Noravank was one of the prominent religious and cul-tural centers of medieval Armenia: it is located in the gorge of Arpa river Gnishik stream 8 km away from Areni village. The Armenian Church had one Metropolitanate – Syunik Metropolitanate. Noravank was the residence of the Metropolitan of Syunik from the 13th to 15th centuries. The Catholicos resided in Kilikian, Armenia at that time, and the authority of the Metropolitan of Syunik occasionally spread throughout its territory. Noravank monuments attract with their beauty and unique architectural style. The monuments were mainly built during the reign of the Orbelians (13th to 14th cent.) by eminent architects Siranes and Momik. Momik is also known as a miniaturist and sculptor. The monuments are erect of the lo-cal reddish limestone, in harmony with the surrounding environment.
The complex, surrounded by walls, consists of the most important monuments of Noravank: St. Karapet, St. Stepanos Nakhavka, St. Grigor and St. Astvatsatsin (Virgin Mary) churches, the porch, chapels, residential and utility buildings. St. Karapet church is the oldest building of the complex located at the south of the main monument group. Only ruins of the church are left which are dated back to the 9th century. St. Stepanos Nakhavka church stands close to St. Karapet church. It was built by the founder of the Orbelian family Liparit Orbelian, and Bishop Sargis A from 1216-1221. The als inside churches. St. Astvstastin (Virgin Mary) two-storey church stands alone in the eastern part of the Noravank com-plex. The lengthwise axis of the church is 20 deviated from the east-west direction. As a result the church stands aslope of all other buildings of the complex. Such positioning of the church remains unexplained. According to the scripture found on the western wall, the church was built in 1339 by Burtel Orbelian, his wife Vakhakh and their sons Beshken and Ivane. The height of the church is 15m giving it a slender look.
The first floor of the church is partially built in-to the ground. Count Bur-tel is buried here. Seven stairs lead down from the west located entrance of the first floor. The second floor is cross-shaped inside and outside, with a semicircular apse on its eastern side, which has arch chapel-vestries on both sides. The dome with 12 columns crowns the church.
High relief carving on the facade stone of the first floor entrance depicts the Virgin Mary sitting on a couch holding the Infant Jesus and the Archangels Gabriel and Michael at consecration of the church took place in 1223. St. Stepanos Nakhavka church is built of smooth stones. It is cross-shaped inside, with two-storey vestries in four corners (from where stone stairs are inbuilt to the wall in order to get to the upper floors of the western side), while outside it has a rectangular shape.
The porch is adjacent to St. Stepanos Nakhavka church. The roof of this rectangular building was made of covered vaults. The construction of the porch was finished by Smbat Orbelian in 1261. The porch served as family mausoleum for the Orbelians. The floor is covered by the tombs of the Orbelian counts, Bishops and Metropolitans of Syunik. The image of the Virgin Mary with the Infant Jesus on her knees is carved on the front of the entrance. The bust of God holding Adam’s head in his hand is placed in the center of the facade stone of the porch window. An angel is carved on the right side; the crucifixion of Christ is carved on the left, with the Virgin Mary and John the Evangelist on both sides, and below is the Prophet Daniel symbolizing the Last Judgment.
St. Grigor church stands to the north of St. Stepanos Nakhavka church. In 1275 it was built as a mausoleum by Tarsayitch Orbelian, father of Metropolitan of Syunik Stepanos Orbelian, over the tomb of his brother – Count of Counts Smbat Orbelian – who died in 1273. Light comes into the church from a small window, from which the early morning sun was supposed to lighten the tomb of Smbat. This is the only church-masoleum in the Armenian architecture, since, according to church law, it was prohibited to conduct funerher sides. The bust of Jesus Christ with Apostles Peter and Paul at his sides is carved on the entrance of the second floor. The Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ are portrayed on one of the columns of the dome (this column is located on the lengthwise axis of the building). Count Burtel, who built the church, is portrayed on the other column holding the model of the church in his hand; the third column depicts Burtel’s eldest son Beshken.
There are multiple valuable 13th to 14th c. khachkars (cross-stones) in the yard and porch of Noravank; Momik’s creations are especially attractive among those. The most kno-wn is the cross-stone dated 1303, depicting Countess Tamta, created to the memory of Tarsayich Orbelian. It is now kept at the Holy See St. Echmiadzin. Not less valuable is Momik’s another masterpiece khachkar kept in Yeghegnadzor, which was also taken from Noravank. Noravank also offers its visitors a museum, a souvenir shop, restaurant, sculpture and wood-work stands, tea tasting stand and а hostel.