Arak Monastery (Surp Arak'elots Monastery)

Arak Monastery (Surp Arak'elots Monastery)

The Arak Monastery (Armenian: Surp Arakelots Monastery) is located in the Mus Province of modern Turkey, east of the country. It was named after a nearby populated place bearing the same name.

The monastery consists of a high wall, behind which there is a large church with a dome. Behind the church are two chapels on either side and various monastic accommodations. Just outside the walls to the south, another group of buildings stand apart as their own entity. Outside these buildings lies an open pool of clear water.

The main church is named Surp Arak'elots. It has a cross-in-square plan, which is unusual for an Armenian holy site, and was constructed entirely of brick when usually this style would be made out of stone. On the inside there are side rooms on each one of its four corners. The dome and its tall octagonal drum were still intact back in 1960, but destroyed after 1960s. The church is thought to date from between the 10th and 13th centuries. Some scholars believe that there is evidence of Byzantine influence in the shape of the brickwork; however, others report that it’s unlikely for a building this old to have retained its original architecture largely intact. The tall drum and conical roof suggest a possible reconstruction following 1660's earthquake.

Arak'elots monastery is still well-known in Armenia because of the survival of two treasures. In 1205, the monastery bought a huge and illuminated homiliary (a book containing sermons) created around 1200. The manuscript was preserved by 1915 and became its most precious possession. The book was saved from destruction by two women who carried it with them during their journey towards the safety of Russian controlled Armenia. Since it was so big and heavy (it is the largest surviving Armenian manuscript known), they had to split it into two parts, burying one half at an Armenian church in Erzurum (where it was later recovered) and dividing the remaining half between them.