The monastery complex of Makaravank (Tavush district) in the north of Armenia occupies small high-altitude areas of the forested slopes of the Bazum mountain ridge. The monastery was surrounded with mighty walls. Numerous residential structures were situated on an enclosed territory. Makaravank’s structures are built of dark-pink andesite and red tuff.
The exterior decoration of Makaravank’s main temple (1205) is the more expressive. Over the central window of the southern facade there is a sun dial and below it, on the cantilever column, a representation of a dove; the round windows vary in their shapes and ornamentation. The entrance portal is rectangular, with a semi-circular inner niche. The dome drum is skirted by a graceful twenty-arch arcature on twin half-columns. The arches are made as an ornamental band.
The wall of altar dais was decorated with geometrical ornaments. The profiled eight-pointed stars and octagons between them, arranged in two rows, are covered with varied and rich carving unique in the architecture of medieval Armenia. It features various floral motifs, making up unusual bouquets, all kinds of fishes and birds, as well as sphinxes and sirens. Of interest is a boatman looking ahead, and a man’s figure, placed inside an octagon up the left edge of the altar dais wall and inscribed «Eritasard» - probably a self-portrait of the carver. All this is enclosed in a strongly profiled frame which draws the onlooker’s attention to the reliefs inside it.
The vestibule was built before 1207. The decoration of the vestibule is subordinated to the artistic features of the main temple, which shows especially clearly in ornamental carving. The western portal has a stepped framing which includes the window above.
Bas-reliefs are carved on the middle ledge, at the sides of the window. At the right side there is a winged sphinx with a crown on its head, and at the left side a lion attacking an ox.
The church of St.Astvatzatzin (1198) is a miniature building.
The church of St.Astvatzatzin is round only in its lower part and octahedral in its upper part, with four triangular niches crowned with various conchs. The dome is proportionate to the lower round bulk. The decoration of the church is in stylistic harmony with that of the main temple and the vestibule. On the northern side there are eye-catching reliefs of an eagle and a snake, and over the southern window a scene showing two beasts locked in a fight.