this vision and a warning from on high,
the great queen Mariam, wife of Vasak of Syunik,
came to St. Mashtots and, having persuaded him, built a richly
ornamented church called the Twelve Apostles, next a second called
the Mother of God. She
furnished them abundantly, and made them the house of God and the
refuge of pious men, in the year 323/AD 874.” Per Kirakos
Gandzaketsi (Tr. R. Bedrosian), "... lord Mashtots was
katholikos for one year. He was a blessed and virtuous man, filled
with brilliance and wisdom and he dwelled on the island in lake
Sevan practicing great asceticism-wearing a single garment and
walking barefoot-for forty years he ate no bread and drank no
water. It was lord Mashtots who established the book (which is
called Mashtots after him), gathering together all the ordered
prayers and readings, arranged with an appendix which itself has
all the orders of Christian faith. Reaching a ripe age, he
gloriously reposed in Christ."
The monastery fell on harder times, and
there is a terrible tale that,
in the mid-18th century, the monks were ashamed lest the
visiting katholikos see their collection of ragged and
water-damaged manuscripts, and so secretly dumped them in the
lake. The Russians'
tame French Caucasus expert Jean-Marie Chopin (Ivan Shopen)
reported that in 1830 the monastery had an abbot, five monks, 5
archdeacons, 7 protodeacons, 1 priest, and 11 servers.
He noted that the monastic regime on the island was
exceptionally strict, that meat and wine were banned, as well as
women and youths. The
monastery therefore served as reformatory for monks Ejmiatsin had
banished for their transgressions.
Chopin listed the monastery's property:
five villages, four mills, a ruined dairy, 46 farm animals,
and gardens and fields. Eli Smith reported in 1830 that one of the
monks was a dedicated teacher, and manuscripts were still copied
there by hand as late at 1850.
Passing on the steps a monument to a 20th
c. navy captain, lonely commander of the Sevan fleet, one reaches
first the Arakelots (Apostles) church and then Astvatsatsin
(Mother of God), the latter with various khachkar fragments in the