HAGHPAT

Haghpat Monastery is a medieval monastery complex in the Lori Province of Armenia. This venerable institution of the Armenian Apostolic Church, perched on the lip of the Debed Canyon, has a UNESCO World Heritage Site status, along with Sanahin Monastery. These two magnificent monastic complexes are among the most outstanding examples of Armenian religious architecture and were the major centers of learning in the Middle Ages.

Haghpat, built by the royal Bagratuni Dynasty in the 970s, was known from early times as the Surb Nshan (The Holy Cross) of Haghpat. Construction was completed in 991. In this monastery humanitarian sciences and medicine were studied, scientific treatises written and paintings, most miniatures created. The monastic complex consists of the churches of St. Nshan, St. Grigor, St. Astvatsatsin, porches, tomb-aisle, Hamazasp’s chapel, refectory, shrines, belfry and numerous khachkars (cross-stones). Haghpat was a major literary center, and maintained rich feudal lands until the monastery properties were confiscated by the Russian Empire in the 19th century.

It suffered from earthquake damage on several occasions, and in 1105 it was taken and burned by the Seljuk Prince Amir Ghzil. Such was the spiritual importance of Haghpat and its neighbor, Sanahin, that the fortress of Kaian was built in 1233 to protect them from the marauding Mongols, still the monastery was taken by storm in 1241. Nonetheless, monastic life continued and new buildings were added later in the 13th century. There was a period of extensive restoration in the 17th century. The Haghpat Monastery also suffered from a major earthquake in 1988. Nevertheless, much of the complex is still intact and stands today without substantial alterations.

The Haghpat Complex is especially rich in khachkars. Most of the khachkars have the traditional shape of a cross which germinated out of a grain, with branches on its sides. In the khachkars of the 10th-11th century the framing of the cross was simpler than that of the 12th-13th century khachkars which developed new stylistic features. “Amenaprkich” khachkar (“All Savior” in Armenian), which has been standing since 1273, stands out for a great number of realistically depicted human figures fitted into the unique composition of the decor.