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Armenia: Haghpat monastery

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Haghpat monastery | Armenia | Asia

[Visited: May 2012]

A rickety old bus took us from our guesthouse to Alaverdi, and a short wait at the small bus station there was enough for another old bus to leave for Haghpat, our first destination of the day. After driving down the Debed gorge for a while, we turned right, and a steep road zig-zagged all the way up to Haghpat. Our eyes were glued to the window, and soon enough, we got our first glimpse of this famous monastery that, like Sanahin, is a Unesco World Heritage site. Meaning huge wall, after one of its remarkable features, the monastery complex of Haghpat is situated on one of the highest points of the village; a small square in front of it acts as the bus terminus. Instead of barging in right away, we decided to walk around the defensive walls of the 10th century church.

Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): Haghpat monastery with the bell tower in the foreground

This gave us great views of the monastery complex from all sides; in some parts, we had to step on a stone to be able to peek over the thick walls, while in others, we had an unobstructed view of the charming ensemble of a bell tower, the Holy Sign of the Cross church, and other, smaller buildings rising from the fresh green and yellow of the grass and spring flowers, with the impressive Debed Gorge in the background. At the back of the Haghpat Monastery complex, we saw old men gathering under a tree, chatting, and noticed that there was a backdoor entry. But we continued our walk around the walls, and met a vivid old gentleman in a suit, who gave us some leaves of tarragon to eat - during our stay in Armenia, we would meet many people just eating all kinds of plants and grasses.

Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): Arches supporting the roof of the Hamazasp, part of the Haghpat Monastery

We reached the small square again, and it was time to enter the complex. Haghpat is closely related to Sanahin, the monastery that can be seen in the distance; both were constructed in the same period - the 10th century. We saw a mausoleum for the Ukanian family, entered the Hamazasp house, in which we noticed a large amount of swallows flying around the nests they had built in the ceiling. Walking the terrain in a clockwise direction then took us to the free-standing belltower that was added in the mid-13th century. We walked through the library, where we saw the famous Khachkar of the Holy Redeemer, on which an exceptionally well designed biblical scene could be seen. We left the main church of the Haghpat complex for last - the Church of Surb Nshan or the Church of the Sign of the Holy Cross. The gavit is rectangular; the floor full of tombstones. The church itself appeared quite small, but with a high ceiling, and in the apse, we could discern frescoes depicting Christ Pantocrator on top, with fading religious scenes below. Despite its age, and the fact that the monastery suffered earthquakes, attacks from armed forces, and the inevitable wear of the climate, Haghpat still is in a pretty good condition. We liked the atmosphere so much, we almost decided to stay for the rest of the day - but curiosity was stronger, and we walked down towards the main road - hoping to visit Akhtala monastery later that day.

Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): Fresco of Christ Pantocrator in the apse of the Church of the Holy Sign of the Cross at Haghpat
Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): Yellow flowers and grass with part of the Haghpat Monastery in the background
Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): One of the famous khachkars of Armenia, the Holy Redeemer khachkar, can be seen close to the library of Haghpat Monastery
Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): Small cross above a black arch in a wall of the Haghpat Monastery
Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): Close-up of relief in a wall of Haghpat Monastery
Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): Crosses in different sizes carved out in a wall of the Haghpat Monastery complex
Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): Holy Sign of the Cross church: apse with faint frescoes visible
Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): Arched doorway at the entrance of the Church of the Holy Sign of the Cross
Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): Looking up the ceiling with hole in the Hamazasp building, part of the Haghpat Monastery
Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): Tombstones on the floor of the Holy Sign of the Cross church
Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): Buildings and tombstones in the Haghpat Monastery complex
Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): Mausoleum of the Ukanian family, part of the Haghpat Monastery complex
Picture of Haghpat monastery (Armenia): Looking at the Holy Sign of the Cross Church from the east

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