Shirak Province

Shirak is located in the north-west of Armenia, bordering Turkey in the west and Georgia in the north. Its capital and largest city is Gyumri. It is as much semi-desert as it is mountain meadow or high alpine. In the south, the high steppes crash into mountain terrain, verdant green in the spring, hues of reddish brown in the summer. The province is served by the Shirak International Airport of Gyumri.
Many ancient human settlements were found at the Akhurian valley dating back to around 9000 BC. The territory of Shirak has been settled since the early Stone Age. At the higher areas that are above 2000 meters, many remains were found from the early Bronze Age.
 Soon after the establishment of the Urartu Kingdom of Van at the end of the 9th century BC, Shirak became part of the kingdom. 2 cuneiform scripts have been found in Shirak left by King Argishti I (786-764 BC), where he narrates about the invasion of the land of Eriakhi (the name that Shirak is derived from, according to many historians). According to the scripts, the region was home to a well developed civilization based on agriculture and cattle-breeding. 
In the provice there are many sights to visit, like Yererouk Basilica (4th-5th centuries), Hokevank Monastery of the 5th century, Lmbatavank Church of the 7th century, Harichavank Monastery of the 8th century, Makaravank Church of Pemzashen of the 10th century, Marmashen Monastery of the 10th century and also a national park the lake Arpi.


Harichavank known as one of the most famous monastic centers in Armenia and it was especially reknowned for its school and scriptorium. Archaeological excavations of 1966 indicate that Harich was in existence during the 2nd century BC, and was one of the more well known fortress towns in Armenia.
The oldest part of this Armenian monastery is the Church of St. Gregory the Enlightener; it is a domed structure. The founding date of the monastery is unknown, but probably it was built no later than the 7th century, when St. Gregory was erected.
The Cathedral of the Holy Mother of God that dominates the monastic complex was built by the orders of Zakare Zakarian, Amirspasalar (commander-in-chief) and Prince who ruled Eastern Armenia in the 13th century together with his brother Ivane Zakarian. Prince Zakare started the Cathedral after he bought Harich from a family representing the Pahlavuni dynasty.
South of the monastery, on a steep cliff, stands the Hermitage Chapel. In the cemetery there are ruins of a small single-nave basilica of the fifth century with annexes in the sides of the altar apse and interesting tombstones with ornamented slabs dating from the 5th-6th centuries (now at Armenia’s State History Museum in Yerevan).
From 1850 y. the monastery was the summer residence of Etchmiadzin's Catholicos.


Lmbatavank is a church located on a hillside southwest of the town of Artik in the Shirak Province. It was constructed in the 7th-century and was dedicated to Saint Stephen.
The church of S. Stepanos has a small cruciform central plan with a single octagonal drum and octagonal-conical style dome above. The four arms of the church have gable roofs. There is a single portal that leads into the building, and adjacent to the main entry of the church is another doorless portal to the side chapel.
Decorative elements are mostly circular shield-type patterns on the exterior of the structure, and are limited to the bell style arches above some of the windows, eaves, and cornices. On the eastern exterior façade of the church are some inscriptions, as well as a design of a low-relief cross resting in the center of a circle located to the left of the lower window. This same cross variant may be seen at other churches in the Artik area; for example, upon the rear façade of the 5th-century Surb Astvatsatsin Church/Surb Marine Church in the center of town, and also on the walls of the 7th-century Pemzashen Church.
The apse of the church has important 7th-century frescoes with remnants of scenes depicting Jesus in the center surrounded by symbols of heavenly powers. There is also an image of Saint George riding on a horse while holding a staff topped with a cross.
Between 1955-56 S. Stepanos was partially renovated. Excavations took place during 1960 to clear out the area in front of the church and under the stones, khachkars and a Bronze Age cemetery were uncovered. Some of these khachkars may still be seen in and along the retaining walls next to the church.

Marmashen Monastery

The monastery Marmashen is located 2 km north-west from the city of Gyumri in the village Marmashen. It was built in X-XIII centuries in the Shirak Gavar of Ayrarat province. Monastery Marmashen consists of three constructions. The main temple is located in the center of the monastery and is the largest building built by Vahram Pahlavuni in 988-1029 years. Temple is erected of red tuff, it is a domed hall. The facade is cruciform, decorated with arched niches and narrow windows. The dome mounted on faceted drum. Most of the church is decorated with figurative decor: beam columns and different vertical aspiration of architectural volumes. To the south of the main buildings of the monastery stands a small cross-domed church of XI century with 4 aisles. To the west - the ruins of gavit built in XIII century, round temple and tomb. During the Seljuk invasion Marmashen significantly affected. In 1225 restoration works by grandchildren of Vahram Pahlavuni archbishop Grigor and Gharib were held in the church.

Yereruyk Basilica

Yereruyk Basilica is a 4th or 5th century Armenian church near the village of Anipemza in the Shirak Province. Because the basilica of Yererouk is one of the earliest surviving Christian monuments in Armenia, it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on August 25, 1995 in the Cultural category. Yererouk is one of the earliest examples of the Armenian church architecture and one of the greatest structures of the early medieval ages that partly survived. According to Toros Toramanian, Yererouk is a clear and perhaps the earliest example of the basilica style of the Armenian church buildings that are constructed on the pillars. Yereruyk means quivering in the Armenian language. According to popular tradition, the name of the temple was derived from its unique architectural solution of the structure which seems quivering on its 6 columns for viewers from a distance. The church was renovated during the 11th century by the efforts of King Hovhannes-Smbat's wife.