Tsitsernavank is one of the most famous pilgrimage places in Armenia. The church has no early building inscriptions; however, based on its appearance, it is believed to have been constructed in three main stages. Its earliest form appears to have been a simple rectangular basilica, without an apse. Based on the style of the doorways in its south wall, this building dates to the 5th or 6th century AD. However, an alternative thesis exists that dates this stage to the 3rd century AD, and suggests that it was a pre-Christian temple. During the second stage of construction, a windowless apse was added (constructed inside the eastern end of the rectangular interior) and the upper parts of the outside walls were built. This may have happened in the 6th century. At this period, the arcades that separated the interior nave from its aisles were probably still constructed of timber. In the third period of construction, stone pillars and arches replaced them. Based on the style of their capitals, this occurred sometime between the end of the 6th century and the beginning of the 10th century.
The well-established transport infrastructure of Armenia allows to get to Tsitsernavank Monastery by a private car or with the help of various travel companies which offer regular excursions and tours to different sights of the country. Due to the geographical location of Tsitsernavank Monastery the trip will not seem long.
The high season in Armenia lasts for a long time due to the pleasant climate conditions. Warm days in Armenia start in March and last until late autumn; winter is usually snowless and not long. The high precipitation season is variable. The tourist season for Tsitsernavank Monastery depends on the weather conditions.
Fragments of more than a dozen clay vessels of I-III centuries play an important role in the dating of the monastery. Ritual ceramics have a special value: a cross decorated with a red and white border, clay censers, candlesticks, etc.
There are several versions of the origin of the name of the monastery. According to one, the monastery was named after St. George the Victorious’s little finger that was once kept here (in ancient Armenian “tsitsern” means little finger). In medieval poems about Tsitsernavank, the monastery referred to as Matnevank (“mat” – finger), which is certainly associated with the legend of the burial of the holy relics.
According to another, more probable version, the name Tsitsernavank came from the word “tsitsernak” (swallow), since the cult of this bird existed in pagan Armenia. According to different legend, during the construction of the monastery, the snake poisoned food cooked in a large pot for hundreds of builders. After seeing what was going on, a raven tried to warn people, but they did not understand the behavior of the bird and killed it. Then, having learned about the current situation, people buried the raven with honor, calling the place of the tomb “Agravi Gerezman” (from Armenian - the tomb of the raven), and depicted a snake on one wall of the church.
Mary Amp 1253