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Sevanavank 1: History. Map legend


Sevanavank (also known as “Mariamashen” or “built by Mariam”) sits on the peninsula east of Sevan City, at one time an island which archeological digs have shown to have been inhabited during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.

Sevan region was one of the first places of the spred of Christianity in Armenia, following the conversion of King Tr'dat (the Great) in 301, at which time Christianity became the state religion. History points to Lusavorich's entry into the region, establishing two churches at the site; St. Harutiun and St. Karapet (John the Baptist).

According to an inscription on the south wall of St. Arakelots (Holy Apostles) Church at the site, the 9th century expansion is attributed to Princess Mariam, the daughter of the founder of the Bagratuni dynasty, Ashot I Bagratuni. It grew under the spiritual guidance of the future Catholicos Mashtots. As the 13th century Bishop/historian Stepanos Orbelian described it:

“In that time, the venerable Mashtots shone for his amazing virtue on the island of Sevan. ... After fasting he received an order in a dream to build a church in the name of the holy apostles and to set up a religious community there. In his dream, he saw 12 apostles walking toward him on a lake, who showed him the place for the church. After this vision and divine inspiration, the great Lady Mariam, wife of Vasak of Siunik, came to St. Mashtots and, after supplication, built a richly ornamented church called the Holy Apostles, and then another called Astvatsatsin (“Holy Mother of God”). She furnished them abundantly, and made them the House of God and the refuge of pious men, in the Armenian year 323 (AD 874)”

Medieval inhabitants include the 10th century historian and Catholicos Hovhannes Draskhanakertsi and Ashot II (Ashot Yerkat or Ashot of Iron) who led his armies against Arab rulers. The king and his regiment camped on the island in 924/925, winning a decisive victory against the Arabs, ensuring the re-establishment of Armenian independence and securing Bagratuni rule. Afterwards, Sevanavank became an important pilgrimage site.

Pillaged during Mongol, Timurid and other invasions, the monastery's recovery began after the 1441 re-establishment of the Holy See at Echmiadzin with the creation of an academy in 1451, based on the curriculum at Tatev.

Abandoned during the Soviet period (St. Astvatsatsin was demolished in 1931 and its stone used to build a holiday house in Sevan) and badly damaged in the 1936 earthquake, the monastery was not revived until the 1990s and is undergoing reconstruction. It remains one of Armenia's most popular destinations.


Map Legend

1. St. Karapet (John the Baptist)
2. Monk Cells and academy
3. Arakelots Gavit (ruin)
4. St. Arakelots (Holy Apostles) church
5. St. Harutiun (Holy Resurrection)
church (ruins)