Two surviving churches of Sevanavank
The church of St. Karapet. Behind it: Surp Arakelots (Holy Apostles church). Both circa 874.
Sevanavank is a monastic complex located on a peninsula at the northwestern shore of Lake Sevan in the Gegharkunik Province of Armenia. Initially the monastery was built at the southern shore of a small island. After the artificial draining of Lake Sevan, which started in the era of Joseph Stalin, the water level fell about 20 metres, and the island transformed into a peninsula.
According to an inscription in one of the churches, the monastery of Sevanavank was founded in 874 by Princess Mariam, the daughter of Ashot I (who became a king a decade later). At the time, Armenia was still struggling to free itself from Arab rule.
The king and his regiment camped on the island in 924/925, winning a decisive victory against the Arabs,
The monastery was a place for historic battle. Its location and the fact that it was then completely surrounded by water made it a good strategic shelter for Armenian King Ashot II (also known as Ashot Erkat, “Erkat” meaning “Iron”). The battle was between the Armenian forces led by Gevorg Marzpetuni (also a famous character in Armenian literature) and Arab army led by commander Bashir. The battle was won by the Armenian forces that included both soldiers and monks, ensuring the re-establishment of Armenian independence and securing Bagratuni rule. Afterwards, Sevanavank became an important pilgrimage site.
The monastery was strict as it was mainly intended for those monks from Etchmiadzin who had sinned. It was also an important spiritual centre, housing many monks. It was visited by thousands of pilgrims from all parts of Armenia. An explorer visited the monastery in 1850 and wrote of how manuscripts were still being copied manually.
Sevanavank monastery. Armenia, 2011