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Vahe Sarukhanyan

So what if it’s falling apart. What do you care?

The village of Meghradzor is located fifteen kilometers northwest of the city of Hrazdan, on the left bank of Marmarik River. With population of 2,500, it's larger than other villages in the area.

Meghradzor is relatively well-known among local and foreign tourists. The village lies near Armenia's second biggest gold mine, currently operated by an Indian company. But it's not the mine that attracts the tourists, especially since it is closed to the public and off-limits to photographers.

Tourists come to Meghradzor to visit the Tejharuyk monastery complex, which is over 800 years old. The monastery is south of the village, on the forested mountain above the right bank of the Marmarik River. It is a Chalcedonian (Orthodox) monastery, consisting of a church, two chapels and a yard. The Soviet Encyclopedia provides some details about the complex. According to the encyclopedia (and confirmed by the writing in Georgian on the southern facade) the church was built by Ivane Zakaryan, an important figure in Armenian history. Zakare and Ivane Zakaryan, who held the titles of Commander of the Armenian-Georgian Armies and Grand Vizier at the court of the Georgian Queen Tamar, fought against the Seljuk Turks in the 1190s and liberated most of Armenia, creating the Zakaryan kingdom (12 th –14 th centuries).

In 1196-1199 Ivane Zakaryan ordered the construction of the Tejharuyk Church, an impressive structure with a single nave flanked by twin arches. There are prayer chapels on either side of the crescent shaped altar; the right one has stairs that lead to the copula. On the south and north, the church is enclosed by two arched chapels, and on the west, by the bell tower.

Inside there are graves of vassals of the Zakaryans – Georgia's Didebul the Great, Iskhan Buban, and his descendants, who played a major role in Armenian and Georgian history.

Although the historical name of the complex is Tejharuyk, villagers and pilgrims call it Taicharukhi Monastery or Taicharkhavank.

There have been no services at the church the fall of the Armenian Chaledonian Orthodox Church, but it continues to receive pilgrims who are followers of the Armenian Apostolic church. Locals, especially, come here every on every Apostolic holy day, to light candles and pray. Some, according to tradition, tie a ribbon to the “tree of dreams”. There are also people that come from neighboring villages and from nearby resorts. Yet the monastery is slowly becoming a ruin. The roof of the church is in especially dire condition. Rain falls through the holes in the roof onto the altar; the dampness causes deterioration throughout the interior of the monastery.

The Tejharuyk Church is state property, and the Department of Protection of Historic and Cultural Monuments is responsible for its protection and maintenance.

“Our agency at this point has a list of the monuments that are to be renovated with funds from the state budget by 2009. Tejharuyk is not on that list, since there are other monuments today which are in far worse shape. Unfortunately, the funds are very small. For example, this year we will receive 720 million drams, and in 2007 only 620 million. But if there are sponsors or the local community finds resources and wants to renovate the church, we are ready to draft renovation blueprints and provide support,” said Artyom Grigoryan, head of the Department of Department of Protection of Historic and Cultural Monuments.

But in Meghradzor, no one seemed to care much about the fate of the church.

“Who has anything to gain by repairing the church?” Felix Davtyan said with a sour smile.

When we asked Archbishop Arakel Karamyan of Kotayk about what his archbishopric had done to protect the Tejharuyk church, he said, and we quote, “What should it have done? It gave the church wings, and the church is flying away. So what if it's falling apart. What do you care?”