Karvajar (Kalbajar) province|
|DADIVANK (MONASTERY OF ST. DAD)
Dadi Vank is located in the east of the historical Upper Khachen or Tzar province, constituting the integral part of the medieval Artsakh (presently Kalbajar district). It is situated 0.5 km north of the left bank of the Trtu (Tartar), very close to the borderline of the Martakert district of the NKR, barely 200 m away of it, on the southern slope of a woody mountain. Its altitude is 1100 m above the sea and 75 m above the bank of the Trtu. The convent is separated from the river by the ruins of historical village Khut, or Khutavan, situated in the valley of a small stream flowing into the Trtu. During the Soviet period this village was reinhabited by Kurds and renamed to Kulanlu, or Vank ('Monastery').
The main complex is surrounded by a number of chapels erected on the elevations nearby. Particularly, there is a chapel situated 300 m west of Dadi Vank, on top the cliff (altitude) 255, 155 m higher than Dadi Vank), and another chapel built on the same distance but in the southeastern direction, on the edge of a mountain spur reminding a cape, over 30 m above Dadi Vank. The altitude of the chapels situated to the north and northeast of the main convent structures, is only 5-10 m higher than Dadi Vank. The sloping area of the main monastery complex is limited in the east and west by small ravines. Joining each other a little below these ravines as if emphasize the resemblance of this area to an amphitheater. In the course of time this area was totally covered by structures of various assignment.
In conformity with the Armenian historic tradition Dadi Vank was founded as early as in the Icent. already, on the grave of St.Dad, martyred for preaching Christianity. "Some Thaddeus, from the pagans, who went to Metz Hayk and to the northern lands by the commission of Thaddeus (Apostle), and upon hearing about the death of Abgar, turned and moved to Smaller Syunik and was murdered for secret preaching. The monastery was built in that place and named after him." By that reason it is often called Arakelots 'Apostolic' and Mkhitar Gosh directly named it: "Arakeladir", i. e. 'founded by Apostle'. Possibly, a timber chapel might have been initially built on the grave of the martyred disciple. Later, probably, after the conversion to Christianity, as early as in the IVcent. it was substituted by the first and oldest church of the monastery.
The first records to mention Dadi Vank come from the beginning of the IX cent. Describing sacred places related with martyrdom, Nerses Philipian mentioned a monastery "... in Khoradzor, which is called Dadoyi Vank" as the place of the martyr death taken in the Albanian kingdom.
Like other fortresses and convents of Upper Khachen Dadi Vank was devastated in 1145-46 by the troops of Persian army commander Choli, shortly after the conquest of the Gandzak city in 1142. As witnessed by the historiographer "... he burnt also the Holy Convent founded by the Apostle, which is called Dadui Vank However, beginning with the seventies of the same century the old monastery structures were restored or rebuilt and new religious and secular structures erected. Dadi Vank continued to remain the Episcopal See. The records have preserved the names of the superiors, e. g. Father Grigoris, son of Vakhtang (mentioned in 1182-1190), Father Grigoris, son of Vasak, the Martyr (mentioned in 1224, 1233, 1241, 1253), father Athanas, son of Hassan (mentioned in 1263, 1265, 1283, 1291), father Sarkis (1309, 1312, 1340),'94 archbishop Zacariah (1402, 1411), Father Grigoris (1558), "great and gifted preceptor Hovhannes" mentioned in 1583, "who came from the land of Tzar, called Smaller Syunik, from the monastery of Saint Apostle Dadi archbishop Stephanos (mentioned in 1652, 1653),8 father Petros "Petros Preceptor (archimandrite), the superior of Khotavank..." mentioned in 1721 etc.
It is worth noting that in 1684 the manuscript of Grigor Tatevatsi's Sermon book was rewritten for Petros Preceptor "in the holy and celebrated Dadei Vank" by scribe Varvare and illustrator Father Barsegh.
Up to the middle of the XVIII cent. Dadi Vank was the largest landowner in the province. Over the whole period of its existence, even in the most dramatic moments of its history the monastery estates included major parts of the present Kalbajar and Vardenis and reached the western section of Martakert district (in the Middle Ages they were even larger, extending from the present-day Yeranos village, in the west, and to the village Akana in the east).
As we have already mentioned, the monastery was abandoned in the late XVIII - early XIX cent. Not even a monk, or a lay remained there. New misfortunes fell on half-empty monastery estate in the second half of the XVIII cent. By invitation and protection of Ibrahim Khan of Shushi the Kolani Kurds left the province of Yerevan, and began to settle on the monastery land. Within the next few decades other Kurdish tribes, and the Ayrum Turks (ethnic Armenians, initially Greek orthodox, then converted to Muslim faith) infiltrated through the borders of the estate. But there was still more and worse to come: firstly the devastating campaigns of Agha Makhmud Khan of 1795 and 1797, then the horror of plague and famine (1798), as a result of which both, the monastery and its estate were totally abandoned.
By 1813, when pursuant to Gulistan Treaty the area of Karabakh was finally annexed to Russia, Dadi Vank had not only lost its vast estates, but also ceased to be an Episcopal See.
With a view of extreme political instability during the first years of Russian rule, and up to the end of the twenties of the XIX cent. (the summer campaign of Abbas Mirza in 1926), the clergy of Artsakh had no real opportunity to revive the deserted monasteries. It became plausible in 1830 and archbishop Baghdasar Hassan-Jalalian undertook the task. To return the former monastery estates which occurred at the disposal of various khans or semi-nomadic tribes, archbishop Baghdasar commenced the struggle, not only complicated and heavy, "but also lasting and dangerous. Despite the fact that the Kolanis themselves did not reject, that they settled on the monastery lands (for instance, in 1833 Ami Aslan bek witnessed, that "the settlements of the Kolanis belong to the monastery"), the scepticism of the contemporaries was well justified. It seemed that archbishop's efforts were doomed: "the outcome of this undertaking seemed hopeless, but there was no obstacle and difficulty on his way that couldn't be overcome by his natural infinite patience, and especially his indefatigable work". However the archbishop (i. e. prince Baghdasar Hassan-Jalalian) "did not spare efforts and means, to take back his patrimonial estates from the daughter of Mehti Ghuli Khan and other beks. The estate, generally called Dutkhu-Kalbajar, extended over the area of 140.000 desyatinas, and included a number of villages, virgin forests, mines, ploughland, orchards, meadows, abounding in versatile mineral water".
Finally, by intercession of catholicos Nerses V, the Caucasus viceroy M. Vorontsov started the investigation of archbishop's claims. Pursuant to the verdict, 196.438 desyatinas of land, constituting a vast estate, should be returned to the possession of Dadi Vank. Nevertheless, in spite of the government orders and decisions, it was extremely difficult to make the tribes residing in the monastery estate pay the tithe, especially such tribes, which were well known for their brigandage. The number of "disputable plots in the monastery estate" during the following years rose proportionally to the increase of the number of the Kurdish and Turkish yaylaghs (alpine summer settlements) and ghshlaghs. In, 1896, the monastery owned only 98.438 desyatinas, of which only 50.000 were free, of claims. The figure decreased to 45.997 in 1909. It is worth mentioning that contrary to the increase of population and the number of settlements in the monastery estate income of the monastery was gradually falling. The above mentioned may be well argumented by indices of annual income of Dadi Vank for the following years:
1851-1873 over 1500 rubles per year;
1874-1880 - 600 rubles a year;
1891 - 450 rubles;
1892 - 396 rubles.
A specific detail should be added: taking advantage of the temporary absence of the superior in 1890, a Kolani seid-molla filled the monastery with his flocks and stayed there until he was expelled by Bakhish-bek, the landlord of Metsshen in Jraberd. The latter also cleaned the monastery.
A new prior, Father Astvatzatur was assigned to Dadi Vank in 1991, but the situation didn't improve till the nomination of Levon Ter-Avetikian, former resident of Tbilisi as the manager of monastery estates, in 1910. His undertaking was also considered hopeless and unrealistic, but the commitment and insistence yielded results. Quite peacefully, Levon Ter-Avetikian managed to achieve the purposes that seemingly might be realised only by force. First of all, hiring an exceptionally efficient lawyer, Ter-Avetikian clarified that in compliance with the valid legislation, the land owner, i. e. the monastery or the Holy See might start proceedings against the nomadic occupants of the monastery estate. Then, completing the assemblage of required documents, he began a long and dangerous struggle (for a similar claim (he Turks killed Shamir Zipigharian the resident of Maralyan-Sarov village, on April 24, 1895).
Although the Court action, made as a result of investigation was favorable for the monastery, its practical implementation was extremely difficult. The stockbreeders rejected to leave the estate and obstructed both the Court action and the manager's demands.
To avoid possible reprisals of the Turks expelled from the estate, the far-sighted manager let them on lease to the Turkish peasants of remote villages (e. g. Khankarvend), because in such cases the land use by Armenians would be especially risky. Finally, by 1917 manager Ter-Avetikian succeeded to expel the trespassers from a number of meadows and returned the part of Dadi Vank estates.
Such efficiency of Levon Ter-Avetikian was highly appreciated. Particularly, the correspondent of "Mshak" characterised him as a personality "far, far away from any private interests, intentions, intrigues, committed to peace, who is very sympathetic to the suffering of the Armenian people and cares for the benefit of the convent". Probably the map of Dadi Vank estates, which is now kept in the SCHARA, was drawn by the hand of Levon Ter-Avetikian in 1913.
With the establishment of the Soviet rule, the monastery estates of Dadi Vank were naturally nationalized.
Architecture. Dadi Vank was one of the largest monastery complexes of the medieval Armenia. Building and renovation works were regularly made over almost two millennia, in spite of repeated military campaigns and devastating influence of time about 30 monastery structures of various assignment are still preserved, or half ruined, damaged or totally destroyed.
The complex of great architectural value has drawn the attention of specialists long ago. Some of its structures had been described already at the end of the past century. Studies in this field were continued also in the beginning of the XX cent., in the pre-Soviet period. Materials published up to the sixties contained some transient references to Dadi Vank. Architect M. Hasratian undertook the first detailed investigation of the monastery in the seventies only. His schematic plan of the complex and the research served an impetus to further investigation of the monument. Finally, during the eighties Azerbaijanian "scientists" published their studies.
The liberation of the monastery (March 31, 1993) created exceptionally favorable conditions for free and detailed investigation and mapping of the monument. The thorough measurement of all monastery structures, conducted for the first time by the initiative of RAA, took several months of the seasons of 1993-1995.
The tomb of Saint Dad. It is commonly recognized that the places of martyrdom of the first Christian Apostles or preachers were sanctified. A number of sanctuaries in East Armenia only are associated with the martyrdom of early Christian Saints, for instance the tomb of Apostle Yeghishe in the village Homenk or Bumen (the present Bum, in Kutkashen district), the tombs of his disciples: Kahaltsitsik, near Vardashen, Gumrata in the village Tzerik, Vlas - in Nizh, and Saint Grigoris (grandson of Gregory the Illuminator) in Vatnian field (the present Biliji district), etc. Monuments or chapels, afterwards replaced by churches, were built on the graves of early Christian martyrs later. As mentioned by Movses Kaghankatvatsi the tombstone on the grave of martyr Yeghishe was erected as late as in the VII cent. "... long after his death pious Vachagan, the king of Albania, erected a pillar over the dungeon of Yeghishe's martyrdom..."
The pillar in the northwestern side of the Dadi Vank cathedral,
Pedestal of the memorial column of St. Dadi.
which is still standing (height over 2 m, length 95, width 65 cm), though mostly buried in the ground, might have been taken for the remainder of a pagan altar, if not for the certain knowledge that this is the funeral pillar of Dadi, erected, in conformity with the customs of that period to commemorate the tortured disciple. We cannot say for sure whether it was built right in the I cent., or after the conversion to Christianity. As witnessed by M. Kaghankatvatsi, in the case of Saint Yeghishe the funeral pillar was built many centuries after his death, but it is clear that the place should have been somehow commemorated, otherwise it would be forgotten and lost. In the case of Dadi Vank we are inclined to assume, that the funeral pillar was erected on the grave between the IV-VII cent.
The Church of Saint Dad. This is the oldest church in the complex, which dates back at least to the IX cent. It is built round the tombstone, so that the funeral pillar occurs right in the centre of the altar, as if supporting it and thus forming an architectural detail characteristic of the Armenian churches. The church is named after Disciple Dad. In spite of regular repairs the composition and the plan remained unchanged. Interior dimensions are 20.70x9.40 m. The width of the southern wall is 1.16m, but the western wall, linked to the chapel is only 0.55 m wide. Two of three entrances - one through the chapel and the other through the vaulted porch linked to the southern side, are made of finely carved processed stone with rather elaborate ornament. Maximum height of the preserved walls is 5 m.
In the opinion of B. Ulubabian and M. Hasratian this church dates from the IX-X cent. Later M. Hasratian reviewed this dating to the XIII cent. The conclusion was based on the discovery of the inscription of father Athanas made on the vault plaster of the northern sacristy near the altar apse.
Nevertheless, it seems that the church might have been rather renovated or rebuilt by the superior, Father Athanas, than founded by him, because the construction of the chapel linked to the church from the western side was completed in 1224 already. Based on the logic of construction phases the church should have been certainly founded much earlier, no later than in the IX cent.
Saint Dad Church was partially repaired in the late Middle Ages. Some of the wall niches were strengthened or cut in the XVI-XVII cent. In comparison with the adjoining structures the floor mark of this church was considerably higher as a result of decay of the vault and upper part of the walls.