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Tanahat Monastery

Tanahat Monastery, where Gladzor University was probably first established, is 5km beyond the museum on the same road. A monastery was first established here in 753 but the present buildings date from 1273-79. Approaching it on a late summer day, its dark basalt is a striking and beautiful contrast to the arid hills with only the odd tree presenting any contrasting green colour.

The impressive main Surp Stepanos Church was built by the Orbelians. There are significant stone reliefs of animals on the exterior of the church, including the crest of the Orebelians (a bull and a lion) on the tambour; that of the Proshians (an eagle holding a lamb in its talons) is on the side over the door. Another eagle has a smaller bird in its claws and round the top of the tambour can be seen a whole range of animal heads. All around the church are ruins that once made up the actual site of Gladzor University.

The lavishly laid-out car parks and remains of other facilities were provided for celebrations which marked the 700th anniversary of the university's founding in 1982. The main church, St Stephen's, is a cross-dome structure with a 12-sided tambour and umbrella cupola. Rather plain inside, there is much elaborate carving outside with a heavy preponderance of ones depicting animals and birds. Above the sundial on the south facade, two doves drink from a common cup. 

To the north of St Stephen's Church is the small 14th-century Church of the Holy Cross. There are more animals here - the tympanum depicts a mounted horseman attacking a lion. The reason for so much animal carving is not clear - it is certainly atypical - and the suggestion has been made that it was wishful thinking on the monks' part since the monastic diet at Tanahat Monastery largely comprised soup. The foundations of numerous other buildings can be clearly seen, indicating that the monastery was once large and important.


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