icon-mapOhanavan 0225, Republic of Armenia

Hovhannavank is a medieval monastery complex situated on the right bank of Kasakh River, in the eastern part of Ohanavan village, Aragatsotn region․ It was a prominent spiritual and cultural center of medieval Armenia.

Supposedly, the first building of the complex was the pagan temple of the goddess Astghik - Armenian Goddess of love, beauty, and water. On the basis of the temple, Grigor the Illuminator built the present basilica church in the IV century, burying under the church the relics of Hovhannes Mkrtich ('mkrtich' is the 'baptist' in Armenian).

According to historian Arakel Davrijeci, the Hovhannavank monastery was named after Hovhan, the leader of the church. Meanwhile, the oldest church of the monastery is named St Karapet, which is “Holy Forerunner”, which is connected with the fact that it is one of the first Christian churches in Armenia. In 554, the wooden roof of the church was replaced by a vaulted stone ceiling, and the basilica itself underwent profound renovation between 1652 and 1734. 

The main church of the monastery, Katoghike church, was built by Prince Vache Vachutyan in 1216-1221. The courtyard was added by his son Kurd Vachutyan in 1250. There are many inscriptions of 13-18th centuries on the walls of Hovhannavank, which relate to the building of the church; its renovations, donations, and nearly 100 inscriptions are about Vachutyan princes.

During its history, Hovhannavank always played an important role in the spiritual, educational, and cultural life of Armenia. In the 5th century, Ghazar Parpetsi, who was the leader of St. Karapet Church, founded a school in the monastery where theology, philosophy, music, and philology were studied. Parpetsi wrote his "History of Armenians" in Hovhannavank.  

The records and manuscripts written and copied here in the 13-18 centuries have been preserved till nowadays. In the 17th century, Zakaria Kanakertsi, who lived and worked in the monastery, wrote the history of Hovhannavank. About 20 manuscripts copied in the Hovhannavank monastery are now kept in Matenadaran Museum in Yerevan

To the right of the altar in the main church was a hidden tunnel that led to the cave in the canyon of the Kasagh river. The tunnel used to serve for escaping or hiding.

The legend says that the Georgian King, who was seriously ill, heard about the miraculous relics of St. George kept in Hovhannavank and ordered to bring the relics for him. Armenians took the relics to the King, but when healed, he refused to return them. Armenians could do nothing but steal the relics.

The Georgian King, learning that the relics are back in Hovhannavank, attacked the village. Residents gathered in the courtyard of the monastery and asked for permission to pray before death. Entering the church, people escaped through the secret tunnel, and the church monk told the Georgian King that they flew away, gaining wings of a dove. Thus only the monk was martyred.


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