Saghmosavank Monastery – Exploring Rural Armenia

*The featured photo: Entrance to the main church of Saghmosavank Monastery

A 13th-century Armenian monastery complex located in the village of Saghmosavan in the Aragatsotn Province in Armenia

Rural Armenia has a lot to offer! Aside from the remote settlements and forgotten remnants of the Soviet era, the country also has a large concentration of ancient churches and monasteries that are worth visiting. The intact ruins of the religious complexes are like time capsules which take the visitors back to the medieval ages.

Let’s explore the medieval Saghmosavank Monastery, located 32 km (40 minute long drive) away from central Yerevan.

Saghmosavank Monastery

A Brief History of the Saghmosavank Monastery

A large part of the monastery was built by Prince Vache Vachutyan in 1215.

The legend suggests that there had already been a small church here prior to the construction of the monastery. Saint Gregory the Illuminator, also known as the first person to spread Christianity in Armenia, had spotted the site where Saghmosavank now stands and he built a small church here in the 4th century. Moreover, he also gathered priests here and taught them psalms*. Yet there is no actual proof about it.

*a sacred song or hymn, in particular any of those contained in the biblical Book of Psalms and used in Christian and Jewish worship.

The altar of the main church (Surp Zion) of the monastery

The monastery was restored twice in the middle of the 17th century and in the year of 1890.

Below you can find the floor plan of the monastery.

A- Main Church (Church of Surp Zion) / B- Jamatoun (entrance hall to the Armenian churches – also a meeting place for the clergymen) / C- Church Library / D- Single-nave chapel

*Floor plan taken from (Article: Saghmosavank Monastery by Elif Demirtekin)

The library of the church was built in 1253 by Kurd Vachutyan. He was the son of Prince Vache Vachutyan, the historical figure who built the monastery complex in 1215. An inscription recovered in the monastery translates as: ““I, Kurd, and my wife Khorisah built this library and founded a chapel inside it, in the name of our daughter Mamakhatun.” It is assumed that the library had about 120 manuscripts in the 13th century.

Today the historic parchments and manuscripts held in the monastery consists of important documents such as sermons, hymns, Gospel of 1496, historical accounts.

What to do in Saghmosavank?

The interior parts of the monastery are covered with stoneworks, wall paintings and ancient texts in Armenian carved onto the walls. Make sure you spend enough time inside the church to appreciate the artworks.

Inscriptions in Armenian carved onto the walls of the monastery

There are many khackhars erect in the surroundings of the church. Khachkars are traditional Armenian stone-cross steles with ornaments and patterns. One of the khachkars at the Saghmosavank Monastery date back to 1255. You can freely roam around the monastery and explore the hidden gems, khachkars and old architectural fragments.

Old architectural fragments scattered around Saghmosavank Monastery

Before you leave the site, do not forget to appreciate the stunning view of the vast Kasagh Gorge.

Saghmosavank Monastery near the Kasagh Gorge

Practical information for visitors

Parking is free in Saghmosavank.

There is no entrance fee to the monastery.

Make sure you also visit Hovhannavank Monastery which is a 4th-century monastery complex just a couple of kms away from Saghmosavank.

Below you’ll see more pics of the Saghmosavank Monastery.

The domes of the monastery

Where is Saghmosavank Monastery?

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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