Makaravank, Tavush Region, Armenia
Makaravank is situated not far from Achadjur village on the slope of Paitatap Mountain. The monastery is one of the important architectural monuments of medieval Armenia. All the constructions of the monastic complex are built of red tufa stone, pink andesite and greenish stones. At one time Makaravank was surrounded with impressive walls. The monastic complex consists of 3 churches and a porch. There is a spring, a vaulted gate, 2 ancient cemeteries and ruins of utility rooms on the territory of the monastery.
The most ancient church of the complex (X -XI) built of red tufa stone is rectangular outside and cruciform inside. The entrance is in the western part through which the church is connected with the porch. The front part of the altar is decorated with delicate geometric and plant ornaments.
In 1198 Father Superior of the monastery Hovhannes A (the 1st) built cross-domed church of Sourb Astvatsatsin (St. Virgin Mary). It’s cruciform inside and octahedral outside. The most remarkable interior elements are original bas-reliefs depicting birds, lions and a single combat between an eagle and a dragon. A tumbledown chapel sides the church in the north.
The main church of Makaravank was built in 1205 by the son of Prince Bazaz Vardan. The church rectangular outside and cruciform inside is a domical hall. There are double-level side chapels at the right and left corners of the altar. The interior is generously decorated with highly artistic works of the Armenian medieval sculptors. The ornaments from eight pointed stars and octahedron with carved bas-reliefs depicting mythic creatures, birds, fish and heroes from the Bible are genuine masterpieces of the Armenian art. Inside one of the eight pointed stars a sculptural portrait of the architect of the church (and probably the sculptor as well) and his name “Yeritasard” (means “young”) are carved.
At the beginning of the XIII century Vache Amberdtsi (from princely Vachoutian family) built a porch eastern part of which was connected with the ancient church and northern part – with the main church. The eastern entrance is decorated with high reliefs depicting a single combat between a lion and a bull. The porch is notable for its rich interior. Its walls are adorned with splendid plant and geometric ornaments.
A tumbledown bakery (nshkharatoun) sides the porch from the north-east. Once there was baking bread used during different religious ceremonies. This square vaulted construction is one of the several of such type which survived to our days.
The last time Makaravank was restored in 1970-1980. Today this monastery which is ranked among such masterpieces of the Armenian architecture as Bgheno Noravank, Gandzasar and church of Sourb Khach is doomed to demolition. It’s demolishing because of landslide as well as crumbling andesite which cannot resist the dampness.
By Natalia Ghukasyan, www.building.am