Haritchavank monastery

Founded in the VII c., main church - 1201 y..

The monastery of Haritch (Haritchavank) is situated in the village of the same name in the Shirak district, on a cape formed by shallow ravines and the rivers flowing in them. In the village known since the second century B.C. there survived ruins of ancient fortifications.

On the cemetery there are ruins of a small single-nave basilica of the fifth century with side-chapels in the sides of the altar apse and interesting tombstones with ornamented slabs of the 5th-6th centuries, now at Armenia's State History Museum, Yerevan.

The founding date of the monastery is unknown. Prob­ably it was built not later than the 7th century when its first church was erected. At the end of the 12th century Princes Ivane and Zakhare (Zakharids) bought Haritch from Princes Pakhlavuni and built a new church, fortress walls and a number of service premises.

The privileges granted by the princes to the monastery contributed towards its becoming a large cultural and enlightenment centre of medieval Armenia. At the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century, two monu­mental vestibules were built there of big stones, some measuring 3.5 m.

The monastery was repeatedly recon­structed. The largest of these date back to the second half of the 19th cen­tury after Haritch was made the summer audience of the Ca­tholicos of Echmiadzin in 1850.

Church of St.Grigory was of the cross-winged dome type and dated back to the 7th century. Later, in the 10th century, a one-storey side-chapel was added to the south-eastern corner of the church, and in the 13th century Sargis John added a two-storey side-chapel to its south-western corner.

The second, main, church of St.Astvatzatzin (Holy Virgin) was built in 1201. The lateral sides of the western vestibule, which border on the church interior and to which cantilever stone stairways lead, are built as three-arched colonnades unique in the history of Armenian architecture.

Various parts of the facades are decorated with rosettes, sun-dials, reliefs of a sirin-bird with a woman's head and a crown, doves and other birds - elements of decoration spread in Armenian graphic art. An inscription on the cornice of the left part of the eastern facade says: «God, show mercy to those who have done their work. Amen». This is a rare phenomenon in Armenian epigraphy when the builders, instead of a geo­metrical ornament usually made on all other cornices, cut a stylized inscription in relief.

Shortly afterwards, Prince Vahan Khechup attached a vestibule to the western side of St.Astvatzatzin church (before 1224) which included the northern branch of Grigory church.

South of St.Grigory church there is ruins of another vestibule.

In the south-western corner of the monastery, on the edge of a rocky cape, there towers a small vaulted chapel of the 12th century. As a result of an earthquake, a part of the rock with the chapel on it broke away from the main territory of the monastery. Therefore, it is now impossible to get into the chapel.

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