Haghpat monastery

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The Haghpat monastery is situated in the north of Armenia, in the same named village (Lori district). Standing on a high plateau, amidst low structures, they rise sharp against the background of steep forest-grown slopes of Bazum ridge.

The exact date of the foundation of Haghpat is unknown. Documentary evidence and monuments of material culture suggest that these structure date back to the middle of the 10th century. The formation of Tashir-Dzoraget kingdom of the Kyurikids in 979 and the great attention paid to Haghpat by various rulers of Armenia and their vassals favored the construction of many religious and civil structures there. In this monastery humanitarian sciences and medicine were studied, scientific treatises written and paintings, most miniatures created.

The main monastery buildings are grouped around chief temple. Religious structures are of the cross-winged dome type and have side-chapels in four corners, or of the cupola hall type. The structure of the fist type is St.Grigory church (1005), which lost its dome during the reconstruction in 1211.

The most important of the cupola-hall type buildings is St.Nshan church, founded by Khosrovanuish in 976 and completed in 991. The decoration, particularly ornamental carving, is very modest. A sculptural group of Smbat and Kyurike kings with a model of the temple in hands, which brings it closer to a three-dimensional sculpture fitted into a wall niche. The interior St.Nshan was decorated with frescoes which are almost totally lost by now. The altar apse was decorated with frescoes twice, the last time in the second half of the 13th century. Probably the whole of the interior was covered with frescoes.

Vestibules were intended for morning and evening services. Parishioners for whom there was no room left in the temple stood there. Such vestibules include the so-called Hamazasp building, erected in 1257. This is the usual type of structure rectangular in the plan - the biggest such structure in Armenia. The squat proportions of the building and its architectural details create the impression of interior and exterior heaviness.

Originally, the vestibule of St.Nshan church was a small vaulted gallery-type sepulcher of the Kyurikid kings, built in 1185. Under Father Superior Hovhannes of Khachen it was extended westwards in 1209. The artistic form of the interior is extremely expressive, which makes the vestibule very much different from others.

Vestibules and galleries, as well as special structures, served as sepulchers for members of aristocracy. There are several such structures in Haghpat. They differed from each other in their architectural composition, which is evidence of the great creative ingenuity of their architects. The sepulcher of Ukanants family (the early 8th century) is made as three large rectangular memorial chapels standing side by side. These also serve as pedestals for khachkars.

The bell-tower of Haghpat (1245) is one of the earliest examples of structures serving this purpose. This is tall three-floor tower. Its first storey is cross-shaped in the plan, and the second one rectangular, with the angles cut off. The artistic composition of Haghpat’s bell-tower found its reflection not only in later bell-towers, but also in various other buildings - mausoleums and even churches.

The book depository of Haghpat (11th) is unique building illustrating the high level of development of civil architecture in the 11th-13th century Armenia. Such buildings were erected, as a rule, away from the main churches of the monastery. They were square-shaped in plan and had a niche for keeping manuscripts in. Special attention was paid to the design of the roof which gave the book depositories a distinctive appearance.

The refectory of Haghpat stands out among the civil monuments of Armenia. This structure, dating back to the middle of the 13th century is rare in its architectural composition.

The 1258 structure over a water spring in Haghpat, which is still in use, is triple-arched, with the middle arch larger than the side ones. There are stone troughs stretching along the back wall of the structure for watering the village cattle, and also a water reservoir used by local residents. The vaulted composition was prompted by the climate of the country. The cool and damp air inside is a good protection against the scorching midsummer sun.

Haghpat complex is especially rich in khachkars, which were intended not only as memorials. Most of the khachkar 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 (1273) stands out for a great number of realistically depicted human figures fitted into the unique composition of the decor.

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