The Island-monastery of San Lazzaro degli Armeni is located in the central part of the lagoon near the Lido of Venice. Occupied around the year 1000 by Benedictine monks, in the following centuries it became a hospital for the poor, a lazar-house, and was looked after by many religious orders.
In 1715, with the permission of the senate of the Most Serene Republic of Venice, the island was repopulated by an Armenian monk from Sebaste, Petros Manuk (known as Mekhitar) who left his homeland, and settled there followed by a group of monks. Mekhitar together with his followers, constructed a monastery, restored the old ruined church, and built the cloisters and the buildings for the Picture Gallery and Library.
Today the island is inhabited by monks, seminarians and Armenian students who study both Italian and Armenian language and culture. The monastery provides an oasis of peace where cypress and maritime pine trees stand in the luxurious gardens surrounding the building. It hosts an extraordinary collection of treasures, including thousands of antique books and tomes and over 4000 illuminated manuscripts, as well as numerous art works, precious objects and archaeological finds from ancient Egypt, Rome and Asia. The refectory dating back to 1739 preserves pictures by Palma Giovane, Longetti and Gaspare Diziani.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the poet Lord Byron came specifically to study and learn Armenian and it is said that he loved Vartanush, a special jam made with rose petals still produced by the island's monks.