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A visit to Tatev Monastery should be on top of your list when traveling to Armenia. Why, do you ask? There are several reasons, but the main one is to simply witness this mind-blowing architectural, cultural, and religious site nestled on the top of the cliff!
Tatev is one of the most visited sites in Armenia. To get to Tatev Monastery, you can take a private tour or join a group tour, rent a car, catch a taxi or use public transport to reach the nearby city of Goris. There are plenty of ways to reach this fascinating jewel of the Syunik region!
Since there are many natural and architectural monuments along the way, you can combine your visit to the Tatev Monastery with stops at Khor Virap, Noravank Monastery, Shaki Waterfall, Zorats Karer Archaeological Site, as well as Goris and Sisian.
The way to Tatev Monastery is even more appealing when you travel on the world’s longest reversible aerial tramway – Tatever or Wings of Tatev. Around 5,700 meters in length, the cable car will take you from Halidzor Village to Tatev Village, where the monastery is located.
Note: There are a few other worth-visiting places in Vorotan Gorge on the way to the monastery, including the Devil’s Bridge (a natural monument), Tatev’s Mets Anapat or Tatev’s Grand Heritage (a Medieval monastery), Old Halidzor Village and the ruins of chapels, and Harsnadzor or Halidzor bell tower (a watchpoint).
The monastery is in a remote location that is difficult to access without modern equipment. Armenia's medieval churches and monasteries were constructed on top of hills or concealed in forests because this was a customary practice so that the monasteries could not be easily accessible to enemy attacks and invasions.
Tatev Monastery is one of the most exciting places in Armenia for many reasons: its architecture, history, and its intriguing legends!
The monastery was founded in the 4th century and is named after one of the disciples of Apostle Thaddeus – Eustatius. Slightly changing over the centuries, the monastery got its name Tatev. From the left side of the path leading to the monastic complex’s gates, you can see the ruins of a 4th-century church. Another building at the left of the monastery is an oil press from the 13th century. Inside you can observe the technology used to get oil from various seeds.
Tip: It is recommended to visit the viewpoint of Tatev village towards Svarants village, which offers a complete view of the monastery and the Vorotan Gorge.
Enter the medieval gates of Tatev Monastery and walk towards the pear tree in the middle of the complex. From here, you will have a nice view of St. Peter and Paul church, the bell tower, the St. Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) church adjacent to the fortress walls, and the ruins of the once-existing and well-known Tatev University.
Tatev University was a very well-developed educational center back in the 14th century. Here they taught astronomy, geography, mathematics, philosophy, jurisprudence, languages, etc. Armenian philosophers Hovhan Vorotnetsi and Grigor Tatevatsi lived and worked in the Tatev Monastery, dedicating their lives to teaching students several subjects.
The Main Cathedral is of high importance since it houses a number of relics – a fragment of the True Cross, relics of John the Baptist, St. Gregory the Illuminator, the hair of the Holy Virgin, and others. In the Medieval period, the interior of St. Peter’s and Paul’s church had frescoes, the remnants of which you can observe on the walls of the altar. From inside the church, a door opens to the mausoleum of Grigor Tatevatsi, a prominent historiographer, scientist, and teacher.
Step outside the church, then turn left to view the remaining sections of the Tatev monastery complex. Immediately to the left, you can see a small structure entirely covered with khachkars (cross-stones), forming Tatevatsi’s mausoleum. Due to their outstanding assortment of ornaments and decorations, the khachkars are worth further observance.
St. Grigor church is adjacent to the Main Cathedral and dates back to the 13th century. It is a single-nave basilica-type church with modest architectural solutions. In front of it, you can see several cross-stones and tombstones which belong to the clergy members who spend their lives in Tatev.
One of the most mysterious structures of the Tatev Monastery is the Gavazan, a vertically standing pillar dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It was engineered back in 906 to catch the mildest movements on earth, thus letting the clergy members know of the upcoming dangers.
In Tatev, you can also see the enormous bell that once hung from the belfry of the Main Cathedral. Unfortunately, because of the 1931’s devastating earthquake, the belfry did not survive, and it has been decades since the bell has hung in its initial place.
Tatev Monastery is not only about churches. There are several auxiliary buildings, cells for the monks, and chambers adjacent to the fortress walls that you can visit when in Tatev Monastery. You will be mesmerized by the views down each corridor.
Remember to enjoy the eye-catching views this monastery offers from every corner and take some astonishing photos of the Tatev Monastery and the Vorotan Gorge. Tatev awaits your arrival!