Close to the town of Sevan, Sevanavank is a monastic complex located on a peninsula at the northwestern shore of Lake Sevan in Armenia. "The Blue Pearl of Armenia" is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. Overlooking the lake, the Sevanavank monastery ruins are a beautiful and historically significant destination just a few hours north of Armenia's capital, Yerevan. The monastery was initially built at the southern shore of a small island. After the artificial draining of Lake Sevan during the soviet rule, the water level fell about 20 meters and the island transformed into a peninsula. At the southern shore of this newly created peninsula, a guesthouse of the Armenian Writers' Union was built. The Armenian president's summer residence occupies the eastern shore, while the monastery's still active seminary moved to newly constructed buildings in the north.
Put on your hiking shoes and explore the trail behind the monastery; it takes about an hour to tour the grounds and visit the former churches.
A strict monastery for sinners
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 (the future king of Armenia). Back then, Armenia was still struggling to free itself from Arab rule. The monastery was strict as it was mainly intended for those monks from Etchmiadzin who had sinned. Jean-Marie Chopin, a French explorer of the Caucasus, visited there in 1830 and wrote of a regimen restraining monks from meat, wine, youth, or women. Another explorer visited the monastery in 1850 and described how manuscripts were still being copied manually.
Two sister churches
The two churches of the complex, Surp Arakelots meaning the "Holy Apostles" and Surp Astvatsatsin meaning the "Holy Mother of God," are very similar: both have cruciform structures with octagonal tambours. Adjacent are the ruins of a gavit (west entrance) whose roof was originally supported by six wooden columns. If you're interested in learning more, some of the remains of the gavit and its columns can be seen in the Yerevan Museum of History.
One of the most visited sights in Armenia
Once it became a peninsula, it was easier to access the Lake Sevan from the Armenian capital of Yerevan, and it quickly attracted a lot of people. In summertime, Armenians travel to the lake's white sand beaches to spend their vacation or just to enjoy a picnic. Admire crystal clear waters and stunning views of the mountain landscape. Don't miss the chance to eat trout fresh out of the lake!