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The Republic of Armenia is situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Georgia are its geographical borders. The capital of Armenia is Yerevan, and the official language is Armenian.

Armenia hides numerous beautiful and historical cultural sites, which are included in the World Heritage list of UNESCO. They are the churches and cathedrals of Echmiadzin, the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots, The Monastery of Geghard, and The Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin.

Christianity has played a very significant role in the development of architecture and art in Armenia. The 'classic style' evolved in the fifth to seventh centuries, but further evolution was abruptly halted in the seventh century due to Arab occupation. Armenia became independent only at the end of the ninth century, and the natural identity was re-established, and the art forms were revived.

In this period, the two Byzantine monasteries-The Haghpat Monastery and The Sanahin Monastery were constructed. They were considered important learning centers and housed around 500 monks—these two monasteries were eloquent testimonies to the achievements of Armenian architecture.

Located in the north of the country, very close to the border of Georgia, the region is full of tapered rock formations, gorges, abandoned factories, red-stone plateaus, and small villages. It has a kind of otherworldly beauty that cannot be experienced elsewhere.

If you are eager to know more about the Haghpat Monastery and Sanahin Monastery, keep reading.

Discovery And History

The Haghpat Monastery, otherwise known as 'Haghpatavank,' is a monastery complex built during the 10th-13th centuries. The Haghpat Monastery was established by the wife of Ashot III (the Bagratid king), Queen Khosrovanuysh, probably in 976. The Sanahin Monastery, which is situated nearby, was also constructed around the same period. Sanahin Monastery is also an Armenian Monastery founded in the Lori Province during the 10th century.

The Haghpat Monastery, founded by Queen Khosrovanush (the wife of King Ashot III) in AD 976, consists of two corridor-sepulchers, one narthex, and a refectory, the Chapel of Hamazasp, a scriptorium, a belfry, cross-stones, and several chapel-tombs all surrounded by a towering rampart. The Haghpat Monastery is located in a mountain cirque on a verdant peninsula surrounded by wreathing clouds. The Haghpat monastery complex is partly overgrown by flowers and grass, which offers a treat to the eye during springtime.

 Sanahin means 'this one is older than that one' in Armenian. It is due to the claim that there were monasteries older than the Haghpat Monastery in the neighborhood. Both villages and the two monasteries have many similarities. They lie on a plain with a view of each other built on a dissected Plateau formation. They are separated by a crack or canyon formed by a small river that flows into the Debed river.

 The Surb Astvatsatsin, the first Church in Sanahin Monastery, was built during the rule of King Abbas I in the '30s and '40s of the 10th century. In 966, King Ashot III and his Queen built the Holy Savior Church, founded a High school congregation, and also invited scholars, writers, and clergy members. After a few years, in 979, the Sanahin Monastery became the seat of the new Bishop, Isaiah of the Kiurikian dynasty, by a decree of King Smbat II.

The chapel of Saint Gregory and the library were built by Diocoros Sanahnets, who was a great orator. During his period, the Caring School was upgraded into an Educational Centre, and various manuscripts flourished which were written at that time, and the library was also enriched. The school taught music, medicine, philosophy, calendar, rhetoric, and other sciences. As per Legends, a hall named 'Magistros Seminary' connected the churches Surb Astvatsatsin and Surb Amenaprkich.

The Sanahin Monastery underwent a bad phase which started in the second half of the eleventh century and after the fall of the Kiurikian dynasty (1113). Nevertheless, The famous Sanahin bridge across the Debed river was built at the end of the 12th century. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, there was a remarkable improvement in the art of writing in Sanahin Monastery (35 manuscripts are still preserved). The most memorable one is manuscript number 3032, the 'Kotuk,' which has the chronology and valuable information about the Monastery and the congregation's history.

Architecture And Design

The Haghpat Monastery and Sanahin Monastery are a fusion of Byzantine ecclesiastical and Vernacular architecture. Both monasteries are situated in the Lori region of Northern Armenia, and the oldest structures even date back to the 10th century. Haghpat Monastery also has numerous Khachkars or cross-stones standing in the territory.

The largest Church in the Haghpat Monastery complex is the Cathedral of Surb Nishan. It exhibits the typical example of 10th-century Armenian architecture with its Central dome resting on four pillars of the lateral walls. Outside walls have triangular recesses, and a fresco that depicts Christ Pantocrator and its Donor, the Armenian Prince Khutulukhaga, is also depicted.

On the east gable, the sons Of The Church's founder are shown with the Queen in a bas-relief. There are numerous other structures like the small domed Church of Saint Gregory. In the 12th and 13th centuries, many new additions like the Scriptorium, a large refectory, and the chapel of Astvatsatsin were included.

The Monastery has undergone considerable damage. Around 1130, a massive earthquake destroyed many parts of Haghpat Monastery, which could be restored only after 50 years. It has also been attacked by armed forces during its existence and suffered a significant earthquake in 1988. But most of the complex remains intact without much alteration.

The Sanahin architectural Complex was formed about three centuries before. Each of the new buildings boasted of a unique style and were built according to the operational role of the previous one with regard to style and space. The building material for the roof was light gray colored, polished basalt. The architectural decoration and forms were simple but monumental, emphasizing doors, window frames, and cornices on flat wall surfaces. The artistic style of the interiors was created by the combination of districts, domes, and vaulted arches with logical, symmetrical, and simple pillars bearing them.

Archeological Excavations

Archeological excavations have been taking place in Armenia since the 1870s. Academic Institutions and other organizations have undertaken projects to shed light on Armenia's history and catalog the artifacts' wealth. The UNESCO World Heritage sites of Armenia include three significant sites of Archaeological importance. Among them, the archeological site of Zvartnots represents the ecclesiastical architecture of Armenia.

According to the data published in 2021, there are 24,221 cultural and immovable historical monuments all over Armenia. When discoveries are made, they are added to the list. The cultural and immovable historical monuments list includes many places of worship and religious structures, chapels, monasteries, monastic complexes, and churches. According to information gathered from MESCS, 192 places of worship and religious structures are transferred under the Armenian Apostle Church.

Recently stringent laws have been implemented to preserve these historical sites and monuments, which regulate activity in the area. To excavate Armenia's territory, obtaining a permit is necessary. Permits are issued only in accordance with the government regulation of 2002(amended in 2019). In the application for the permit, the necessity of the excavation has to be substantiated, and the qualifications of the expedition leader have been identified.

The committee of the Archaeological Interdepartment of MESCS approved Mini excavations in the monument vicinity- in 2018, 46 excavations, 45 in 2019, and in 2021, 50 excavations were approved. For the first time, in 2021, six archeological excavations were conducted. But no new applications were submitted for archeological excavation until the first quarter of 2022.

The state has recently allocated funds for excavation at various archeological sites. The MESCS informed the EVN report that they have no statistics on unexcavated archeological sites as it is impossible to list them in Armenia.

The Monasteries Of Haghpat And Sanahin are not isolated as they are located in a village environment surrounded by numerous hamlets.

Attraction

The Haghpat Monastery and The Sanahin Monastery, the highest achievements of architecture, attract many tourists worldwide. Today, these monasteries are visited by pilgrims and tourists eager to witness and explore the two complexes inscribed in the World Heritage list.

People are surprised and amazed by the severe and majestic architecture, which is truly impressive. Both monasteries are outstanding examples of the ecclesiastical 'domed hall' architecture which united the Vernacular traditional buildings style and Byzantine architecture.

The main attraction of Haghpat Monastery is the views of the area in and around Debed canyon. The main Church building Surb Nishan is so admirable that it cannot be missed. The Church's central dome rests on four massive pillars on the side walls. The external walls covered by triangular niches and the apse with the Fresco of Christ Pantocrator are incredible. There is also a bell Tower, Surp Astvatsatsin- the small chapel in Haghpat and many buildings and churches worth exploring. There are also many random holes or hiding Scrolls on the floor, which intrigues the visitor.

The Sanahin Monastery has many buildings on a plateau above the Debed gorge. It is skillfully integrated into the backdrop of the Mountain landscape with the buildings facing West, laid out on two rectangular axes. The main Church is the Cathedral of Redeemer. Two-story Chapels or sacristies surround the central dome of the Cathedral, and the harmony between the square base and the central dome is breathtaking.

The plan of the Cathedral is that of a cross inscribed in a square. Ample lighting seeps through an aperture in the center of the dome. The Church is the earliest known example of its origin in Northern Armenia's peasant dwellings. The Church is shaped like a square with four pillars supporting the roof with a central hole to disperse the smoke.

The Oldest building, the Church of the Mother of God, is connected to the Cathedral through an open-ended passage within walking distance. The extensive library known as Scriptorium, with its niches of different sizes to store books and codices, are worth visiting. Other main structures are the Gregory Magistros Academy and the Cemetery, which contains the mausoleum of 12th century Zakarian Princes. An exquisite spatial quality, which is a visual treat, can be witnessed due to the abundance of light along the walls of the deep niches of the Cathedral.

FAQs

Who built Sanahin Monastery?

Queen Khosrovanuysh laid the foundation to build the Sanahin Monastery. Amenaprkich ( the holy savior) called Katoghike is the largest Church in the complex, which is built on the southern side of the St. Astvatsatsin Church.

When was the Haghpat Monastery built?

The Haghpat Monastery is a medieval complex in Haghpat in Armenia which was built between the period 10th to 13th centuries.

Who was the architect who built the Monasteries of Haghpat?

Trdat Architect, the chief architect of the Bagratid kings from Armenia, built the Haghpat Monastery complex.

When was it designated as a World Heritage site?

The Haghpat Monastery was prominent as a masterpiece in religious architecture, and it was also a major learning center during the middle ages. Considering all this, UNESCO listed The Sanahin Monastery and The Haghpat Monastery as World Heritage sites in 1996.

In 1996 only Haghpat Monastery was inscribed as a World Heritage site. The Sanahin monastery was included in the world heritage list only after the ownership of the latter became apparent in 2000.

What is the architectural style of Haghpat Monastries?

The two monasteries, The Haghpat Monastery and The Sanahin Monastery, are representations of Armenian religious architecture, whose unique style is a blending of the Vernacular architecture and the Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture of the Caucasian region.

What made the Monasteries of Haghpat famous?

The Monastery of Haghpat is one of the most impressive and most significant monasteries in Armenia. The Haghpat Monastery is famous for its school and rich library. The school is renowned for its learning center, where music, rhetoric, manuscript illumination, and philosophy are taught. Moreover, The area of the two monasteries, Haghpat and Sanahin Monasteries, is increasingly becoming a popular tourist attraction now.

Where are the Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin Monastery located?

The Sanahin monastery and the Haghpat Monastery are serial properties in Northern Armenia in the Lori province. They are located 16 km apart-The Sanahin monastery is situated above the city of Alaverdi. In contrast, the Haghpat monastery is located further north in a village with the same name.

Written By
Joan Agie

<p>With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.</p>

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