Sevan, Gegharkunik Region, Republic of Armenia
Sevanavank monastery is located on the peninsula of Lake Sevan. The first church of the monastery was built by Gregory the Illuminator in 305. After the adoption of Christianity as a state religion by King Trdat III in 301, Christian churches started to be built all over the country. Thus St. Harutyun and St. Karapet churches built by Gregory the Illuminator on the island of Sevan were one of the first Christian religious buildings in Armenia.
Sevanavank is also known as “Mariamashen” i.e. “built by Mariam”, as according to an inscription on one of the churches, the monastery of Sevanavank was founded by Princess Mariam in 874.
The legend says that Mashtots Eghvardetsi (a monk who lived as a hermit for ten years in Sevanavank and later became a Catholicos) saw a dream in which the 12 apostles came to him and ordered him to build a church after their name on the island of Lake Sevan.
Mashtots told his dream to Mariam, who had vowed to build thirty churches in honour of her late husband. The princess was impressed by the monk's story and started the construction of Surb Arakelots (“Holy Apostles”) and Surb Astvatsatsin (“Holy Mother of God”) churches of the monastery.
Unfortunately the basilica church of St. Astvatsatsin was demolished in Soviet times (1931) and the stones were used to build a holiday home on the island.
Excavations held on the site revealed that the territory of Lake Sevan was already inhabited in the New Stone and Bronze Ages. For centuries the island was a perfect fortification from invading forces․ The famous battle of 921 between Armenian King Ashot II Bagratuni (or Ashot the Iron) and the Arab forces took place in Sevan. The remains of the fortress walls can still be seen from the west side of the peninsula.
In the 20th century, the water level of Lake Sevan dropped and the island became a peninsula.
Today, Sevanavank is one of the most recognized historical and cultural sites of Armenia. It is also one of the most famous tourist destinations in the country.