Dadivank Monastery

Dadivank Monastery

After the 2020 Azeri aggression Dadivank is now in an occupied territory. A few Armenian monks have remained there, cut off the rest of Artsakh, Armenia nd the world and protected by the Russian peacekeepers. 

An aerial view of the monastery in 2011.

Dadivank, which has also been called Khutavank, was built on a forested mountain on the left bank of the Trtu  (Tartar) river in the Verin Khachen (or Tsar) gavar of the Artsakh province of Greater Armenia. The exact time of founding is unknown, however according to tradition, it was founded in the I c. AD on the grave of Dadi, one of the 70 disciples of who died preaching Christianity in Artsakh and was named after him (vank means “monastery”). 

There is also an opinion that the monastery was built in the name of Apostle Thaddeus himself, whose name was shortened to Thadi (Dadi). Khutavank means monastery on a rock (khut in Armenian).  The monastery is mentioned by the historian Kaghankatvatsi, in the context of some 9th century events, however, based on the half-ruined basilica church on the monastery grounds and the monument related to the name of the Apostle Thaddeus, the complex is judged to be of the 4th-5th centuries. In the 12th-13th centuries it was also the Episcopal See and the spiritual centre of the Verin (Upper) Khachen princedom. In 1145 the monastery was destroyed by invaders and restored in 1170s. The monastery consisted of a large number of churches, narthexes, a belfry, and secular buildings. The one-nave St. Dadi Church (10th-11th centuries) stands out for its size among similar Armenian churches. The family grave of the Aranshahik Vakhtangyan dynasty of the rulers of Artsakh is in the narthex of the one-nave church adjacent to St. Dadi and built in the 12th century. The cathedral church of the complex, St. Kathoghiké, was built by Arzun-khatun, the wife of Prince Vakhtang in 1214. It still retains 13th century frescoes on its inside walls. A cloister links the main church with a belfry. The two finely-carved cross-stones (khachkars) on the first floor of the belfry were carved by order of Atanas, the Abbot in 1283. There is also a refectory, a library, and a vicarage. The secular buildings include Hasan Jalal’s manor and auxiliary buildings. 

The small domed church (13th c.).
The two-storey belfry (1283). 
The St. Kathoghiké Church (1214) is in the background.

Comprising over ten buildings, Dadivank is one the largest medieval Armenian monastic complexes. It is particularly valuable because of the diversity of ecclesiastical and secular buildings and the uniqueness of its decorations. 


The original 13th century frescoes on the main church walls, which depict scenes where Jesus Christ and the Holy Virgin hand a Gospel and cape over to St. Nicholas, scenes of the Nativity as well as scenes of the stoning of St. Stephen, are of particular value for the history of Armenian art.

It was planned to restore the secular buildings of the monastic complex in the later stages of works, but after Azeri occupation in 2020, these efforts have come to a pause. 

Dadivank had extensive possessions: up to 200,000 hectares of land in the 19th century, which were reduced to 50,000 hectares in the beginning of the 20th century. When Artsakh was annexed to Azerbaijan by the Bolshevik government in Moscow in 1923, the lands were all taken away; the monastery stopped functioning and was abandoned. The Azeri government founded a village at Dadivank in the 1960s. Settlers first lived in the monastery buildings, causing significant damage, particularly to the frescoes. Dadivank was liberated in 1993 and restoration works started in 1999.

The cloister linking the main church with the bell-tower, above right.
The two 13th century khachkars are among the best pieces of Armenian cross-stone art.
Scenery from the north-east side of the monastery.
The eastern wall of the main church is entirely covered in inscriptions. The relief statues depict the two sons of Arzu-Khatun, princes Grigor and Hasan, who hold the model of the church.




Oldest inscriptions (there are fifty-eight in all ) in the monastery are from the 12th century and show that the Monastery had been under the patronage of the famous Vakhtangyan dynasty of Artsakh, and served as their spiritual centre and family graveyard. Arzu-Khatun, who built one of the most beautiful buildings of Dadivank, was not only a princess by birth but also an expert in and benefactor of the arts, and the sponsor of Mkhitar Gosh, the renowned medieval writer, lawyer and statesman. When she married Prince Vakhtang of Haterk and Khachen, she took up embroidery and together with her daughters made embroidered curtains for several monasteries such as Haghpat, Makaravank, Dadivank and others.  All the curtains have since become famous for their artistic value. 


Dadivank from the north-east.
The Dadivank monastic complex from the north.