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The Big Desert of Tatev

If you have taken the Tatev ropeway, you have undoubtedly seen a monastic complex nestled in the gorge, hidden deep in the woods. That's the mysterious Big Desert of Tatev, and a visit promises unforgettable memories!

The Big Desert of Tatev is a 17th-century Armenian monastery located on the right bank of the river Vorotan, where it meets its tributary Tatev. It was built in the 1660s after an earthquake destroyed the nearby Harants (Fathers') Hermitage of Halidzor in 1658. The Great Hermitage of Tatev has the same layout as the older hermitage but is larger. It's a valuable example of medieval Armenian architecture with a unique design

This is how you see the monastic complex when hiking down the gorge! The main part is surrounded by walls with towers, and there's an additional structure with a table-shaped plan on the southern side. It was of a military significance in the 18th century, during the liberation struggle organized by Davit Bek.

In 1663, Saint Astvatsatsin, a 3-naved basilica church, was constructed in the south-western part of the desert using smoothly hewn basalt stone. It's an architectural marvel and when you step inside you can feel a rush of positive energy inside you!

In 1743, Meliq Yeghan added a vaulted church-porch hall and a small chapel-mausoleum adjacent to the western part of the church.

The dining hall in the southern part is a vaulted long structure with a kitchen, small windows, and stone tables. There are 64 vaulted cells for cenobites along the western and northern walls, some with two or three stories, doors, and windows.

The desert once had gardens, threshing floors, a wine press, cellars, and a water mill (now broken). The climate here was suitable for viticulture. The Big Desert of Tatev served as a significant educational, religious, and cultural center. Around 700 monks dedicated themselves to spiritual service here, and the Catհolicos of All Armenians, Movses Khorenaci (Syuneci), received education in this spiritual and cultural hub. The Big Desert of Tatev played a vital role in the formation of manuscript centers, where many manuscripts were written in various monasteries and deserts.

You can hike to the Big Desert of Tatev by either starting from Tatev Monastery, descending all the way down towards the gorge and concluding your trip on Satan Bridge. Alternatively, you can park your car on Satan Bridge and commence your hike from that point. Inside the monastic complex, you may encounter a hermit who has been living there for several years and prefers not to be photographed, although he is very friendly!


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