Haghartzin monastery ensemble

X-XIII cc.

In the upper reaches of the Aghstev River, there is Haghartzin monastery ensemble of the Tavush district. It is situated in dense oak wood, in the gorge of small but turbulent mountain river. The local terrain and scenery determined the compositional peculiari­ties of this ensemble.

The church of St.Astvatzatzin (1281) de­serves special mention. This is the biggest building of all, the artistic dominant of the ensemble. The tall sixteen-faceted dome, dominating all the other structures, is decorated with a graceful arcature. This adds to the optical height of the dome and creates the impression that its drum is weightless.

The interesting sculptural group of the church's eastern facade shows two men in monks' attires who point with their hands at a model of a church and a picture of a dove with half-spread wings placed between them. The figures are shown wearing different dresses - the one standing right is dressed richer than the one standing left. The faces, with their long whiskers, luxuriant combed beards and large almond-shaped eyes, are also executed in different manners. These are probably the founders of the church, the Father Supe­rior and his assistant.

The refectory of Haghartzin, built by the architect Minas in 1248, is a structure of a rare composition. The structure is divided by pillars into two square-plan parts roofed with a system of intersecting arches. The walls are lined with stone benches, and at the western butt wall, next to the door, there is a broad archway for the numerous pilgrims to get in and out. Decoration is concentrated only in the central sections of the roofing, near the main lighting apertures. The proportionally diminishing archi­tectural shapes create the impression of airiness and space.

Among the memorial khachkars of Haghartzin there are unique and highly artistic ones. Of interest is the ornamental carving of a thirteenth-century khachkar placed next to the southern door of St.Astvatzatzin (Holy Virgin) church.

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