“Arpi” natural-historical reservation is located in the administrative district of Areni village of Vayots Dzor region, 2 km south of Areni-Yeghegnadzor highway, in Noravank gorge; it covers an area of 200 hectares.
“Arpi” natural-historical reservation was formed in on July 14, 1988 by the Council of Ministers of the Armenian SSR due to the decision N 380. According to the point 2 of the decision N 312-N by Government of the Republic of Armenia on March 7, 2012 “Arpi” natural-historical reserveation among other museum-reservations was included in the reorganized “Service for the protection of historical environment and cultural museum-reservations” SNCO. And according to the decision N 979-N on July 8, 2004 of the Government of the Republic of Armenia “Arpi” natural-historical reservation was established as a branch of the SNCO.
According to the order N 50 on February 18, 1995 of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, 25 hectares of land in Noravank gorge was handed over Diocese of Syunik of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin with the right of use. By an agreement between the Agency for the preservation of the historical and cultural monuments at the Ministry of Culture of RA and the Diocese of Syunik of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin on April 13, 2010, the tenure was set till May 10, 2035.
There are still numerous unexplored historical-cultural monuments (dating back to the Eneolithic period till Late Middle Ages, including the period from V millennium BC till XVIII century AD) in the territory of the reservation. Areni’s Post-Urartian and Antique cemetery (VI-I centuries BC) is a unique monument from where the excavated archaeological artifacts (especially the unique bear-like pot) are being established in the Geological museum of Yeghegnadzor; they are unique from the point of view of a complete presentation of the material culture of Armenia of that period. It is also worthy to mention the medieval bow, excavated in one of the Areni’s caves years ago, which is made of deer horns and is the rare example among the medieval period armament. It is believed to have belonged to one of the Armenian military retreating units after the battle of Avarayr, which fought a life-and-death struggle in the region and particularly in the gorge against the Persian army who were spreading Zoroastrianism. In general, the whole gorge is full of testimonies and memorials of Vardanants martyrs, which still need to be studied and evaluated. There are also many traces of caves and open air settlements of the end of XVIII and the beginning of XIX century. They contain valuable information on the lifestyle and living conditions of the Armenian population who moved here from Khoy and Salmast after the Treaty of Turkmenchay.
The crown of the “Arpi” natural-historical reservation is considered the Noravank monastic complex one of the masterpieces of medieval Armenian architecture. It stands out in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape, the unique ornaments and architectural solutions of the churches, with the beauty and high performed khachkars (cross-stones) presented here, as well as with the patriotic role and significance of the monastery in its historical period, with the prominent individuals who have worked and created here.
St. Karapet church (IX century), St. Stepanos church and its gavit (courtyard) (XIII century), St. Gregory the Illuminator tomb-church (XIII century) and other monastic buildings are included in the Noravank monastic complex. The crown of the Noravank monastery and the Orbelian construction works in general is fairly considered a genius work by architect Momik, – St. Astvatsatsin-Burtelashen two-storied tomb-church (1339). The monuments are rich with numerous lithographs and unique khachkars. The tympanum of the twin window over the door of St. Stepanos chuch’s courtyard is decorated with unique and valuable reliefs, which are not only the artworks of high value; for the first time God the Father is represented not symbolically but in a way of large portrait.
Noravank was the residence of Syunik’s metropolitan bishops in the XII-XIV centuries. Intensive activities were carried out here by the representatives of the Orbelian dynasty of Syunik. Stepanos Orbelian, Prince Smbat Orbelian, Tarsayich Orbelian, Momik, Tarsayich’s son Elikum, bishops and others are buried in Noravank.
In the monastic complex the reconstruction works were carried out in 1948-1949, they were continued in 1982-1985, and in 1988-1999 it was almost completely reconstructed and renovated by the funds of the Canadian-Armenians Mr. and Mrs. Tigran and Tiana Hachetians, according to the project of the architect Hrachya Gasparyan.
The museum after Momik
The museum was founded on August 1, 2010, while the official opening took place on October 2 of the same year on the occasion of Momik’s 750th anniversary. Visitors of the museum have an opportunity to get acquainted with the exhibits presenting the architect’s life and works, the history of the Orbelian family (XII-XV centuries) and the monastery complex of Noravank. Here are presented the re-copies of the Gospel illustrated in Noravank in 1292 by the architect Momik, the unusually small gospel of “War” with the painted image of Stepanos Orbelian, as well as the exhibits presenting the family tree and history of the Orbelian dynasty and the history of monastery complex of Noravank. It is also noteworthy the introduction of Vordan karmir (literally “worm’s red”; Armenian cochineal) and the main ingredients of natural dyes and myrrh.