14 March, 2018 Vayots Dzor Region 3017 Views

Noravank Monastery

The “new monastery” (Noravank), was founded in 1105 by Bishop Hovhannes, Abbot of Vahanavank, who moved his bishopric there in 1205.  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 Siunik and commissioning patrimonial sepulchers at the monastery.   
The monastery is one of the most spectacular sites in Armenia. Around sunset, the reddish hues of the dramatic cliffs surrounding the monastery are accentuated by the setting sun, and the reddish-gold stone of its churches acquire a luminous sheen – it's a totally magnificent sight.

Monastery Complex
The complex includes the 13th-century Surp Karapet Church, built next to the ruins of an earlier church also dedicated to St John the Baptist. Attached to this is a small 13th-century chapel dedicated to Surp Gregor; it's home to a carved lion-human tombstone dated to 1300.
The main structure is the 14th-century Surp Astvatsatsin Church (1339), built on top of the mausoleum of Burtel Orbelian, who is buried here with his family. Historians say the church is reminiscent of tower-like burial structures created in the early years of Christianity. There’s a wonderful carving of Christ flanked by Peter and Paul above the door.
Mongols looted the monastery in 1238, but a quick truce between the forces of the Agha Khan and Prince Elikum Orbelian brought a certain amount of 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. 

In its heyday, Noravank was a major cultural center, closely connected to the many seats of religion and learning in the kingdom, especially the university and library at Gladzor, some 20 km distant.  Owing to its Orbelian benefactors, the monastery was also steeped in the politics of the day.  

Sculptor Momik
The monastery is also connected to the sculptural work of one of the most prolific and astonishing artists of the Middle Ages, the artist, architect and sculptor, Momik. He created the exquisite bas relief sculptures over the gavit entry at Noravank and added khachkars to the ensemble.  His last work was also at Noravank, where he created the Orbelian sepulchre church of Astvatsatsin/Burtelashen, two striking bas relief sculptures on the church’s west and south walls, and a small, simple khachkar for his tomb, which is at the side of the church.  Both church and khachkar are dated 1339.  

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