Haghpat

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Haghpat 6: Gallery & Amenaprkitch Khachkar (8). Book Depository (Library) (9).

Gallery & Amenaprkitch Khachkar (8)

The library depository is directly connected to St. N'shan by what is known as the "Savior's Passage". The gallery extends around the east end of St. N'shan, and was used as the monastery academy.

The gallery has a chapel-sepulcher and a number of beautiful khachkars (stone crosses), including the masterwork Amenaprkitch Khachkar.

The Amenaprkitch (All Savior) Khachkar of 1273, dedicated to General Sadun Atabek, is a masterpiece of art, created by master Vahram (he carved a similar khachkar also in Dsegh) and representing the crucifixion with hues of colors painted on the carving. The realistic depiction of Christ, Virgin Mary and Maria Magdalena, 12 apostles and angels was revolutionary for the time, predating the Italian renaissance by 100 years.

The red color on the stone surface is a product of Vortan Karmir, a dye made from a type of beetle found in the Ararat Valley. Vortan Karmir was highly prized for its rich hue, resilience and multiple uses: as cloth dye, paint and stain colorant. So prized was the dye it was sold in weight in gold and found its way into the courts of Egypt, Constantinople and Europe.

Other khachkars in the gallery include two 9th century khachkars showing the Tree of Life under the cross. This image springs from the pre-Christian tradition and is figured in many khachkars, shown as the cross springing from a seed with side branches, along with a sun symbol and the face of Adam. By using pre-Christian symbols in the khachkars, artists were in essence “baptizing” these ancient symbols, showing the power of the Church and that Christ was the source of everlasting life for those who believed.

Book Depository (Library) (9)

Adjoining the northern wall of St. N'shan are the 11th century Book depository (library). The current structure replaces the original which had a round wooden roof resting on internal pillars. The stone roof resting on cross arches was built between 1258-1262 and rebuilt in 1273.

It was in the depository that Haghpat's vast collection of manuscripts was stored. Haghpat was renowned for its manuscript collection: Between the 11th-13th centuries the monastery attempted to turn the complex into a repository for everything written in Armenian, making it the first Armenian Matenadaran (library). The monastery's monks scoured the Armenian kingdom in search of manuscripts, copying those they could not take with them.

In time of attack, manuscripts were scurried away to nearby caves to protect them from invaders. In the mid 13th century, the Mongols tortured the monks to reveal their hiding place, during which three senior and twelve junior clergymen are said to have steeled themselves from the pain with a line from the Gospel: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine."

Note the buried jars in the depository's floor. These were used to store wine and dairy products, the moist atmosphere of the room good for storing both food and manuscripts.