Tavush (Armenian: Տավուշ) is a province (marz) of Armenia. The marz of Tavush is located in the north of Armenia and borders on Georgiaand Azerbaijan.

It is well known for its mountains. The most part of its territory is situated 800-1,000 m above sea level. The territory relief consists of rocky hillsides covered with the bright green carpet of Alpine meadows; Tavush is sometimes referred to as a little Armenian Switzerland.

Tavush is also famous for the abundance of rivers and other water resources. The largest river of the marz is the Agstev with the inflows – theGetik, the Voskepar, and the Sarnadzhur. The Akhum, the Tavush and the Khndzorot originate in the Miapor Mountains and flow across the beautiful valleys. In Tavush there are a number of mountain springs, mineral water springs and small lakes; the most known of them is Lake Parz of extraordinary beauty. The pure watered lake rounded with thick woods is situated near the city of Dilijan.

And, finally, the woods – another treasure of Tavush. In fact a half of its territory is covered by fine virgin woods which grow high on mountains slopes inhabited by various representatives of fauna. Tavush woods are especially attractive in autumn when trees are dressed in multi-colored attires.

In a word, Tavush is a great recreation area with picturesque river valleys, deep gorges, crystal curative springs and lakes reflecting the azure sky and surrounding woods. Dilizhan alone is similar to an Alpine resort known far beyond the borders of Armenia.

Tavush received its name after the historical area of Armenia – Tavush gavar – a part of Great Armenia – which included the most part of modern Tavush. The surviving medieval settlements, fortresse and monasteries confirm the ancient history of Tavush and prove that the territory was extensively populated in the early Middle Ages.

The main places of interest of Tavush marz are monastic complexes Goshavank (12th – 13th centuries), Agartsin (11th – 13th centuries), Makaravank (11th – 13th century), Voskepar (6th – 7th centuries), Mshavank (12th century), Nor Varagavank (12th – 13th centuries), Khoranagat (13th century) and others were constructed either amidst thick woods or at such heights that at times they are obscured by the clouds descending from the mountains.

Mountainous and forested, Tavush is home to many historic Armenian monasteries, churches, castles, forts, and khachkars. The noteworthyGoshavankMakaravank, and the Haghartsin monasteries are all located in this region. Haghartsin was built between the 10th and 14th centuries while Goshavank was founded by Mkhitar Gosh, an Armenian scholar and priest who wrote the civil and canon law.

Tavush borders the following marzer:


                       MAKARAVANK XIIIs


Makaravank is a 10th to 13th century church complex near the Achajur village of Tavush ProvinceArmenia, located on the slope of Paitatap Mountain.

Though the monastery is no longer used for services, the complex is well preserved. There are 4 churches, a gavit (narthex) that serves the two largest of the churches, and other buildings which served secondary roles. At one time there used to be vast settlements around Makaravank, the presence of which was of great importance for the growth of the monastery.

The oldest church of the group was built during the 10th and 11th centuries. The materials used in its construction were mostly large pieces of roughly hewn red tufa (a common Armenian building material). One of the churches, named Surb Astvatsatsin church, was built in 1198 in white stone, on the eastern side of the complex. Surb Astvatsatsin is attributed to Yovhannes. The main church was built in 1205, using pink andesite, with a red andesite gavit. 

Passing through the gate in the circuit wall, the main church of 1205, built by Vardan, son of Prince Bazaz, is on the right.

The main temple is a domed hall. The diameter of the high dome is quite large, and the under-dome space predominates in the structures interior. The vertical orientation of the interior is emphasized by the pillars supporting the dome. Attached to the pillars are several faceted pilasters and half-columns which form, at the top, semi-circular and pointed arches bearing the supporting girth of the domes. High niches, semi-circular in the plan, framed with graceful arcatures on twin half-columns, which decorate the bottom of the altar apses, harmoniously fit in with the pillars.

The walls of altar daises, decorated with geometrical ornaments, are of extraordinary interest. In Makaravank the profiled eight-pointed stars and octagons between them, arranged in two rows, are covered with varied and rich carving unique in the architecture of medieval Armenia. It features various floral motifs, making up unusual bouquets, all kinds of fishes and birds, as well as sphinxes and sirens. Of interest are a boatman looking ahead, and a man’s figure, placed inside an octagon up the left edge of the altar dais wall and inscribed "eritasard" - probably a self-portrait of the carver. All this is enclosed in a strongly profiled frame which draws the onlooker’s attention to the reliefs inside it.

The exterior decoration of Makaravank’s main temple is the more expressive. Over the central window of the southern façade there is a sun dial and below it, on the cantilever column, a representation of a dove; the round windows vary in their shapes and ornamentation. The entrance portals are rectangular, with a semi-circular inner niche. The tympanum and the spandrel are composed of stones of various shapes and colors. The dome drum is skirted by a graceful twenty-arch arcature on twin half-columns.

The arches are made as an ornamental band; the same band passes between the arches and the cornice. The arcature is harmoniously proportionate to the dome and to the overall volume of the church. 


Detail above gavit portal

Passing through the gate in the circuit wall, the gavit is on the left. The facade of the gavit, which was built with a donation from Prince Vache Vachutian in 1224, bears sculptures of a sphinx and a lion attacking a bull. Inside the gavit, one reaches the earliest church, of the 10th or 11th century.

The narthex is four-columned. Built before 1207, the it catered to both temples at the same time. It contains a door which led to the communion bread bakery, a small vaulted room. The decoration of the narthex is subordinated to the artistic features of the main temple, which shows especially clearly in ornamental carving. The western portal has, like that of Geghard narthex, a stepped framing which includes the window above. Bas-reliefs are carved on the middle ledge, at the sides of the window. At the right side there is a winged sphinx with a crown on its head, and at the left side a lion attacking an ox.

The shaft of the south-western column of the interior is girdled with an eight-arch arcature, the capital is accentuated, on the transversal axis, by a large rosette above which, on the face of the arch, there is a relief representation of a dove with a lifted wing. The abutment on the western side, corresponding to the column, has smaller vertical divisions than the other wall-attached abutments. Rosettes of various designs, painted white, yellow and red, were cut on the flat ceilings of the corner sections. The decoration of the central section was richer. Floral ornaments covering the shield-shaped pendentives show birds in various attitudes. The girth of transition to the 20-hedral base of the ceiling which probably consisted of six intersecting arches is composed of groove-divided triangular slabs, vertical and inclined.



The monastery was built not far from the ruins of an older monastery named Getik which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1188. The current monastery is sometimes referred to as Nor Getik (New Getik).In the 12th-13th centuries Goshavank became one of the most famous religious and scholarly centers in medieval Armenia, led by one of Armenia's most accomplished scholars, legal experts and scientists, Mkhitar Gosh (Mkhitar from Gosh, 1130–1213). The monastery was renamed Goshavank upon his death.Mkhitar Gosh was one of the great intellectual powers of his day, “a humble man of wisdom”, authoring numerous works, including a Codification of Armenian Law, his extremely popular Fables, a number of prayers, theological treatises and other writings. He was twice awarded the title Vardapet (doctor of theology) and had a great reputation among politicians and state figures and was a confidant and advisor to the most important rulers of Armenia, including Zakareh II the Great. At Goshavank, he taught a number of famous scholars and established Armenia's first law library.The current monastery was built between 1188 and the late 13th century. Chronicles record Mkhitar and his followers first establishing a small, wooden church in the name of Saint John the Baptist (St. Karapet) before laying the foundations for St. Astvatsatsin church in 1191.The monastery is considered one of the great examples of Armenian architecture, the work of many talented architects, carpenters and stone masons. The names of three masters were preserved for posterity and come down to us: the architect Mkhitar (the Joiner, or Carpenter); his disciple Hovhannes and the sculptor Pavghos (Poghos), creator of some of Armenia's most famous khachkars (stone crosses).

Have you ever seen the process of lace making? It requires great patience to knit fine threads into delicate ornaments!Now, can you imagine a lace made of stone? What unhuman effort, diligence, love and dedication it should take to transform a huge rock into an elegant canvas?! It’s hard to believe, but in the hands of some of the great Armenian carvers the stone has gained quite an unreal airy look.One of the masterpieces is the so-called embroidered khachkar (stone cross) at Goshavank monastery, made by the talented Armenian carver Poghos. This 13th century masterwork is totally covered with layers of lacy pattern, non of the ornaments repeating each other. A unique example showcasing how the most unyielding and coarse seeming material may transform into an exquisite work of art in the hands of a master.



Haghartsin (ArmenianՀաղարծին) is a 13th-century monastery located near the town of Dilijan in the Tavush Province of Armenia. It was built between the 10th and 13th centuries (in the 12th under Khachatur of Taron); much of it under the patronage of the Bagratuni Dynasty.Traditionally, an eagle was soaring over the dome of the main building at its dedication and thus it became commonly known as the monastery of the playing (or soaring) eagle("Hagh" means a game while "Artsin" a form of "Artsiv" means eagle in Armenian).

St. Astvatsatsin Church in Haghartsin (1281) is the largest building and the dominant artistic feature. The sixteen-faced dome is decorated with arches, the bases of whose columns are connected by triangular ledges and spheres, with a band around the drum’s bottom. This adds to the optical height of the dome and creates the impression that its drum is weightless. The platband of the southern portal's architrave is framed with rows of trefoils.

The sculptural group of the church’s eastern facade differs in composition from the similar bas-reliefs of SanahinHaghpat, and Harich. It shows two men in monks’ attire who point with their hands at a church model and a picture of a dove with half-spread wings placed between them. The umbrella roofing of the model’s dome shows the original look of the dome of Astvatsatsin church. The figures are shown wearing different dresses — the one standing right is dressed more richly than the one standing left. The faces, with their long whiskers, luxuriant combed beards and large almond shaped eyes, are also executed in different manners. These are probably the founders of the church, the Father Superior and his assistant.

St. Gregory Church gavit

The 12th-century gavit abutting St. Grigor Church is of the most common type of plan. It is a square building, with roofing supported by four internal abutments, and with squat octahedral tents above the central sections, somewhat similar to the Armenian peasant home of the "glkhatun" type. The gavit has ornamented corner sections. Decorated with rosettes, these sections contain sculptures of human figures in monks' attires, carrying crosses, staffs, and birds. The framing of the central window of Haghardzin’s gavit is cross-shaped. Placed right above the portal of the main entrance, it emphasizes the central part of the facade.

One of the half-columns along the right hand wall towards the back has come forward, showing that it is hollow. According to legend, this was swung open and shut in the past and monastery riches were hidden inside at times of war and invasion.

The monastery of Haghartsin, together with that of Goshavank, may become part of a natural site based on the state protected area of Dilijan National Park, an important forest in north-eastern Armenia.