The early medieval monastic complex of Tanahat is located approximately 7 km southeast of the village of Vernashen, Vayots Dzor, Armenia. It was also called the Red Monastery because it was built of red stone.
The monastery was built on the site of a pagan mekhyan dedicated to the Armenian goddess Anahit, and already in the 5th century a Christian temple was founded here. Next to the monastery there is an early medieval cemetery. Tanahat Monastery operated until the late Middle Ages and is now in good condition.
According to the historian Stepanos Orbelyan, in 735 the body of Stepanos Syunetsi was buried in the Tanaat Monastery and a small chapel was built over the grave. In 1273-1279, on the site of the chapel, under the patronage of Prince Prosh and his family, the Church of St. Stepanos was built from dark bluish basalt, cruciform inside, with vaults in the four corners (the eastern sides are two-story), externally rectangular, with a domed structure.


The Tanahat monastery is located five kilometers North of Yeghegnadzor, on a picturesque mountain plateau, which was one of the most famous centers of education in medieval Armenia – Gladzor University more than seven centuries ago. Time has not preserved its structures for us, from which only traces of the foundations remain. A small museum created in the Church of St. Hakob in the village of Vernashen can introduce the university to you.
Gladzor University was founded in the early 1280s by the scientist and teacher Nerses Mshetsi in the modest monastery of Tanahat. It taught disciplines that had long been accepted in the higher schools of medieval Armenia. The education lasted from seven to eight years. Students, regardless of the specialization chosen in the future, were required, in addition to theology, to also master “external”, secular sciences. The first three: grammar, rhetoric, logic – constituted the so-called “trivium”, the basis of humanitarian education. The remaining four subjects: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music theory made up the “quadrivium”, a cycle of exact sciences.
The university’s book depository contained many works of Greek and Armenian scientists, sufficient to obtain an education that was outstanding at that time.
The university’s extensive program required hard work from inquisitive students. Life was not easy for them in Gladzor, cut off from the world by gorges and mountain ranges.
In 1338, with the death of Esai Nigetsi, a student of Nerses and the second rector of the university, the school in Gladzor also died. However, she did not disappear into obscurity; her work was continued in other universities in Armenia, one of which was Tatev University, located in the Syunik Region.

The article was compiled based on observations and materials collected by the ArmLand club.

Author of photos: Artyom Martirosyan

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