Widowed in her youth, Princess Mariam, daughter of King Ashot I Bagratuni, dedicated her remaining years to pious works. She vowed to build thirty churches in memory of her husband, Prince Vasak Gabur of Sionik.
The first notable one was Sevanavank. Mariam traveled to consult St. Mashdots of Sevan, one of the great religious figures of the 9th century (and the future Catholicos Mashdots Eghivardetsi). She agreed to restore and enlarge the religious complex on an island in Lake Sevan, centered around the Church of the Holy Resurrection, an edifice constructed by St. Gregory the Illuminator in AD. 305 over the ruins a pagan temple.
In picturesque spots across the island (which today is a peninsula) Mariam sponsored new churches, among them Sourp Arakelots and Sourp Asdvadzadzin, the latter of which is still standing. By the year 874, the construction program was completed, and Sevanavank went on to become a great educational center. The 10th-century historian and catholicos Hovhannes Draskhanakertsi lived and worked there, as did Mkhitar Sebastatsi for two years beginning in 1692. In 1990, under the pontificate of Catholicos Vasken I Baljian, a theological seminary was opened at Sevanavank, ensuring that its great tradition would continue into the future.