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Tatev

Tatev (Տաթեվ) monastery is situated near the village of the same name in part of Zangezur - ancient Syunik. The monastery was founded in the ninth century in place of a tabernacle well-known in ancient times. The strategically advantageous location on a cape formed by a deep river gorge with precipitous rocky slopes favored the construction of a mighty defense complex there.Tatev monuments stand out for high quality of building work. At one time Tatev was the political center of Syunik principality. In the 10th century it had a population of 1,000 and controlled numerous villages. In the 13th century it owned 680 villages, though some of the hippie villages fought hard to stay out of Tatev's hold. The earthquake of 1931 caused considerable destruction, but the parts that survived enable us to judge about the artistic merits of the complex. The main monument is the Church of Pogos and Petros (Peter and Paul) built in 895-906. It reproduces the type of domed basilicas of the 7th century, but has new features. In the stretched out interior, the middle nave, crowned with a tremendous in the middle of the plan's cross, predominates.

The outward appearance of the temple is severe and laconic. Its harmonious proportions add to the impression of its considerable height. The large dome, the low and closely-spaced arrangement of narrow windows and a high and round drum crowned with a pointed 32-fold roof immediately catch the eye.
Special attention was paid to the interior decoration of the church which was the main cathedral of Syunik principality. In 930 the walls of the church were decorated with frescoes, now almost totally lost, which differed from those of the Church of the Cross on Aghtamar Island.
The authors of the frescoes of Pogos and Petros Church, who probably worked together with Western European painters, were connected with a school founded in Tatev at the beginning of the 10th century the students of which studied humanitarian sciences and illustrated manuscripts. The school was of great importance. Presently, similar schools were opened in various monasteries of Syunik, such as G'ndevank, Tsakhats-kar and Bgheno-Noravank. The school played an especially active role in the development of science and art in the 14th-15th centuries, under Ovnan Vorotnitsi (1315-1388) and Grigor Tatevatsi (1346-1411).

Grigory Church adjoins the main church on the southern side. According to chronicle, the church was built in 1295 in the place of an earlier building of 836-848. Artistically, this is vaulted-hall type of building, widespread in Armenia, with a semicircular apse. Its decoration is very modest. The eastern window of the apse is shaped as two crosses and a circle above them. The entrance portal is decorated with open-work fine geometrical carved ornament typical of the 13t century.
To the west of Gregory Church there was a vaulted gallery with arched openings on the southern side, and to the west of Pogos and Petros Church, a three-tier bell-tower of the 17th century. Characteristic of it was the lightening of sections upwards, which is emphasized not only by the shape and cross-section size of the abutments, but also by the size and proportions of the arches bridging them. The ground floor is heavier than the middle one which was a transition to the light eight-column belfry with a pointed round roof. Correspondingly, the decoration of the bottom tier was higher than that of the top one.
"Gavazan" The monument "Gavazan", erected in 904 in the yard, near the dwelling premises of the monastery, is a unique work of Armenian architectural and engineering art.
The square-shaped Church of Astvatsatsin, dating back to the 11th century, is of a type rare in Armenian architecture.

The chambers of the Father Superior, the vaulted-hall refectory with a kitchen and storerooms, the dwelling and service premises form an almost complete circle around these structures. They were capitally rebuilt in the 17th-18th centuries. There were many secret depositories in solid rock.
Tatev craftsmen created works of applied art. The golden setting framework of Tatev Gospel merits special mention. This is an example of the 17th-century chasing. It shows scenes from the Gospel and portraits of Tatev scientists - Ovnan Vorotnetsi and Grigor Tatevatsi (now in the museum of Echmiadzin Cathedral).
The door of Tatev Church is an outstanding work of woodcarving art (1253 and 1614, the State History Museum of Armenia). The folds and jamb of the door are carved all over with an intricate geometrical ornament interspersed with small floral patterns. In the center of the 1253 door there is a large representation of the cross over a large shield-like circle with two 16-petal rosettes on its sides. On top of it there is a three-line inscription.

Tatev ensemble fits in perfectly with the mountainous landscape around it. A large church, dominating the surrounding structures and visible from afar, is the architectural and artistic center of the ensemble. The residential and service premises, arranged in a single row on the perimeter, set off the polyhedral rock foundation and seem to be an extension of it. This gives the ensemble an original and majestic appearance.

 

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