One of the reasons why Armenia fascinates travelers from all over the world are the historical monasteries and churches of the country. The churches in Armenia are not only important in terms of their architectural value but also they are closely connected to the country’s history. On contrary to Catholic churches, Armenian Apostolic churches look rather modest, yet have a very strong spiritual atmosphere. As the first state to adopt Christianity in the 4th century, Armenia preserved its religion and monasteries despite all the obstacles.
So, in case you will travel to Armenia, make sure to visit at least some of the Armenian churches.
- You most probably wonder where the religious center of the country is located. The governing body of the Armenian church is Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin headquartered in Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin), where the mother church Etchmiadzin Cathedral is located. It is a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Only around a 30-minute ride away from Yerevan- Etchmiadzin is a must-visit once you are in Armenia.
- In the southeastern part of the country, in beautiful Syunik province is located the astonishing Tatev Monastery. Situated amid beautiful nature, it is a 9th century historical monument. During the medieval period, this Armenian monastery played a significant role in Syunik region’s political, economic and spiritual life. Tatev university was an important institution providing education in humanities, social sciences, philosophy, scriptural arts, such as calligraphy and the study of music. Currently, Wings of Tatev aerial tramway is located here, which is registered in Guinness World Records as the world’s “longest non-stop double track cable car.”
- Another monastery listed as Unesco World Heritage site is Geghard. If you ever happened to travel to Armenia before, most probably you have already been there, since it is one of the most important touristic spots. Although almost always crowded, the monastery is one of those destinations you should definitely consider as a must-visit spot. Built in 4th century, the monastery was originally called Ayrivank, which means the monastery of the Cave. Including churches, tombs and being surrounded by cliffs, Geghard was carved out of the mountain. The main chapel of the complex was constructed in 1215 making it one of the most valuable architectural monuments of medieval Armenia. Currently, as mentioned, it is always a busy spot with musicians playing and vendors selling home-made Armenian sweets nearby.
- Sevanavank monastery is renowned and beloved as by visitors, as well as by locals. With the view of beautiful Sevan lake, initially, it was located in a place which was supposed to be isolated. According to some sources, it the monastery had strict rules as it was constructed for those monks from Etchmiadzin who had sinned. Founded in 9th century, although its initial meaning and functions have changed, the monastery has still an important value, as other churches strongly linked to the history of Armenia.
As you can see, Christianity in Armenia plays a vital role in the country’s culture and history. Armenians strongly value their religion, as the majority of them are the members of Armenian Apostolic church. Although not always looking luxurious or grand, these churches and monasteries had significant meaning throughout the country’s spiritual, academic, cultural and even political life. Located across the country- from south to north, east to west, these religious institutions are definitely worth a visit if you have chosen a pilgrimage tour to Armenia as your next travel destination.