Armenia, as the world’s first Christian country, is extremely rich in monuments of spiritual culture. The Monastery of Noravank – the pearl of Armenian medieval architecture – is one of the most admired shrines in the country. The monastery complex is located 10 km south of the village of Areni, in the Vayots Dzor region, in the picturesque gorge of the Amaghu River. Noravank monastery was founded by Bishop Hovhannes in 1105, and in the 13-14 centuries, thanks to the ruling Orbelian family, Noravank flourished and became spiritual, educational and cultural center of Syunik province. The complex consists of two chapels and three churches: St. Karapet, St. Stepanos the Precursor and the Holy Mother of God. In 2002 Noravank Monastery was included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list.
The main church of Noravank is St. Stepanos the Baptist, built in 1216-1221. The churchyard gradually became a cemetery for Orbelian family, on behalf of which the church was built. The ancient church of St. Karapet (IX century) is located on the south side of the complex. It is a simple rectangular hall with a bell-shaped altar and a tomb. The church was opened during the excavations of 1982-83. The neighborhood is rich in ancient tombstones, on which you can see some holes that were intended for smoking incense.
The most influential structure of the complex is the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the 14th century, which belongs to the group of two-tiered three-stage churches, widespread in medieval Armenia. The Church of the Blessed Virgin belongs to the well-known medieval architect and sculptor Momik and is considered one of his masterpieces due to the elegance of architectural forms and the highest quality. Here you can also find the ancient khachkars belonging to the hand of the master. Delicate stone carving, cross-stones, sculptures and bas-reliefs of the master Momik, which adorn the monastery of Noravank, are recognized as one of the finest in Armenia.