10th to 13th century church complex Makaravank is located in Tavush province, Armenia, 3 km southeast of village Achajur, on the slope of Paitatap Mountain.
The main temple, according to inscriptions on a khachkar south of it, was completed in 1205. It was built of carefully cut andesite stones, and includes two sacristies with an apse in between. A niche in the northwest side of the temple has later been reconstructed into another sacristy.
Southern and eastern facades of the temple are decorated with paired triangular niches. The round dome is decorated with blind arcades with paired half-columns.
Western facade is beautified with richly decorated portal, which has a tympanum with multicolor chess masonry. Another portal leading to a gavit (entrance to the churches of Medieval Armenian architecture) is executed in a similar way. Under the window of the southern wall is a relief image of an eagle holding a calf in its claws.
The main temple is notable for its light colored interior and peculiarly designed apse. The semicircular wall of the apse is decorated with 13 concave niches, which are separated by paired pilasters.
The whole surface of the altar’s facade is covered with masterpieces of Medieval Armenian art, which include star-shaped octagonal bas-reliefs and sculptures portraying scenes from the Bible. One of the stars contains a portrait of the architect of the church and his name, Yeritasard. The gavit was completed in 1207 under prince Vache I Vachutyan, whose coat of arms can be found among the bas-reliefs.
The gavit adjoins the second, more old church from east, and to the main temple from south. The portal of the gavit is decorated with high relief portraying fight of a boggart, an eagle, and a bull. The interior of the gavit is richly decorated. On the plates of the foundation of the dome are the initials of the builders.
The second church (built in 10th-11th centuries) is located in the northeast part of the monastery. It was built of roughly cut tuff stones, but the dome and ceiling were rebuilt in 13th century of clearly cut stones of tuff. It belongs to cross-in-square architectural type like the main temple.
The primary element of furnishing of its altar’s facade is an elegant ornament, inscribed in rhombuses.
Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) church rises in the eastern corner of the complex. Like other buildings of the complex, it is built in cross-in-square style. The church was built in 1198 under the Abbot of the monastery Yovhannes in memory of his parents and brothers.
Windows and the edgings of the niches of the building are decorated with high relief images of animals. A small and dilapidated chapel adjoins the church from northern side.
Monastic complex Makaravank due to its rich and peculiar ornamentation is considered one of the most important architectural monuments of Armenia.
Armenia. Monastery of Makaravank