Sevanavank (also known as “Mariamashen” or “built by Mariam”) sits on the peninsula east of Sevan City.


Arakelots Gavit

The ruined gavit is located to the west of St. Arakelots church, for which it was built.  It is dated to the 9th or 10th century.  Bases for six columns can be seen on the ground. The central space was built with a unique dome system, called the “yertik". 

The yertik was borrowed from domestic structures which had a central aperture topping a shallow dome in the center of the roof. 

The dome was made from wooden crossbeam squares placed at diagonals from each other, stacking squares one above the other in decreasing size as they reached the top. 

Church architects took the same idea and, using stone rather than wood, added carvings that in later periods incorporated stalactites and geometric patterns showing an Asian influence while infusing them with Armenian symbols and nature motifs.


St. Arakelots 

The larger St. Arakelots was built at the same time as St. Astvatsatsin.  It has an elongated western end creating a square hall.  The main apse is flanked by two antechambers, the right (southeast) a chapel connected to the main hall and the left (southwest) entered from outside the church. 

The octagonal drum is placed over the main hall, supported by arches resting on pendentives rising from the main square. 

Note the open square space on the western end, the arch for which is wider and takes more of the dome weight.  This 9th century experiment led to larger churches of the same type throughout the kingdom.

An inscription on the south wall of the church says it was founded in 874 by Princess Mariam, the wife of Prince Vasak of Gabur and the daughter of the Bagratuni King Ashot I.



Sevanavank has a large collection of khachkars (stone crosses) and khachkar fragments, with outstanding examples from each period of the monastery's history.  Among the more interesting are those made from soft green stone (andesite or limestone), quarried from the Sevan area. 

The intricacies and florid designs of these cross stones are at odds with the monastery's ascetic tradition, making them stand out all the more. 

One can only imagine how the monastery's inhabitants must have treated these works of art, inspired as they were by the stone's spiritual meaning.  Highly detailed, the khachkars are hallmarks of wealthy donors and royal patronage, carefully incised with deep, ornate lines.

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    How to reach Sevanavank is about 1 hour northeast of Yerevan. Take the M-4 highway to the peninsula, then follow our signs to the parking lot, and climb the steps to the monastery complex.

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