The sun was shining and we were exploring famous Armenian monasteries, starting with Haghpat and Sanahin, both UNESCO World Heritage. Later we visited Odzun, before we endend the day above the ruins of Horomajr. Each of them was fascinating in its own way.
The Haghpat Monastery, built in 977, had us standing there in awe. The word which came to our minds was “archaic”, as we were admiring the size and architecture of this monastery.
Something which is only found in Medieval Armenian churches is the gavit, a kind of atrium to the west in front of the entrance to the church. It served as mausoleum and assembly room. Haghpat has 2 very impressive ones, one in front of the main church, and one next to it, in front of a small chapel.
We are definitely now in the land of the khachkar, the Armenian cross-stone, a carved, memorial stele bearing a cross, and often with additional motifs such as rosettes, interlaces, and botanical motifs. They are characteristic of Medieval Christian Armenian art and you can find them everywhere. Every stone is different and beautifully elaborated.
The library, built in 1063, was another very impressive building, all the columns had different designs and were amazing. The library was used for the manuscripts and other precious objects of the monastery.
Artem Mikoyan – born in Sanahin in 1905, was the co-founder of the design bureau, which developed the MIG fighter jets, a monument and a museum honour him in his place of birth. His older brother Anastas Mikoyan was a very powerful figure of the Soviet regime.
Next to the church, a horseshoe-shaped double arch, each one with a narrow stele in it, stands on a seven-step base. It is dated to the 6th century, a specialty of the early Christian art of Armenia. The steles are decorated with small relief fields in vertical narrative sequences, depicting biblical scenes and the Christianisation of Armenia.
We had actually enjoyed to visit all these monasteries, as each one was different but all very old and in a very original condition, which you don’t see very often. For the next day, there were some more monasteries planned, but we also found a castle, before we were on our way to Gyumri. More on our next post!