<10 famous Armenian churches (sometimes referred as Apostolic or Orthodox churches)>
Armenia is known to the world as the first nation who adopted Christianity as its official state religion in 301. That is why it mustn’t be a surprise for tourists from all over the world that Armenia is rich of thousands of ancient, medieval and modern churches, monasteries and temples.
There are many Armenian Apostolic churches (simply known as Armenian orthodox church or Armenian churches) that you should know and visit.
Armenian church 1) HOLY ETCHMIADZIN
The most ancient cathedral in the world and the first one built in Armenia is the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. It was built in 303 by the then king Trdat III and Saint Gregory, the Illuminator after the latter had a vision about the place where Jesus descended and stroke the earth showing the place where the cathedral should be built.
Literally, “Etchmiadzin” means “The coming of the only-begotten” that is Jesus Christ. Located in the same name city in Ararat valley, it is not only religious but also a significant cultural and scientific centre of the country. You can visit the famous cathedral museum and other parts of the historically formed complex.
It’s not exaggerated! It can be said “not visiting sacred Echmiadzin” would be equal to “not visiting Armenia at all”!
Armenian church 2) TATEV MONASTERY
Tatev monastery is a medieval Armenian monastery built in 895-906 and located in Syunik region of Armenia, in the same name village again. For the past hundreds of years, it was not only Syunik’s spiritual centre but also a scientific, cultural and educational important centre of Armenia.
The monastery currently includes a huge tourist complex. Especially, the most notable is the aerial tramway included in the Guinness World Records as the world’s longest non-stop double track cable car. The natural bridge named “Satani Kamurj” and other natural and man-made sights and constructions can also be seen in the complex.
The Tatev monastery and its adjacent areas of monastery complex were included in the list of World Heritage Sites of UNESCO in 1995.
Armenian church 3) GARNI
One of the most unique and ancient sights in Armenia is the Pagan temple “Garni” built in the 1st century and located in Kotayk region of Armenia. It is a classical Hellenistic temple and actually is the only colonnaded structure belonging to Greco-Roman era built by the king Trdat (Tiridates), the 1st. The temple is dedicated to the God of Sun – Mihr.
Garni has officially been a a royal summer residence for Armenian kings of that period for a long time. It has not been destroyed even after adopting Christianity in 301 as a cultural and historical significant heritage. A visit to Garni will surely become one of the most unforgettable and breathtaking experiences during your journey to Armenia!
Armenian church 4) GEGHARD
This is a monastery complex in the Kotayk region of Armenia, which is entirely carved inside a rock mountain!!! It is not very easy to imagine how that was possible considering limited tools and “technologies” of early medieval period. It is probably one of the reasons the Monastery is also included in Intangible Cultural Heritage list of UNESCO.
It was created in the 4th century again by Grigor Lusavorich (Gregory the Illuminator). “Geghard” literally means “spear” which referred to the same spear that was used to pierce Christ after he had been crucified on the cross in order to check whether he was still alive. Thus, the pilgrims of that time renamed the monastery to Geghard (Spear Monastery). Currently, the spear is in Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin cathedral museum.
Armenian church 5) NORAVANK
Noravank (literally translated as “New Monastery”) is a 13th century monastery complex located near the town Yeghegnadzor that is 122km far from Yerevan. The monastery is situated among fantastical rocky mountains. The complex includes the two-storey church of St. Astvatsatsin. During 13-14th centuries, bishops of Syunik were residing in Noravank monastery actually.
Being one of the most famous cultural, educational and spiritual centers of Armenia, the monastery complex was strongly connected with the outstanding Gladzor library and Gladzor University, and other various educational institutions. This wonderful attraction is one of the most picturesque monuments of Armenian medieval architecture.
The monastery, Noravank, was presented for inclusion in the World Intangible Cultural Heritage list of UNESCO in 1996.
This is a nice place to go for a trip or excursion not only for tourists but for active and extreme rest lovers as well.
Armenian church 6) KHOR VIRAP
Khor Virap (literally meaning “deep pit”) is another memorable Armenian monastery located in Ararat plain near the border with Turkey, at the foot of Biblical Mount Ararat. It was built in the 7th century by the Catholicos Nerses III, the Builder.
The fortress-monastery was a residence of the Catholicos and a pilgrimage place. The notability and significance of the monastery are attributed to the fact that Grigor Lusavorich (Gregory the Illuminator) was initially imprisoned there for almost 15 years for Christianity-spreading activity in Armenia by the king Trdat (Tiridates) III.
There are a lot of historic and architectural sights in the territory of Khor Virap that included the seminary and residence of the Armenian Catholicos. The 6-meter-deep dungeon where Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned has also been preserved. Nowadays, tourists can reach it with help of the narrow stairs feeling the spirit and atmosphere of that era.
One of the most breathtaking views of Armenia – Ararat Mountain and Valley of Ararat can be seen and admired during your trip to Khor Virap monastery.
Armenian church 7) OSHAKAN
Another notable tourist attraction in Armenia is located in Aragatsotn region’s Oshakan village. It is best known for Saint Mesrop Mashtots Cathedral which also houses the grave of Mesrop Mashtots and was built by Catholicos Gevorg IV. Mesrop Mashtots is also well known as the creator of Armenian alphabet in 4-5th centuries.
You will find the grave that is a square mausoleum with entrances from northern and southern sides under the altar of the church. The church walls were covered with fresco in 1960.
Actually, tourists can find numerous monuments from even earlier era that have been found in the village territory, for example, the remains of Urartu fortress, dated to 7-6th centuries BC. There are also numerous ceramic wares, stones and bone items, about 100 statuettes, burials of III century BC such as tools, weapons, gold, silver and bronze ornaments.
Armenian church 8) HAGHARTSIN
Haghartsin, literally, the monastery of the soaring eagle, is a 10-13th centuries monastery located near the city of Dilijan of Tavush region. It was built under the auspices of Bagratid king dynasty.
The construction of the monastery had lasted for almost 3 centuries. The oldest construction of Haghartsin is the church of Saint Gregory built at the end of 10th century. Later, the monastery was enhanced and enriched with new constructions: churches of Saint Gregory, Saint Astvatsatsin, Saint Stepanos and several other churches and additional buildings. The major one of them is the church of Saint Astvatsatsin which is a masterpiece of Armenian architecture. The cupola of the church is decorated with triangular ledges and spheres, harmonious arches that give the building a breathtaking and majestic appearance.
At the moment, not only tourists but also many local pilgrims visit the monastery of Haghartsin. The trip to one of the most picturesque and ancient monasteries in Armenia can be considered as an integral part of your trip to Armenia’s sights.
Armenian church 9) SANAHIN
Another well-known Armenian historical monument is Sanahin church complex founded in 10-13th centuries. Sanahin monastery is located in Alaverdi (Lori region). In 10-11th centuries, the Sanahin complex owned vast territories where hundreds of people both lived and studied.
There were prominent scientists, cultural workers and priests among them. It was at that time when the monastery complex school was transformed into Sanahin Academy.
Sanahin monastery attraction is also included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Armenian church 10) GOSHAVANK
Goshavank (also known as Nor Getik) is a medieval Armenian monastery complex of 12-13th centuries, built in 1188 in Gosh village. Originally, the complex was called “Nor Getik” but after Gosh’s death (1213), the church complex was renamed into Goshavank. In chronicles, it is often mentioned as a seminary or university.
Goshavank was one of the significant cultural, religious, educational centers of medieval Armenia. Here, students and scholars were able to study foreign languages such as Greek, Latin and Persian as well as music. You can find medieval manuscripts written in Goshavank that has remained safe to date.
The monastery complex includes the churches of St. Mother of God (built in 1196) and St. Gregory (1241). Library with a bell tower (1291), school, gallery and chapel of 13th century can also be found there.
Retaining all the traditions of the period, the additional construction of the church complex was made in a classic architecture style. The attraction is known for its khachkars (Armenian cross-stones) and nowadays is one of the most attractive tourist destinations.