The monuments of Noravank are situated on a ledge of a deep winding gorge of a tributary of the Arpa river near the village of Amagu, Yekhegnadzor District. Noravank ensemble stands amidst the bizarre-shaped precipitous red cliffs. Built in place of an ancient cloister, it grew in the reign of Princes Orbelian of Syunik. In the I3th-i4th centuries the monastery became a residence of Syunik's bishops and, consequently, a major religious and, later, cultural centre of Armenia closely connected with many of the local seats of learning, primarily with Gladzor's famed university and library.
The church of St. Karapet (the 9th-ioth centuries), which has comedown to us in ruins, is the most ancient monument of Noravank. To the north of it, there is the main temple, also dedicated to St. Karapet. Erected in 1221-1227, it be¬longs to the widespread cross-winged domed type with two-storey annexes in the corners. This building of clear-cut outline is decorated in a severe style. The front wall of the sanctuary partition is decorated with rhythmic rows of salient Greek crosses, carved on slabs, and the capitals of the interior half-columns - with trefoils. Judging by a fragment of the church's model, which has survived, the dome had an octahedral drum with an umbrella-type roof.
The church of St. Grigory (the burial place of the Orbe-lians) was added by the architect Siranes to the northern wall of St. Karapet church in 1275. This is a modest struc¬ture, rectangular in the plan, with a semi-circular altar and a vaulted ceiling on a wall arch. The entrance with an arched tympanum is decorated with columns, and the altar apse is flanked with khachkars and representations of doves in relief.
Of great interest are the vestry of St. Karapet church and the church of Astvatsatsin, built by Momik, the author of the miniatures for the Gospel, "Entombment" and "Angel Appearing to Holy Women", created in Glazdor in 1302, of the building of Astvatsatsin church in Areni village (1321), of its wonderful reliefs and of a number of khachkars.
Burtelashen is a highly artistic monument reproducing –just as Astvatsatsin n church of 1321-1328 in Egvard but in a more developed form - the type of the "Shepherd's" church in Ani reminiscent of the tower-like burial structures of the first years of Christianity in Armenia. Burtelashen is a memorial church. Its ground storey, rectangular in the plan, was a family burial vault, and the first storey, cross-shaped in the plan, was a memorial temple crowned, instead of a dome, with a many-column rotunda just as the churches in Egvard, Kaputan and Khorakert and as the bell-towers in Nor-Ghetik.
Burtelashen temple is the architectural dominant of Nore-vank ensemble. An original three-tier composition of the building is based on the increasing height of the tiers and the combination of the heavy bottom with the divided mid¬dle and the openwork top. Accordingly, decoration is more modest at the bottom and richer at the top. Employed here as elements of interior decoration are columns, small arches, profiled braces forming crosses of various shapes, medallions, window and door platbands.
On the territory of the complex there have survived sev¬eral khachkars of original designs. The most valuable of them all is a 1308 khachkar by Momik. Just as Nor-Ghetik's khachkar by Pavgos, this one is covered by fine carving all over. Standing out against the carved background are a large cross over a shield-shaped rosette and salient eight-pointed stars vertically arranged on its sides. The top of the khachkar shows a Deesis scene framed in cinquefoil arches symbolizing a pergola as suggested by the background ornament of flowers, fruit and vine leaves.