Noravank - the red monastery

Noravank was founded in 1205 by Bishop Hovhannes, a former abbot of Vahanavank near the present-day city of Kapan in Syunik. The monastic complex includes the church of S. Karapet, S. Grigor chapel with a vaulted hall, and the church of S. Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God). Ruins of various civil buildings and khachkars are found both inside and outside of the compound walls. Noravank was the residence of the Orbelian princes. The architect Siranes and the miniature painter and sculptor Momik worked here in the latter part of the thirteenth and early fourteenth century.

Noravank and Momik

The monastery is connected to the sculptural work of one of the most prolific and accomplished Armenian figures of the Middle Ages, the artist, architect and sculptor Momik (1250?–1339).

Momik began his career as an artist of manuscript miniatures in Cilicia (Kilikia), where he was exposed to the art of the late gothic style, introduced by crusaders. Bishop Stepanos Orbelian is said to have brought Momik to Vayots Dzor from Cilicia in 1286, and he quickly found fame in his new home, especially for his sculptural work, creating khachkars (stone crosses) that are among the greatest of its time.

Momik was the architect and sculptural artist for St. Astvatsatsin in nearby Areni (1321).His exquisite bas relief sculptures adorn the gavit portal at Noravank. He also added a number of khachkars to both complexes, which are still considered masterpieces of the art form. It is commonly believed to think that his last work was at Noravank, where he created the Orbelian sepulcher church of Astvatsatsin (“Burtelashen”), two striking bas relief sculptures on its west and south walls, and a small, simple khachkar - his memorial stone, which is at the south side of the building.

St. Stepanos Nakhavka domed church, the main building in the complex (An 1840 earthquake destroyed its dome) connected to the gavit by the only (western) entrance, was rebuilt by the architect Siranes on the initiative of Prince Smbat Orbelian, in 1261. An earthquake in 1321 damaged the building and was rebuilt possibly by Momik, who had just finished Astvatsatsin Church in neighboring Areni.

The 1931 Siunik Earthquake destroyed much of the site, including the dome of St. Stepanos. Repairs to the roof and the upper walls of the sepulcher-church were made in 1948-1949.The renovation of the entire complex begun in the 1980s and was completed in 2001.

The complex includes the 1339 St. Astvatsatsin (“Burtelashen”) sepulcher-church, St. Stepanos Nakhavka and gavit, the St. Grigor Church and Stepanos Orbelian Sepulchre, the remains of medieval chapels and residential quarters and a modern office and hall.

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