Back to home

Haghpat 7: Belfry (10). Sayat Nova Memorial (11).

Belfry (10)

The Belfry, along with that at Sanahin, is the earliest of its type in Armenia and the one at Haghpat is the best-preserved. Built by order of Abbot Hamazasp in 1245, the three-story building has two-story niches on its corners, creating a complex set of shapes: cross-form on the first floor, corner niche square on the second floor with the transition between the two made with trefoils crowned with triangular gables. The open belfry (rotunda) is made with seven columns supporting a seven-facet set of arches topped by a tent roof.

Sayat Nova Memorial (11)

One of Haghpat's most famous residents was the 18th century poet and musician, courtier Sayat Nova (1722-1795). Considered by many the greatest ashugh (folk singer-songwriter) that ever lived in the Caucasus, he was born Harutiun Sahakian, in the village of Sanahin and raised in Tiflis (Tbilisi).

Skilled in writing poetry, song and playing the Kamancheh (a bow string instrument related to the violin), he achieved fame at the court of King Heracleh II of Georgia.

Sayat Nova wrote equally well in Armenian, Turkish and Georgian and more than 200 musical pieces are attributed to him, though it is believed he penned thousands. Sayat Nova's poetry and music feature allusions to Armenian folklore, song, popular wisdom and philosophy. Biblical allusions also proliferate in his poetry which integrated elements of classical Armenian into the Tiflis (Tbilisi) vernacular he used. A sample from his early period is the first stanza of the minstrel piece, a love song: “I sigh not, while thou art my soul!” (trans.: Alice Stone Blackwell):

I sigh not, while thou art my soul! Fair one, thou art to me
A golden cup, with water filled of immortality.
I sit me down, that over me may fall thy shadow, sweet;
Thou art a gold-embroidered tent to shield me from the heat.
First hear my fault, and, if thou wilt, then slay this erring man;
Thou hast all power; to me thou art the Sultan and the Khan.

He lost his position at court when he fell in love with the king's sister Princess Anna and spent the rest of his life in exile, his last years in Haghpat with a religious name Father Stepanos. He served first as a monk (beginning 1768), then as Grand Sacristan (1778-1795). His later period intertwined religious themes with haunting pieces of love lost and the despair of unrequited love.

In 1795 Sayat Nova was killed at Haghpat during an uprising in the area, by the soldiers of Agha Mohammed Khan in an expedition against the Georgian Kingdom, which was subsequently reincorporated into Iran. His songs survive to this day and are considered the jewels of Armenian folk music.