About Haghpat Monastery
Haghpat Monastery or ‘Haghpatavank’ in Armenia is part of a fortified church complex originally constructed between around 966 and 991 AD.
Haghpat Monastery history
The monastery was built during the reign of the Kiurikian dynasty. It was founded around 976 by Queen Khosrvanuch, who funded construction of the domed Surp Nishan (Church of the Holy Cross) at the centre of the complex, it saw a building boom in the 12th and 13th centuries. Surp Nishan’s frescoes and the porch, gavit, bell tower, library and chapter house were added at this time. Haghpat Monastery was an important centre of religious studies and housed hundreds of monks.
The monastery’s name means ‘huge wall’, acknowledging its hefty fortifications. The architecture of the Haghpat Monastery and its related church is considered to be an excellent example of medieval Armenian design, with its central dome and four supporting pillars. This unique style developed from a blending of elements of Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture and the traditional vernacular architecture of the Caucasus.
Haghpat Monastery and its surrounding buildings have suffered from numerous natural disasters and invasions, including in 1105 when Selcuk prince Amir-Ghzil set them alight. Moreover, Mongol attacks in the thirteenth century prompted the building of the fortress of Kaian in 1233 to protect Haghpat Monastery.
Haghpat Monastery today
Despite the impact these events have had on the site, visitors to Haghpat Monastery today can enjoy a fairly authentic experience, particularly due to the restoration efforts exerted on the ecclesiastical structure since the seventeenth century. One of its most distinctive characteristics is its floor, which is covered by the gravestones of the Kiurikian family.
In 1996, Haghpat Monastery was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. This made Haghpat Armenia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and the third site to be recognised in the Caucasus (behind Georgia’s Mtskheta and Gelati Monastery near Kutaisi). In 2000, the site was expanded to include a second monastery, Sanahin.
Getting to Haghpat Monastery
The monastery is located in the country’s far north, close to the Georgian border. It is around an hour and a half from Vanadzor, Armenia’s third-largest city and visitors can take Marshrutka vans or taxis which depart from Vanadzor’s bus station.