Black Monastery of Tanahat
Tanahat Monastery is located 7 km south-east of Vernashen village, on a picturesque mountain range in the Vayots Dzor Province of Armenia.
The monastery complex consists of two churches, a cemetery and ruins. The monastery was mentioned as early as the 8th century, and was one of the medieval Armenia’s most important religious and cultural centers. What remains of the Tanahat Monastery today, are the St. Stepanos and St. Nshan churches, both from the 13th century. But according to the medieval Armenian historian Stepanos Orbelian, the monastery was founded in the 8th century.
The monastery was built of dark blue polished basalt stone, and therefore it is often called the “Black Monastery”. The walls of the church are rich with carvings, inscriptions and sculptures: on the southern wall of the church, the emblem of the Proshyan royal family is carved – an eagle clutching a lamb in its claws, and the lion attacking the bull. On the other wall, two Paradise birds, drinking from the cup of Life are carved on the sundial.
Some scholars believe that the Tanahat Monastery housed the famous Gladzor University, founded in 1282 – the most prominent educational institution of Medieval Armenia, where Natural Sciences, Mathematics, Theology, Geometry, Astronomy, Miniature Painting and other subjects were taught.
Others insist that the Gladzor University’s location is still unknown (sources make a reference to the Aghberts Monastery).
Gladzor University was established around 1280 by Nerses of Mush and thrived until the 1340s. It was considered one of the two great centers of learning in Armenia along with the University of Tatev (1340-1425). Famous medieval students of the university included the historian Stepanos Orbelian, the philosophers Yesayi Nchetsi and Hovhan Vorotnetsi, the architect Momik and the miniature painters Toros Taronatsi and Avag.
In the vicinity of the monastery, the remains of the settlement, the fragments of large tombstones and khachkars (cross-stones) are scattered. Among the stone fragments there are carved capitals, columns, solid or damaged fragments of bases and cornices – witnesses of the former grandeur and beauty of the monastery.
To make a trip to the South Armenia and visit the Tanahat Monastery, please contact Phoenix Tour at firstname.lastname@example.org