Varagavan (Arm: Վարագավան), Tavush Marz
Next village E from Tsaghkavan is Varagavan (476 v, till 1978 Akhum village). To reach the charmingly sited monastery of Nor Varagavank* =85= (40 57.70n x 045 19.68e), with S. Astvatsatsin church of 1237, Anapat 1198, David Ishkhan tomb/shrine 13th c, enter the village at the cemetery, then follow the main road through the village (when in doubt, always bear left), about 4.5 km through pleasant woods. Built of trimmed creme colored stone with greenish hues, the complex has a few attached churches and chapels which are in various states of collapse and frozen reconstruction. With some very nice, khachkars, the show-stopper is the portal to the main church, with a puzzle of salmon and green stones, each carved with incredible intricacy and each carving unique. The complex is the result of building activities of the owners of Nor Berd- the Kyurikids. The cloister was the center of episcopacy and played an important role in their lives. The religious and cultural figure Hovanes Tuetsi resided at Nor Varagavank during the XIII c. In XIX c the abbot of the cloister was Grigor Manucharyan, who in 1804-1828 together with his volunteer detachment took an active part in freeing Eastern Armenia.
In XII-XIII cc sources the ensemble is called Anapat. The newer name of Nor Varagavank is the evidence of one of the most horrible periods of history of Armenia. Running away from the original Varagavank (near Lake Van, in Anatolia) which was destroyed by the Mongol's invasion, Patriarch Luke, who had a "Surb Nshan" (cross) with him, wandered looking for a new place and finally stopped at Anapat Monastery, which in honor of Varagavank was renamed Nor (new) Varagavank.
Surb Nshan Church, the oldest of the complex is situated on the SE part of the complex. It was built by the son of Vasak I, grandson of Kyurike II - David Bagratuni in 1198. The two-storeyed burial vault joins the northern wall of the church Surb Nshan. The same David built it in 1200 as an ancestral script. The two-storeyed chapel joins the church Surb Nshan from south. It was built in the beginning of XIII c. It is supposed that the top tiers of either building served as side-chapels for the church. A removable ladder was used to access them.
Astvadzadzin Church is the most important building of the complex. According to the inscription and information, given by Kirakos Gandzaketsi, it was built in 1224-1237 by David's son Vasak II, and was illuminated in 1240. The architect was Gazan from Ani. A small vestibule joins the southern wall of the church and adjoins all three buildings of the Anapat complex (the original part of the ensemble). It was built in second quarter of the XIII c. The big vestibule is situated in the western part of the main church. By the northern and partly by the western walls it joins the rocks of the mountain. It was built after the small vestibule in the XIII c. The vestibule has two entries from southern and eastern facades (the latter is a rare example of cult architecture). To the southwest and northwest of the complex two chapels (XIII c) are situated, by which there is an old cemetery. The large khachkar with images of human figures in the big vestibule was created by master Vardan in 1620.
Source: Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook