The rock-hewn church of Tandzut
Tandzut is a village located in the Kashatagh region, in the western part of the Hakari River, in the left tributary of the Aghavno. During the Soviet era, the village was also known as Garygyshlag. Many caves that have been inhabited for over a thousand years can be found here, on high-altitude rocks. The watermill ruins, road traces, remote caves and hermitages, as well as the medieval rock-hewn church, all point to the existence of a cave dwelling on the canyon's left side during the middle Ages. The village is located at an elevation of 1300 meters above sea level.
There is no information about this church in historical sources.
The church is hewn in stone, and its facade is built into the southern cliffs. (Fig․ 1)։
Fig. 1 The entry facade of the Tandzut church, photo by S. Danielyanm.
The church is built on a single-nave basilica architectural plan. The prayer hall is 5.8–2.5 m in length and 4.4 m in height. The church's entrance is on the south side, with two inward-widening windows. On the east side of the tabernacle, four rock stairs lead to a rock-hewn stage (Fig. 2). The tabernacle has two window niches carved into it. The stone was removed from the Holy Tabernacle's table, and its location is visible. The only separately made component in the church's structural system is this stone. The church's interior decoration is simple and restrained. The walls are well-designed, but there are no inscriptions on them (Fig. 3).
A natural arch has been preserved on the west side of the church, through which the road leading to the sanctuary once passed. On a large rock in the center of the arch and the church, there is a hole resembling a khachkar in shape. There was undoubtedly a khachkar-monument here, which was destroyed by the Muslim inhabitants.
Fig. 2 The architectural plan of Tandzut church, transversal and longitudianal sections, photo by Karapetyan S., Monuments of Armenian Culture in the Occupied Territories of Soviet Azerbaijan, "Science" Publishing House of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, Yerevan, 1999, p. 140.
Fig. 3 The church's tabernacle, photo by S. Danielyan.
In 1987-89, research was carried out in the Kashatagh region, in rock-cut complexes. The speleological expedition of the Geographical Society of the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian SSR carried out the research. Due to the escalation of the Artsakh conflict, this work was put on hold until 2003.
The Speleological Center of Armenia conducted the research. The Hakari River basin and its tributaries have been the subject of joint research by the international cave expeditions, which has been published in both local and international scientific journals (Shaginyan 2020, 39, 40). In the collection of materials presenting the international conference (Gunko, Shahinyan, Kondrateva 2021, 57–61), the plan and a brief description of the Tandzut rock-hewn church are included.
Samvel Karapetyan mentioned the Tandzut rock-cut church in his book "Monuments of Armenian Culture in the Occupied Territories of Soviet Azerbaijan" (Karapetyan 1999, 141).
The condition before, during, and after the war
In Soviet period the village has been emptied from Armenians and settled by Muslims (Karapetyan 1990, 140, 141). At this time, the village's Armenians were evicted, and the area was populated by Muslims (Karapetyan 1999, 140, 141). The village's rock-hewn church and surrounding houses were primarily used as cattle barns. After the first Artsakh war, they were cleared.
The church of Tandzut did not change significantly during the Second Artsakh War.
Karapetyan, 1999-Kapetyan S., Monuments of Armenian culture in the regions occupied by Soviet Azerbaijan, "Science" Publishing House of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, Yerevan.
Shahinyan 2020-Shahinyan S., Sacred underground structures of the Gochants river basin, Cave structures of mountainous Armenia-Artsakh, NUASA, Yerevan, 34-50.
3․ Gunko, Shahinyan, Kondrateva 2021- Gunko A., Shahinyan S., Kondrateva S., About Problem Of Preservation Of Christian Cave Complexes On The Territory Of Nagorno Karabakh, Procedings Of 13 th International Conference Contemporary Problems of Architecture and Construction, Yerevan-Armenia, 6-8 October, 57-63:
The rock-hewn church of Tandzut