| Dadivank, situated on the left bank of the river Tartar, in the east of Tzar District (nowadays Karvajar District), Republic of Karabakh, dates back to the 1st century A.D. It was founded in the grave site of Dad, a preacher of Christianity who was tortured to death there _*1. The earliest bibliographical records (9th century) on the sanctuary _*2, as well as the buildings preserved and the lapidary inscriptions attest that the second half of the 12th century marked the beginning of a period of prosperity for Dadivank, which soon grew into a bishop residence. In the meantime, large-scale construction commenced in the monastery (it was particularly in full swing in the early 13th century), where both secular and religious structures were erected. In the following centuries, when the sanctuary was to experience both ups and downs, some overhaul was carried out there with new buildings added, the majority of them dating back to the 13th century.
The research materials and travelling notes on Dadivank trace back to the 19th century (Bishop Hovhannes, Sargis Jalaliants, Khachik Dadian, Makar Barkhutariants, M. Ter-Movsissian, Haykuny, etc.) _*3. Some scientific investigation was conducted there in the '60s of the 20th century when S. Barkhudarian, B. Ulubabian, M. Hasratian, Sh. Mkrtchian and L. Durnovo published articles and books on the monument, Hasratian being the first to measure and study it thoroughly. Artsakh's liberation in 1993 making Dadivank more accessible for scholars, RAA staff undertook some studies and reconstruction there. In 1999 S. Karapetian published his work entitled "Armenian Cultural Monuments in the Region of Nagorno Karabakh," which dwells upon the history, architecture and lapidary inscriptions of the monument.
The present report aims at making certain corrections and additions to the existing research materials on the religious buildings of the monastic complex. It being easy to visit them at present, the specialists are able to conduct circumstantial investigation into the architecture and construction techniques of the monument, which in its turn makes it possible to reach conclusions referring to its construction chronology and building material. First of all it should be mentioned that all researchers consider Dad's remains to be interred below the largest church (Dad Church) of the complex. We can adduce two arguments to substantiate the hypothesis that the martyr's grave and the ancient church were located in the aforementioned part of the monastery believers regarded with particular reverence:
1. The zhamatun also used for burials) adjoining present-day Dad Church in the west and dating from a period earlier than the church itself, as well as the vestibule abutting on it in the south are devoid of any ornamentation: nonetheless, they have ornate entrances opening into Dad Church that actually serve as portals leading to a sacred place.
2. The basilica adjoining Dad Church in the south and tracing back to a period earlier than the latter (this will be proved a little later) had a northern entrance now closed from the side of the church (its existence has not been mentioned in any work so far): from the side of the basilica, however, it opens like a niche (110 cms) revealing the upper vault and angles of the descending wall. Churches with northern entrances are something rare in Armenian architecture and we can only assume that it was conditioned by the existence of the martyr's grave and the ancient church in that part of the complex.
Most presumably, an older structure used to be situated in the site of Dad Church, the present-day sanctuary being built not earlier than 1224: if we take into account an inscription carved on the plaster ("Father Atanas"), we can even attribute its foundation to the second half of the 13th century. Hasratian thinks that the monastery dates from the 13th century (later some other researchers shared this viewpoint); S. Karapetian suggests an even earlier date, but in general, investigators maintain that the zhamatun and the small single-nave basilica together with its vestibule are annexes to present-day Dad Church. The thick church walls and the junctions of the structures are living proof of this: Dad Church, which represents a single-nave basilica of quite large dimensions (20.7 x 9. 4 ms), needed powerful walls to remain standing, whereas in fact, its western wall and the eastern section of the southern wall adjoining the small basilica are only 55 cms thick. Consequently, a building with such walls needed another to rest upon, i.e. to be added to: the walls of the zhamatun and small single-nave basilica are 1.2 m thick. Apart from that, the investigation into the junctions connecting Dad Church with the other structures clearly shows that the stones used in the construction of the former closely touch the walls of the latter.
According to Hasratian, Dad Church was never accomplished and remained without roof. We can adduce a fact to confirm this: the southern wall of the church apse has retained two covering slabs that actually suspend in the church, which suggests that the walls could not have been erected higher than these. The issue of the church roof still needs to be investigated further so that it is necessary that excavations be conducted there and the soil accumulated inside be removed.
So far researchers have failed to notice that the vestries adjoining the apse have preserved two or three layers of rough stone, which gives rise to the assumption that Dad Church had rotundas, probably, later added onto the sacristies. In order to check the plausibility of such a hypothesis, these parts should be cleansed of the soil, too.
Once a lot of researchers were of the opinion that the floor of Dad Church was 1.5 m lower than the present-day soil stratum, but the mortar floor unearthed in the part attached to the eastern entrance to the zhamatun proved to be a metre higher than that of the zhamatun: only some 60 to 65 cms of it is buried under the soil layer. Supposedly, the traces of an earlier structure may be found beneath it: once this occurs, they can be regarded the foundations of the oldest structure of Dadivank, with present-day Dad Church established later than 1224, i.e. between the 1250s and 60s.
The oldest of Dadivank buildings (excluding the memorial over St. Dad's grave) is a small single-nave basilica whose original composition represents it as a single-nave structure of a rectangular hall extending east-westward. It has a rectangular apse partitioned from the hall by a pair of rectangular pilasters. The two pairs of pilasters that were not included in the original plan were added later, probably, when Dad Church and its vestibule were attached to the basilica. The same construction technique was also applied at the addition of the pilasters, as we have already mentioned above: they are simply attached to the walls and not set into them, which would be the case if they had been included in the original composition. The differences noticeable in the stonework of the walls suggest that the basilica gained additional height during renovation: after the vestibule had been attached to it, its western window was placed higher than the vestibule roof. According to some scholars, this building dates from the 13th century, but our research proved that it was founded earlier, its rectangular plan and rectangular apse tracing it to a period earlier than the 10th century. In order to substantiate the aforementioned, further studies should be conducted, including technical investigation into the masonry, digging of ditches under the walls for searching purposes, etc. Nonetheless, the available facts attest that all the adjoining buildings, i.e. Dad Church, the vestibule, the portico and the famous Katoghike built by Arzu Khatun were later annexes. In 1214 the Katoghike joined the basilica with the northern section of its western facade, this being evident at the intersection angle of the eastern wall of the latter and the northern one of the former. The main domed church of the complex merely touches the basilica and its last stones are not cornerstones. Apart from what has been mentioned, if the basilica had been added to the Katoghike, the latter's western facade should have been laid of finely-finished stones at the junction, like the entire church: having cleaned a small part of it, however, we discovered that it was not the case.
Scholars generally believe that the vestibule (it has a rectangular plan) was added to the basilica during the foundation of Dad Church. We can state that the northern wall of the vestibule forms part of the southern wall of Dad Church, while its eastern wall is at the same time the western one of the basilica. The fact that the vestibule was later attached to the basilica is well noticeable at the wall junctions, just as is the case with the northern wall of the Katoghike. The southern wall of the basilica together with that of the vestibule also later served as the northern wall of the portico.
The domed church of Arzu Khatun was founded in 1214, as attested by an inscription engraved on its southern wall. Since the building has undergone complete research, we will confine ourselves to merely making certain corrections to the results it has yielded. It is mainly built of finely-finished ochre (yellow-reddish) coquina as well as limestone and some sandstone, and not tufa, or phelsite, as alleged in certain works. The monument has a peculiar colour design: the dome pilasters, vaults and the sculptured rosettes set in the upper sections of the planes are of white limestone and not milk phelsite. The planes themselves are painted in limewater prepared of red paint, presumably, cochineal. The covering slabs which were actually made of the same ochre coquina gradually acquired a dark colour due to the moss growing through them. The floor that was not paved was simply smoothed away with mortar. The reliefs carved on the eastern facade of the church originally represented the life-size patrons of the sanctuary, like those engraved on the southern facade, and not merely their busts, as scholars generally think: the parts lower than the waists of the reliefs disappeared as a result of further overhaul, being at present laid with smooth stones.
In the course of the excavations, some tombstones and khachkars were found in the north of the church: this suggests that a cemetery used to be located there, a fact explaining the existence of the northern entrance to the Katoghike. After the construction of the zhamatun and present-day Dad Church, when the area was enclosed within walls, that entrance went out of use: by 1263 it had already closed altogether, which provided a good opportunity to paint a fresco inside the building.
Most presumably, the portico, an annexe to the Katoghike and the small single-nave basilica, formerly had a tiled wooden roof, this supposition resting upon the deep holes preserved on the level of the foundations, in the lower part of the present-day vault. The openings that are quite near each other (between 40 and 50 cms) could have served as the base of the wood rafters. The study of the portico composition and that of the abutment can reveal why the round columns that are now leaning are so thick, i.e. 1.5 m in diametre.
The construction technique applied at the junctions of the belfry and portico indicates that the former was attached to the western wall of the latter.
The small domed church, probably founded in the 13th century (this viewpoint needs further verification) and under repairs at present, is located opposite the portico, in the south. The initial stage of investigation proved that the monument used to have a tiled roof: we found it from under the layer of soil accumulated on the roof. This fact and the tiles discovered in the broach of the Katoghike indicate that tiling was used in Artsakh's architecture till the 14th century.
Summarizing what has already been stated above, we can restore the chronological order of the foundation of Dadivank buildings. The fact that the monastery was erected in the site of Dad's grave comes to attest that originally, there used to be a memorial later replaced with a church which has not survived.
In 1214 Arzu Khatun's Katoghike was attached to the small single-nave basilica founded earlier than the 13th century. So far it has been obscure why it was not planned as a separate building: to our mind, it was due to the slanting area.
In 1224 Bishop Grigoris founded the zhamatun.
In the '60s of the 13th century, the small single-nave basilica was repaired, followed by the erection of the rectangular, single-nave vaulted hall and present-day Dad Church. As for the portico, it was built later, being adjoined by the belfry.
Dadivank, which is one of the most important monuments of Armenian architecture, needs further research from archaeological, historical and architectural standpoints. A circumstantial investigation into this monastic complex, including a study of its murals and lapidary inscriptions, can elucidate a lot of moot issues in Armenian culture.
by Samvel Ayvazian