank was founded by Grigor the enlightener in 305. The monastic complex is on the peninsula of Lake Sevan. There is a wonderful view of blue Sevan from here. In the 9th century the princes of Syunik made Sevan a point of their suppurt. In 874 the wife of the Syunik prince Vassak and the daughter of the king Ashot Bagratuni – Mariam built here two churches – St. Arakeloc and St. Astvatcatcin. The teritory of the cloister is rich in khachqars (cross-stones). In 1956-1957 the monuments were restored. The ancient Armenian tradition says that King Ashot Erkat, along with his brother Abas, vowed that they would lead the Arab enemies from the Armenian territory. Despite the serious disparity in force, he took a defensive position in Sevanavank. Early in the morning a thick fog settled on Lake Sevan. Armenian ferries with burning torches began to move forward in the fog. The Arabs followed them on boats. King Ashot overtook them, and with several soldiers attacked and forced them to retreat. They say that the sun’s rays shone so bright that day that the enemy could not catch the exact mark, shooting at the boats of Armenians.



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