Haghpat

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Haghpat 5: Hamazasp Gavit (6). Ukanants Sepulcher (7). Medieval Walls (12)

Hamazasp Gavit (6)

The impressive Hamazasp gavit (1257, known as The House of Hamazasp) is also connected to St. N'shan by a vaulted arcade just north of the book depository gallery. The building – the largest gavit in Armenia (330 sq. m.) – is named for one of the monastery's father superiors, Hamazasp, who ordered its construction.

The building is squat, the roof ending at a slope in the hills. It is rectangular in plan with four identical abutments and columns supporting sectioned vaulting leading to the central octahedral open dome. The ceiling is divided into nine panels with a central skylight. The arches in effect divide the inner space into nine parts.

There is a small church (20 sq. m.) connected to the gavit in the eastern side with a chapel. Because of the outstanding difference in the sizes of the two, the original role of the church was often overlooked and the gavit was considered a separate building. The monks used it for assemblies.

The columns at both Hamazasp and St. N'shan are unique for Armenian gavits, where deliberately altering the design of each capital is usually found. As the design became widespread, alternating designs in column capitals became the norm.

From an engineering standpoint the Hamazasp is remarkable, having survived numerous earthquakes and sackings with little damage to its structure. The building is still studied by students of architecture in understanding the principles of earthquake-proofing.

Ukanants Sepulcher (7)

To the northwest of the Hamazasp gavit, facing monastery walls is the Ukanants family sepulcher, made from three rectangular memorial chapels side by side, their roofs also serving as pedestals for khachkars (stone crosses). The lower structure dates to the early 8th century while the top khachkars are 13th century.

The design follows a tradition from ancient Armenian burial sites, the graves formed into worship sites that in turn became pedestals for tall monuments of stone (steles or menhir stones). In the Christian era, the steles were replaced by khachkars, which were the precursors of modern grave monuments that can be found throughout the country. As this became common, early chapels were replaced by pedestals cut by deep niches.

The chapel's two khachkars were carved between 1211 and 1220 and attributed to the master Vahram. They are among the best of their type, their intricate designs and mammoth sizes tributes to the philanthropy of their donors.

Medieval Walls (12)

The walls date to the 10-11th centuries, after the construction of St. N'shan. Following repeated sackings of the monastery in the 13th-16th centuries, the wall was rebuilt several times, using original cyclopic blocks of stone, black and red tufa stone rubble and lime cement. Its latest reconstruction is 20th century.