Gndevank Monastery

According to historian Stepanos Orbelian, the monastery was built in the 10th c. for Princess Sophia of Syunik, who appointed Priest Sargis as the abbot and artist Yeghishe Priest as the head of the construction.


St. Stepanos Church

The main building is S. Stepanos Church, dedicated in 936.  An inscription on the church walls attributes the construction to Princess Sophie, and the now lost frescoes to the artist Yeghishe:

“Vayots Dzor was a ring without a (precious) stone.  I built this church and set the stone into the ring.”

The church is typical for the period; a domed cruciform type with annexes on its eastern corners.  The annexes were used as depositories, for manuscripts and church plate.  There are two entrances; west and south.

Now lost frescoes by Yeghishe adorned the interior. Once covering the entire inner space, the few fragments that survive are enough to show the masterpiece it was.  Portraits of Christ, the apostles, the saints and angels were framed by beautifully rendered geometric and floral designs. Sadly the frescoes were lost long ago, to raids and neglect, but mostly to the elements which are not kind in this part of the world. Surviving fragments include bits of a portrait of Jesus on the eastern apse.

Even today, more than 1000 years later, the remnants are enough to imagine what it must have felt like to enter this spectacular space from the outside world; entirely clasped in brilliant white with images of the bible, the passion and the lives of the saints surrounding you as you worshipped. For the mass whose lives were painted in toil and the mundane, this world might well have felt like a glittering jewel in the ring of the kingdom.

Built 400 years before the architectural jewels at Areni, Noravank and Gladzor, Gndevank was the main religious community for Vayots Dzor, and its most beautiful temple of worship. 

The spacious hall is made up mostly of the area under the wide dome, which is supported by pendentives, the corners of which have bas-relief carvings of symbols for the four evangelists (Mathew=Human or Angel; Mark=Lion; Luke=Ox; John=Eagle). The four wings end in semicircular apses.  

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    Working period/season Year around


    How to reach There are two ways to reach Gndevank, both are roads leading to Jermuk. If you take the new highway to Jermuk, you will have to exit into the village of Gndevaz, and hike down the canyon (approx 45 minutes down) to reach the monastery.

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