We had waited half a day near the monastery of Khor Virap, in the hope the clouds would disappear, so that we could see Mount Ararat, but no luck. The monastery lies close to the border to Turkey, and the mountain, which is so important to the Armenians that a lot of things are named after it, rises just on the other side. Eventually we gave up and went to visit the monastery. Afterwards, we were on the way to another important monastery called Noravank.
Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned here for about 14 years by King Tiridates III of Armenia. But in the year 301, Armenia was the first country in the world to be declared a Christian nation, thanks to these two men. Chor Virap therefore is a monastery of pilgrimage and well visited.
At the parking below the monastery, we were offered doves, to take up to the monastery and release them with a wish. I think they are supposed to fly to Mount Ararat, but what they do of course is fly home again. Hopefully they are so clever to spend a day of freedom before they get hungry and go home 😉
From Khor Virap, we were driving south and taking a turn off, which led into the mountains above from the Amaghu valley where the Norovank monastery lies. We had great views, even with a very cloudy sky. By chance, we found the starting point of a short hike, from where we saw the monastery in the valley below. We decided to spend the night in the mountains, before visiting the monastery the next day. (Starting point of the hike: 39.680947, 45.216156)
In the morning, 2 guys were hunting around us, shooting a bird less than 100 metres from our car, which made us quickly leave our spot for the night, otherwise very recommendable (39.683024, 45.212762). When we passed them on the road, they proudly showed us the bird they had shot.
Luckily, the weather was perfect and we drove down into the valley of the river Amaghu, with incredible rock formations until we reached the Noravank Monastery at the end of the road.
Astvatsatsin church is a memorial church, completed in 1339 by the talented sculptor Momik. Its ground floor, was a family burial vault. Narrow steps projecting from the west façade lead up to the entrance into the church above. The relief over the entrance depicts Christ flanked by Peter and Paul.
Actually all the signs in Armenia are also in Latin script, this was the only one left from Soviet times we had noticed.
From Noravank we turned south, looking for something which is not a monastery for a change – not very easy in Armenia. But we found a volcano, which we could climb – more on our next post!