The Armenian church ruins are probably the most popular place for tourists in the Van region. They lie on the largest of Lake Van's islands Ahtamar Adasi, situated 40km/25mi west of Van and 2.5km/1.5mi from the south shores of the lake. Boats leave from a jetty directly opposite the island. Little remains of this once important Armenian town.The remains of a monastery complex are still visible in the vicinity of the church which the monk Manuel founded between 915 and 921. It is thought that here stood the royal palace apparently with gilded domes and throne and the last seat of the rulers of Vaspuragan. Also said to have been lavishly decorated with gold were the relief carvings on the external walls of the old monastery church, which as the last but still very interesting relic dominates the island. Clearly the figures at one time had jewels for at least the eyes as particles of a glass-based adhesive have been found. In contrast to the white-washed frescoes inside the four-conch principal Church of the Holy Cross which date from 921 and are the oldest known examples of Armenian frescoes, the reliefs on the external wall (restored in 1963) of the 1316 annex (chapel) provide the real attraction. Situated to the northeast, this wall was extended to the west with a porch in 1763 and by a bell-tower to the south in 1900. The reliefs beneath the roof ledge depict such well-known themes as Adam and Eve, the Angels, David and Goliath, Abraham and Isaac, Jonah and the Whale, Jesus the Child, Christ, King Gagik with a model of the church, human faces amid vines, animal figures, the heads of the Evangelists - all intertwined with more animals and vines. An Armenian cemetery with some interesting gravestones can be found in the vicinity of the church.