Notes From Hairenik
July 30, 2010

Last weekend while bored out of my skull I called some people to take a ride with me to Tegherivank. Although I had already gone there back in April, the monastery is close enough to Yerevan for a two-hour excursion. Not only was I able to break free from the insanity of the city, I could savor the mind-numbing nature of Armenia high up over humanity. Those monks knew what they were doing centuries ago...

This time around I was able to take some relatively decent photos of the compound. This area is very plain from a distance, there's nothing particularly spectacular in terms of the scenery (although the entirety of Yerevan is in full view). But like any of these monasteries, when the place is quiet, you are in no hurry to leave. There was a family having a mellow picnic at one of the tables on the grounds. Some people from nearby villages came by to perform the sacrifice to God, known as "madagh" in Armenian, with a live, helpless chicken held upside down by the feet. Madagh is done when someone manages to avoid a near life-threatening accident of some kind, or when a perceived miracle takes form. I didn't bother to observe what was coming.

From the photographs you may have noticed that this 13th century monastery--which is essentially a church within a church like many others--has two twin steeples in the front and a central dome in the mid-rear of the structure. Yet when you walk into the church, you cannot see the interior of the two steeples, as if they didn't exist. The caretaker explained that in the far right front corner of the building there is a hole in the ceiling that was closed from above with a large stone when enemies were on the way. The hidden second floor, which was accessible only by a ladder, was used as a storage area, to keep foodstuffs and probably important literature safe throughout the year. In the photo below you can see the inside of the right steeple from the perspective of someone looking up through the hole in the ceiling.

This is a very strange building in that depending on what corner of the compound you are standing, the monastery can look completely different. I haven't noticed the same effect anywhere else. You could take photos from various perspectives, behind tree branches and high blades of grass, and fool people into thinking that you had visited several monasteries in one afternoon.

A friend was explaining to me last night that there are a couple of other monasteries in that area of Aragatsotn which are also not frequently visited by tourists, like Tegherivank, although they are not as well preserved. Photos to come...

All photos by Christian Garbis

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Great article, excellent photos. Love the sense of dry humor....Pokr Mher