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Haghartsin Monastery Complex, Armenia

Haghartsin Monastery is located in Tavush Province of Armenia (historical Dzoropor canton of Gugark Province) 18 km far from Dilijan town in the picturesque gorge of upper reaches of Haghartsin River. In 2 km from the monastery there are ruins of ancient Haghartsin village after which the monastery was named. Haghartsin monastery consists of churches, vestibules, burial vaults of two kings of Kyurikians dynasty and a refectory.

Surb Grigor (St.Gregory) church is an ancient construction of the monastery. It was built in the 10th century by the monks who escaped from persecutions in the Western Armenia ruled by Byzantine Empire. The church is rectangular from outside and cruciform from inside. There are four side chapels in each corner. The church is crowned with a dome resting upon octahedral drum.

The monastery was ravaged during Seljuk Turks campaign. The complex was restored in 12th century by order of the Georgian king George III and the Armenian princes.

Haghartsin reached its development zenith under the Father Superior Khachatur Taronatsi who was also a renowned scientist and musician. At the end of the 12th and at the beginning of 13th centuries Haghartsnavank became one of the spiritual and cultural centers of north-east Armenia.

In 1184 Khachatur Taronatsi and Sukias Vardapet restored Surb Grigor church. In 1194 singe-nave small church was built. At the same time prince Ivaneh Zakarian with the support of his vassals Artavazd and Atanes attached a vestibule to Surb Grigor church from the west. It is a square building, with roofing supported by four internal abutments and with squat octahedral tents above the central sections, somewhat similar to the Armenian peasant home of the "glkhatun" type (with open hole in the hipped roof center).

The small domed St. Stepanos church built from sky blue basalt dates back to 1244. It`s a diminutive copy of the main church. There are no abutments dividing the inner space of the church that`s why its interior is cozy and integral.

Surb Astvatsatsin church (Holy Virgin) dominates the whole ensemble. It was built in the 11th century. In 1281-1287 it was reconstructed under the sponsorship of Ter Hovhannes and Ter Sargis. The church is a cross-domed construction. The facades with magnificent decoration are divided by “the Armenian niches”. A graceful arcature of sixteen-faceted dome make it taller and more majestic. The sculptural group of the eastern façade of the church shows two men in monks` attire who point at a model of church placed between them.

The refectory of Haghartsin monastery was built by the talented architect Minas with the participation of architects Movses and Grigores in 1248. It`s one of the best architectural compositions of the Medieval Armenia. The building is divided by pillars into two square-plan parts roofed with a system of original intersecting arches. There is a broad archway for the numerous pilgrims to get in and out.

There are chapels (mostly ruined) and khachkars around the monastery. Not far from the refectory there are ruins of monastic kitchen. During the excavations there was found a bronze pot (350kg) made in 1232 which is kept now in the Museum of Armenian History. The remains of burial vault of two kings – Smbat and Gagik Kyurikians – preserved near the south wall of Surb Grigor church.

The Surb Stepanos, Surb Grigor and Surb Astvatsatsin churches were restored in 1671 and 1681 consequently. At the end of the 18th century Haghartsnavank was ravaged during the campaign of Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar (Kadjar). The monastery resumed its operation in 1862 and was reconstructed in 1901. At present (2012) large-scale restoration works are conducted throughout the monastery.

By Natalia Ghukasyan,


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