Back to home

Tatev 3: Complex. St. Eustathius Church (1). Oil Press (2). Monastery Defensive Walls (3). St. Astvatsatsin (6)


Tatev complex is quite large, deserving of its reputation as a magnificent historic and natural sight. The entire complex is located on an impregnable precipice thrust over the Tatev and Vorotan gorges. Sheer rock walls and deep hills drop 700-800 meters to the river floor, making the site impervious to invasions on two sides. The other sides are wrapped with thick stone walls, defensive round towers and slit windows. The complex includes outer walls and a mill, the Poghos Petros Cathedral, St. Astvatsatsin and St. Grigor Churches, the Grigor Tatevatsi mausoleum, a Gavazan, dining hall, classrooms, manuscriptorium, pilgrim inn, dwellings, kitchen and numerous service buildings and monk cells.

Oil Press (2)

The oil press is in a 13th century building that abuts the northern hill, near the east round tower. It has two large rooms, and a massive stone that was used to make oil from pressed seeds and herbs, the resulting oil used in households and for defense of the monastery. The large fireplaces inside were used to heat and rend the oil. The oil is an ingredient of muron (holy oil) used in church services.

Monastery Defensive Walls (3)

The current walls are 18th-20th century renovations of 9th century defenses but they preserve the outline and basic structure. The round tower has narrow slits for its windows with protruding stones on the outer surface. These open to an inner room and are built so that sentries could look down on passersby without being detected (or hurt by enemy arrows). As with other fortresses of the time, the walls were further strengthened by offices, rooms and cells built within the walls, creating a series of buttresses to support the wall system.

The walls are not as tall as they once were (20 meters in parts), and are missing sections that ran along the east to the canyon edge.

The old gate (4) has been walled over, but its arch can be seen along the walls. On the other side is a spring. The eastern gate (5) abuts the eastern turret and is under St. Astvatsatsin church.

St. Astvatsatsin (6)

This small 11th century chapel-church is set in the northeastern corner of the walls, on top of the vaulted eastern gate and mausoleum. The design is unique for Armenian churches, a small vertical two-story structure the first floor arched with a vault ceiling, the second domed. The entry has a wonderfully detailed wooden door.

Original text edited and approved by the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin.