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Armenian Studies Program


Tatev/Tat'ew/ Tat'ev

Type: Monastic complex

Location: Mountains of Zangezur, thirty km from Goris.

Date: VI-XVIIIth c.

Evidence for date:

Important details:Barrel-vaults on an archband, with a a saddle-roof.

Condition: Excellent

Reconstruction: Progressively rebuilt since 1970.

History & commentary: Tatev is the most famous monastic complex of the southern region. It is located in the mountains of Zangezur, some thirty kilometers from Goris. It stands on a plateau on the edge of the deep gorge of the Orotan river.

The history of the monastery is closely linked to that of the region, since Tatev was not only the religious but also the administrative, economic, and especially cultural center of the region. In the second half of the VIIIth century, the monastery became the seat of the archbishop of all Siwnik'.

The main church dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul was built in the IXth century. It is a vast domed hall with an umbrella-shaped roof; two isolated pillars support the cupola on the western side. In the apse stands a sort of synthronon. The two ambons of black basalt and the chancel which cut the church almost in half are most remarkable. This unusual layout was dictated by the special, perhaps didactic, functions of the place. The church was subsequently plastered and partially decorated with frescoes. 

The porch-campanile on the western side is very late (XVIIIth century) and replaced a small gavit. Adjacent on the south side is a smaller church dedicated to St. Gregory the Illuminator. It is also of the IXth century and is preceded by the remains of an older hall dating from the VIth or even the Vth century. West of St. Gregory stood a large gait which is now destroyed. 

In the court enclosed on its southern side stands a famous column. It is topped by a stone-cross and is known as the "quaking column" since it is traditionally believed to have the capacity of vibrating. On the north-western side near the main entrance but on a secondary passage stands the chapel of the Virgin (1087). The complex which had been damaged by an earthquake in the XIIth century was continually repaired and enlarged. It was to a large degree destroyed by the earthquake of 1931.

Next to the monastery were found several buildings used for agricultural work, such as an olive press or a mill. At the bottom of the valley but not far away stood the hermitage (anapat) composed of various rooms and of a basilica having a small cupola with a lantern. 

Alich 1893 222-242
Píapíazeancí, 1898, 330-331 
Strzgowski, 1918, 694 e segg
Iakob 1950 152-156
Harutyunyan, 1951, 49 
Mnatz 1960 99-110, 167-174, 188-197, 205-208, 211-216
Barkh 1960 11-39
Tokarski, 1961, 294 
Mecer 1965 287-291
Sark 1966 246
Architettura medievale armena, 1968, 124-125 
Armenian Architecture, 1981, 34-35 
Architettura Armena, 1988, 416-420
Armenian Art, 1989, 583-584