The Sevanavank, the Black Monastery on the lake Sevan, Armenia
In the northwest part of Sevan Lake, on a narrow rocky peninsula, one of the most prominent examples of medieval Armenian architecture Sevanavank Monastery stands for centuries.
In ancient times, the peninsula was stand-alone island. The monks first arrived there at the end of the 8th century, and they built a small chapel and few cells. Later, a defence wall, a gate, three churches, cells and other structures were constructed.
The remnants of the monastery include only two temples – Surb Arakelots and Surb Astvatsatsin, standing among numerous khachkars. The church buildings were constructed from black tuff, which gave the monastery its name Sevanavank - "the Black Monastery". The churches are cross-shaped buildings.
Inside the main remaining church is an interesting khachkar. Not only is this khachkar one of the handful that features Jesus Christ, but the carving is intricate and detailed. The image of Christ has distinctly Mongol features, since it replicates the style that was common in the 12th - 13th centuries. At that time, Mongol armies were coming into Armenia, but they wouldn't touch the churches if they saw that the images of holy figures looked like Mongols. The rest of the designs tell stories from the Bible.
In the end of the 9th century the monastery was a ground of a battle between the Armenian King Ashot and Arab armies, who wanted to conquer these territories. Ashot and his very small detachment, aided by a group of monks, heroically defended the monastery for a few months, not allowing the enemies to reach the island. Ashot then fought the Arabs in an open battle and defeated them. The island with the Black Monastery was repeatedly attacked by other invaders: Tamerlane's hordes, Persians and others. The monks fought off the raids and the monastery lived on. In the 16th and 17th centuries Sevanavank lost its walls, though. The monastery ceased to exist in 1930, when the last monk left the island.