Noravank Monastery

Churches and Monasteries

At the end of a spectacular blood-red canyon.

Noravank is located at the end of a spectacular blood-red canyon; home to two of Armenia’s most well known cave systems, a nesting eagle sanctuary, and some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. The canyon is impressive, with towering rock formations on either side of this gigantic land fissure that seems to have cracked apart only far enough to fit the road.  At its narrowest, the canyon walls barely make way for the Darachai River, but after a few kilometers the rock crevices open into a yawning chasm of rushing water and tall grass, punctuated by flower fields and towering cliffs. The monastery, nestled at the end of this gorgeous chasm, is one of the most famous in Armenia; a realization of the grandiose dreams of the 13th century Orbelian family, and the repository of some of Armenia’s finest sculptures, including one that is often pointed out as Armenia’s first Renaissance art work.

The magnificent St. Astvatsatsin Church, designed by Momik the architect in the 14th century to house the remains of its donor, Burtel Orbelian, is three stories tall. Covered in detailed bas-reliefs on the outside, and topped with a unique open-air rotunda that allows sunshine to reflect around the church, its unique design and inspiring location leaves no tourist untouched.

In its heyday, Noravank was a major cultural center, closely connected to the many seats of religion and learning in the kingdom. Owing to its Orbelian benefactors, the monastery was also steeped in the politics of the day, its bishops influencing Mongol rulers and Georgian Orbeli kings alike.  Sadly, numerous earthquakes and invasions destroyed much of the original complex, which was slowly rebuilt during the Soviet period, and finished just in time for the 1,700-year anniversary of the adoption of Christianity, in 2001.