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   The fortified Tatev monastery stands overlooking the Vorotan gorge  from a very strong setting. It was for centuries the seat of the Bishops of Syunik, a center of learning, and storehouse of wealth from taxing all the villages in the region. According to legend it was named for St. Eustathius, one of 70 disciples who accompanied the Apostle Thaddeus into Armenia. Stepanos Orbelian, the medieval bishop/historian of Syunik, recounts that Tatev housed 600 monks, philosophers “deep as the sea,” able musicians, painters, calligraphers, and all the other accoutrements of a center of culture and learning. The monastery produced teachers and manuscripts for the whole Armenian  world. Stepanos Orbelian knew no date for the original insignificant church on the site. However, Bishop Davit gathered the princes of Syunik in 844 and persuaded them to grant the monastery villages and lands worthy of the relics-including bits of S. John the Baptist, S. Stephen, S. Hripsime, S. Gregory the Illuminator, and a piece of the True Cross-that had found their way to the designated seat of the Bishops of Syunik. It was Bishop Ter-Hovhannes,  however, who built the main church dedicated to Saints Poghos and Petros (Paul and Peter) in 895-906. Ter-Hovhannes was the son of a poor villager.  According to Stepanos Orbelian, the young Hovhannes, sent off by his cruel step-mother to watch the mayor's chickens, lost them, and took refuge at the monastery. There his intellectual gifts brought him a rapid ascent. Elected bishop by acclamation, he resolved to build a church worthy of the See, and did so. The N facade has carved portraits of the donors, Prince Ashot, his wife Shusan, Grigor Supan of Gegharkunik, and Prince Dzagik. There are remains of the original 10th c. frescos within. The S. Grigor church of 1295 adjoins. In the courtyard is an octagonal pillar 8 m high which allegedly pivots on a hinge. In the Russo-Persian war, the monastery had been pillaged, the bishop tortured and carried off to Tabriz. Tatev remained an active monastery in the 19th c., though the Russians stripped its archbishop of metropolitan status in 1837, and removed to Ejmiatsin its remaining 140 manuscripts in 1912. Times got worse in the Soviet period. The earthquake of 1931 did considerable damage, some of which has recently been repaired.

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