When visiting Armenia, almost all explorers make sure they visit at least some of the ancient Armenian churches and monasteries. The reason Armenia is known for Christian culture monuments is simple- it’s the first country that adopted Christianity as its official state religion. Moreover, throughout different historical periods, Armenia struggled to keep its independence and autonomy, which largely depended on country’s cultural sphere as well. Hence, through all the hardships, Armenians did their best to preserve their language, cultural habits, and of course- their church and beliefs.
Attaching great importance to their religion, Armenians built numerous churches and monasteries, which are now a matter of interest for tourists from all over the world. Here are some of the most well-known and highly-visited churches in Armenia:
Etchmiadzin Cathedral is not only the oldest church in Armenia, but also, according to certain sources- the oldest cathedral in the world. It is considered as the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church and is situated in the city of Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin)- only around 30-minutes’ drive from Armenia’s capital Yerevan. For many years, Vagharshapat was an important national, religious and political center for Armenians struggling to have their own state.
Comfortably situated amid the forest- Haghartsin monastery is one of the most beautiful places to visit, if you decided to travel to Armenia. Built between the 10th and 13th centuries it perfectly represents the style of Armenian church architecture. Especially considering the nature of Tavush Armenia’s greenest province, where it is located, the monastery is definitely worth a visit.
Another extremely beautiful scenery one can enjoy from Tatev Monastery. Not only its surroundings are breathtaking, but the architecture of the monastery itself is magnificent. It was built in the 9th century near Tatev village. In the Middle Ages the monastery was a home for the university of Tatev which contributed to the development of a number of disciplines, such as science, philosophy and religion. Nowadays, being the most famous spot in Syunik province, it hosts “Wings of Tatev”- a cableway included in Guinness World Records.
Even if not the oldest monastery in Armenia, it is surely among the most beautiful and significant ones.
Sevanavank monastery was also founded in the 9th century on the peninsula of Lake Sevan. Initially it was built on a small island, however after the reduction of the water level, it turned into a peninsula. According to one of church inscriptions, it was built by princess Mariam during the period when Armenians were struggling against Arab rule. Currently, it is one of the most visited places in Armenia not only because of its beauty and importance, but also due to its closeness to Yerevan and the availability of railways.
In another- Lori province is situated Sanahin monastery founded in the 10th century. It includes five churches, two gavits or zhamatuns, a library, a bell tower, theological college and other components. It is also a home for a number of Khachkars- also known as Armenian cross stones. It was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2001 together with its almost-neighbouring Haghpat Monastery.
These are only some of Armenian churches and monasteries one can explore when travelling around Armenia, while the list goes on. Being spread around Armenia and beyond the area of contemporary Armenia, these churches still remain quite important for Armenian people. Although it is impossible to explore them all, it is still better to travel by car to visit at least the ones that interest you the most. Rent a car in Armenia and while travelling in the small Caucasian country, do not miss the churches and monasteries which will surprise you with their magical atmosphere.