Noravank

Noravank is a 13th-century Armenian monastery, located 122 km from Yerevan. The monastic complex includes the church of St. Karapet, St. Grigor chapel with a vaulted hall, and the church of St. Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God). The latter is a two-storey Surb church, which grants access to the second floor by way of a narrow stone-made staircase jutting out from the face of building. Ruins of various civil buildings and khachkars are found both inside and outside of the compound walls. Noravank was the residence of the Orbelian princes. The architect Siranes and the miniature painter and sculptor Momik worked here in the latter part of the 13th and early 14th century.

Noravank monastic complex consists of a memorial church, called St. Holy Mother of God. It was completed in 1339, a masterpiece of the talented sculptor and miniaturist Momik, who designed it, and was also his last work. Near the church there is his tomb khachkar, small and modestly decorated, dated the same year. In recent times the fallen roof had been covered with a plain hipped roof. The ground floor contained elaborate tombs of Burtel and his family. Narrow steps projecting from the west façade lead to the entrance into the oratory. The entrance tympanums are decorated with bas-reliefs showing, on the lower tympanum, the Holy Virgin with the Child and Archangels Gabriel and Michael at her sides, and, on the upper tympanum, a half-length representation of Christ and figures of the Apostles Peter and Paul. 

Karapet is the name of the second church, which was built in 1216-27. Forming the western antechamber is an impressive gavit of 1261, decorated with splendid khachkars and with a series of inscribed gravestones in the floor. The gavit was probably a four-pillar one. In 1321 the building, probably destroyed by an earthquake, was covered with a new roof in the shape of an enormous stone tent with horizontal divisions, imitating the wooden roof of the hazarashen-type peasant home. The Holy Virgin is sitting in the Oriental way with Child. The tympanum of the twin window over the door is decorated with a unique relief representation of the large-headed and bearded God the Father with large almond shaped eyes blessing the Crucifix with his right hand, with a dove - the Holy Spirit - above it.

The monastery is located in a narrow gorge made by the Amaghu River. The gorge is known for its tall, sheer, brick-red cliffs, directly across from the monastery. Near Amaghu on a hill by the gorge are remains of a medieval fortress. On the right can be seen in the distance the recent fortifications along the border with Nakhichevan. The cliffs are full of caves, and at the very beginning of the canyon, near by Areni village, Birds' cave is located. 2007-2008 excavations uncovered layers of material culture dating to different periods of the Copper and Stone Ages. Based on the results of radiocarbon examination, samples taken from these layers (bone fragments, coal, fabric pieces, seeds and other organic residues) are traced back to late 5th-early 4th millennium BCE.
     
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