Talin has a population of 7,600 people. Talin lies in one of the stonier, more rugged corners of the country, 75km northwest of Yerevan. Many of the surrounding villages were settled by refugees from Van and Kars in historic western Armenia, now part of Turkey, and local folk-dancing troupes preserve western Armenian songs and dances. There are also some Yezidi Kurd villages in the vicinity. Those with an abiding love of Armenian church architecture might want to visit Aruch’s 7th-century Aruchavank Monastery, midway between Ashtarak and Talin, and the similar 7th-century Surp Astvatsatsin Church on the outskirts of Talin itself.
About 5km south of Talin is the interesting 10th-century double fortress of Dashtadem, which still shelters flocks of sheep inside its sturdy walls after dark. Follow the highway onto Gyumri to Mastara and its very different fortlike church from the 5th century, with rare vestiges of frescoes.
The cathedral here is more ornate than that at Aruch but the setting is spoilt by piles of rusty scrap metal lying around. The large church is surrounded by an extremely large area of tombstones. Like Aruchavank it was built in the 7th century. It has, however, three naves and is an altogether more impressive building of red and grey tuff with a 12-sided tambour decorated with arches into which windows are set. There is good 7th-century decoration around some of the windows. The remains of frescoes can be seen. The one in the apse probably depicts the Transfiguration while on the south wall can be seen a portion of the entry into Jerusalem. Talin lost its cupola in an earthquake in 1840 and was further damaged by another in 1931 although some restoration was carried out in 1947 and again between 1972 and 1976. The smaller church in a corner of the large site is roughly contemporaneous. An inscription records that Nerseh built it 'in the name of the Holy Mother of God for her intercession for me and my wife and Hrapat my son'. Unfortunately it isn't clear which of several Nersehs was involved.
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