Hovhannavank Monastery – Exploring Rural Armenia

*The featured photo: Domes of Hovhannavank Monastery

A 4th-century medieval Armenian monastery complex located near the Kasagh (Kasakh) Gorge in Aragatsotn Province, Armenia

Rural Armenia has a lot to offer! Suburbs of this country abound with stunning historic sites.

Let’s hit the off the beaten path in Armenia!

Hovhannavank Monastery

Hovhannavank Monastery was founded in the 4th century by Saint Gregory the Illuminator, the prominent figure who spread Christianity in Armenia. This religious complex served as an important center for theological education in the area between the 12th and 17th centuries. Hovhannavank Monastery also had a scriptorium, which was a room in medieval monasteries devoted to the writing, copying and illuminating of manuscripts often done by the scribes.

Hovhannavank Monastery

The thick walls surrounding the monastery were assumed to have been built in the 12th century for defense purposes. Today, you can still see a large portion of the walls intact.

The monastery stands on the edge of the Kasagh Canyon, a long and wide gorge carved by Kasagh River. Therefore, the view that the monastery offers is marvelous.

A view of Kasagh Gorge from the monastery

Inside the Monastery

The interior of Hovhannavank is covered with khachkars (traditional Armenian stone-cross steles), ornaments, patterns and ancient Armenian inscriptions carved onto the walls.

An ancient khachkar and the snowy mountains in the background

A text found on the northern walls of the monastery reads:

“…By the grace of merciful God, during the reign of Queen Tamar, daughter of the great Gevorg, in the year 642 (1200 AD) of the race of Torgom, we—brothers Zakaria and Ivane — sons of Sargis the Great, son of Avag Zakarian, when the light of God’s grace rose and entered Armenia and raised us from weakness in the battle against the enemies of Christ and destroyed their power and quenched their violence, with the country of Ararat delivered from the heavy yoke of their servitude, wished to make offering and gave the tribute of the grace to the Holy Forerunner of Hovhannavank …”

Two domes of the monastery

Practical information for visitors

Parking is free and convenient at the monastery.

There is no entrance fee to the monastery for tourists.

Once you arrive to the site, a few Armenian grandmas who are locals to the area will ask you to check out their farm products and ask you if you want homemade tea or coffee. Make them happy and say yes! 🙂 Many of the products are priced for less than a dollar.

Where is Hovhannavank Monastery?

Hovhannavank Monastery is 35-minute-drive (26 km) away from the downtown Yerevan.

The site is located in the rural town of Ohanavan, Aragatstotn Province.

Argun Konuk
Argun Konuk

A travel & history enthusiast who has been sharing his travel experiences and introducing the unpopular unique places in the world!

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