At the northwestern shore of Lake Sevan there’s an Armenian monastery with one of the most picturesque surroundings in the country. Sevanavank Monastery is a prominent example of medieval Armenian architecture with rich history. It’s, also, called Mariamashen, which means “built by Mariam”, referring to Princess Mariam - daughter of Ashot I Bagratuni. Sevanavank is translated as “Black Monastery”.
Many centuries back the monastery used to be located in an island, not on a peninsula. The waters were full of fish so monks did fishing for living. In the end of 9th century, when favorable location of the island attracted more monks, the construction of the monastery started. Modern monastery consists of two temples built in 9th century: Surp Arakelots and Surp Astvatsatsin; both buildings are made of black tuff. The island was attacked several times by the Mongols, Tamerlan’s army, and the Persians. It started flourishing again in 1451, when Sevanavank school was opened; its curriculum was identical to curriculum of famous University of Tatev.
The monks protected their convent, but, eventually, the complex lost all its protective walls in 16th-17th centuries. This Armenian monastery with its monks witnessed a great battle between Ashot II Iron and the Arabs. Ashot’s II army was much smaller, comparing to the Arabs; the monks joined Armenina king’s army and fought for several months. The Arabs couldn’t even reach the island. Ashot II Iron ended up being a winner.
This majestic Armenian monastery stopped functioning in 1930, when the last monk left the island. Durg Soviet times it was closed; in 1936 greater damage was done by an earthquake. Since 1990, the monastery has started coming back to life and becoming one of the most popular sightseeing destinations near Lake Sevan.