The monastery and the village of Narek around 1900
|Location||Yemişlik, Gevaş district, Van Province, Turkey|
|Affiliation||Armenian Apostolic Church|
Narekavank (Armenian: Նարեկավանք, "Monastery of Narek", Western Armenian: Nareg) was a tenth century Armenian monastery in the historic province of Vaspurakan, near the southern shores of Lake Van, in present-day eastern Turkey. The monastery became one of the most prominent in medieval Armenia and had a major school. The poet Gregory of Narek flourished at the monastery during the 10th century. It was abandoned in 1915 during the Armenian Genocide, and reportedly demolished around 1951. Today, a mosque stands on its location.
The monastery was founded during the reign of the Artsruni King Gagik I of Vaspurakan (r. 908-43) by Armenian monks who fled the Byzantine Empire due to religious persecution. In the 10th century father Ananias of Narek (Anania Narekatsi, (arm)) founded a school, which became one of the most prominent centers of learning in medieval Armenia. Gregory of Narek (Grigor Narekatsi, 951-1003), "Armenia's most famous medieval religious poet", studied and flourished at the monastery, making the "name of the institution immortal". To this day, the monastery is mostly associated with Gregory of Narek. Among others, the historian Ukhtanes studied at the monastery school. During this period, the monastery was among the most prominent in all of Armenia and was also a major center of manuscript production. The earliest surviving manuscript created at the monastery is a Gospel dated 1069.
Armenia was dominated by various foreign powers in the subsequent centuries. The Ottoman Empire gained control of the region by the 16th century. The monastery experienced a revival when in 1707 it was profoundly renovated by Minas vardapet Ghapantsi. In 1812 a bell-tower was constructed within the monastery walls. The two domes were restored in 1843 by the architect Sahrat Memarbashi and his son Movses. In 1858 the monastery was renovated by Hovhannes vardapet. Father Hovsep Rabuni commissioned a khachkar (cross stone), which was placed on the tomb of Gregory of Narek. It depicted the Mother of God carrying Jesus on her lap and Gregory on the foreground.
In 1884 Aristakes vardapet opened a seminary at the monastery and in 1901 a orphanage with a school was founded.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries the monastery was visited by Western missionaries. Reverend Harrison Gray Otis Dwight described Narekavank a "celebrated monastery". In 1900 the American journal The Missionary Herald wrote that the monastery's orphanage had 25 to 30 boys, while the monastery school was "by far the largest and most advanced school in the province outside the city [of Van], this village unlike most others, having had some sort of a school for several years."
In the early 20th century the monastery was surrounded by residential houses and various buildings for economic purposes. A 1911 photo by the ethnographer Yervand Lalayan shows "peasants with oxen plowing a field directly beneath its walls." The American missionary Herbert M. Allen (1865-1911) wrote in 1903 that the "cloisters built at its base have done their utmost to destroy the significance of this singularly beautiful church, but in spite of these, the power and spirituality of the sculptured thought remain and call to mind the name of the apostle [Gregory] of Nareg, who has left the stamp of his personality on Armenian literature and character."
The monastic complex was composed of two churches: St. Sandukht and Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God). The mausoleum of Gregory of Narek was located on the eastern side of St. Sandukht Church. Church of Surb Astvatsatsin was essentially a domed hall and was located south of St. Sandukht. In 1787 Barsegh vardapet built a rectangular, four-columned gavit (narthex), on the tombs of Hovhannes vardapet (the brother of Gregory) and the philosopher Ananias of Narek. In front of the gavit's western entrance there was a three-storey bell-tower (built in 1812).
Destruction and current state
The monastery ceased to function during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 which resulted in the Armenian population of the region being exterminated. According to Sevan Nişanyan it was demolished around 1951, at the same period that an official order for the demolition of the Holy Cross Cathedral of Aghtamar was issued. The village of Narek is now largely Kurdish-populated and is known as Yemişlik in Turkish and Nerik in Kurdish. The scholar James R. Russell, who visited the monastery site in 1994, was told by local Kurdish villagers three years later that a 10th-century khachkar (cross stone) was destroyed by the Turkish police.
In December 2008 the Turkish-Armenian architect Zakarya Mildanoğlu announced that the Turkish government had decided to rebuilt Narekavank, among some other half-ruined or destroyed churches and monasteries in eastern Turkey. In September 2010 Mildanoğlu compiled a list of around 90 Armenian churches and monasteries in the Lake Van region including Narekavank. He suggested Turkish government to take the necessary measures to preserve them.
Other prominent churches in the Lake Van region:
- Suciyan, Talin (7 April 2007). "Holy Cross survives, diplomacy dies". Armenian Reporter (6). p. A7.
On the day of inauguration, Archbishop Mesrob II, Patriarch of Armenians in Turkey, went to visit Nareg Monastery in the village of Yemişlik – the former Narek village. In the place where Nareg Monastery once stood, today there is a mosque. Six years ago, there were still some remnants of an archway of the monastery. In Sevan Nişanyan’s book, Eastern Turkey, Nareg Monastery is called a very important remnant of Armenian architecture, destroyed in 1951.
- Mildanoğlu, Zakarya (22 September 2012). "Van manastırlarına ne oldu?". Agos (in Turkish). [originally published on 17 September 2010] "Nareg Köyü’nde (Yemişlik) yer alıyordu. Akhtamar’ın karşı yakasında dış kapısı olarak kullanılan bölgede inşa edilmiştir. Nareg Köyü’nden olan Surp Krikor Naregatsi bu manastıra yerleşir. Bir yetimhane yanında geniş arazileri vardı. Her yıl binlerce kişi adakta bulunmak için bu manastırı ziyaret ederdi."
- Hewsen, Robert H. (2000). "Van in This World; Paradise in the Next: The Historical Geography of Van/Vaspurakan". In Hovannisian, Richard G.. Armenian Van/Vaspurakan. Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers. p. 27. ISBN 1-56859-130-6.
- Hasratyan, Murad. "Նարեկավանք [Narekavank]". "Christian Armenia" Encyclopedia. Institute for Armenian Studies of Yerevan State University. Archived from the original on 8 December 2014.
- Tamrazian, H. H. (1986). "Բանաստեղծական արվեստի տեսության հարցերը Անանիա Նարեկացու խրատներում [Problems Relating to Poetical Art in Anania Narekatsi's Homilies]". Patma-Banasirakan Handes (3): 78.
X դարի հայ նշանավոր մատենագիրներից մեկի՝ Անանիա Նարեկացու գրական ժառանգությունից քիչ բան է պահպանվել։ Հայտնի է, որ նա եղել է Նարեկա վանքի հիմնադիրն ու առաջնորդը, ստեղծելով այնտեղ ժամանակի ամենանշանավոր դպրոցներից մեկը, որ խոր հետք է թողել հայ մշակույթի զարգացման պատմության մեջ։
- Mathews, Jr., Edward G. (2000). "Armenia". In Johnston, William M.. Encyclopedia of Monasticism: A-L (3rd ed.). Routledge. p. 86. ISBN 978-1579580902.
- Sarafian, Kevork A. (1958). "History of Education among the Armenians". In Kurkjian, Vahan. A History of Armenia. Armenian General Benevolent Union of America. p. 452.
- Dadoyan, Seta B. (2011). The Armenians in the Medieval Islamic World: Volume 2: Armenian Realpolitik in the Islamic World and Diverging Paradigms—Case of Cilicia Eleventh to Fourteenth Centuries. Edison, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. p. 200. ISBN 978-1-4128-4577-9.
Due to economic prosperity, Armenian monasticism also began in the tenth century. The Monastery of Narek under the Arcrunis in Ṙštunik' became one of the most prominent.
- Russell, James R. (2009). "The rime of the Book of the Dove". In Allison, Christine; Joisten-Pruschke, Anke; Wendtland, Antje. From Daēnā to Dîn. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 165.
- Rev. H. G. O. Dwight (1852). "Catalogue of All Works Known to Exist in the Armenian Language of a Date Earlier than the Seventeenth Century". Journal of the American Oriental Society 3: 258.
The author was a Vartabed, and presided over the celebrated monastery at Nareg, and has the reputation of having been a learned and eloquent man.
- "Eastern Turkey Mission". The Missionary Herald (Boston: Beacon Press) 96: 408. October 1900.
- Hasratyan, Murad (1982). "Նարեկավանք [Narekavank]". Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia Vol. 8 (in Armenian). Yerevan: Armenian Encyclopedia. p. 203.
- Rev. Herbert M. Allen (August 1903). "The Peasant of Armenia and His Inheritance". The Missionary Herald (Boston: Beacon Press) 99: 347.
- Hasratian, Murad M. (1972). "Լուսակերտի ճարտարապետական երկու հուշարձաններ [Two architectural monuments of Lusakert]". Lraber Hasarakakan Gitutyunneri (in Armenian): 31.
...ուշ միջնադարի գավիթներն ունեն քառամույթ կառուցվածք (Վարագավանք, Նարեկավանք, Աղթամար)...
- Nişanyan, Sevan (2006). Eastern Turkey: A Travellers Handbook. Istanbul: Boyut Yayin Grubu. p. 239. ISBN 978-9752301962.
- Russell, James R. (Spring 2007). "The shrine beneath the waves". Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics (Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology) (51): 139.
...the monastery of Narek, which stands in the midst of a small village (Kurdish: Nerik; Turkish: Yemishlik) on a hill over tilled fields...
- Russell, James R. (9 August 2001). "Massacres of the Armenians". The New York Review of Books.
Monuments were destroyed, and continue to be: in 1994 I visited the monastery of Narek, near Van, and found a Cross-stone of the tenth century, which I photographed—when I returned in 1997 the Kurdish villages told me the police had come soon after my visit and destroyed it.
- Hampikian, Nairy (2000). "The Architectural Heritage of Vaspurakan". In Hovannisian, Richard G.. Armenian Van/Vaspurakan. Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers. p. 103. ISBN 1-56859-130-6.
- Papazian, Iris (19 July 1997). "Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian on a Sentimental Journey to Western Armenia". Armenian Reporter. p. 18.
The group also visited the village of Narek, now desolate. The image of a mosque on the very spot where once stood the famed Narek Monastery caused great sorrow.
- "Թուրքիայում նախատեսվում է վերականգնել Վանի Նարեկավանք, Կտուց կղզու փոքր եւ Տիգրանակերտի եկեղեցիները, Չափանակ վանքը" (in Armenian). Armenpress. 4 December 2008.