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Haghpat 2: A Medieval Center of Learning. J’grashen Church (St. Astvatsatsin) (1)

A Medieval Center of Learning

Haghpat rivaled Sanahin not just for religious rights, but also as center of learning and repository for books and manuscripts. (The Gugark bishopric moved to Haghpat from Sanahin in 1081 and remained until 1836.) Its library was renowned and Haghpat's manuscripts and miniatures are legendary.

Teachers at the monastery included Grigor Magistros and the renowned Superior of the Monastery, Hovhannes Sargavak (“Imastasser” or Philosopher) (1045-1129). Favored by King David of Georgia, Sargavak counted among his accomplishments the reformation of the Armenian calendar, theological and mathematical treatises, medical and natural science studies, and the collecting and editing of more than 50 religious manuscripts. In 1873, an Armenian historian discovered a cave with petrified manuscripts, believed to be the cave where Hovhannes kept his library and studied. His gravestone is under the belfry at Haghpat.
At the time, several hundred monks lived in Haghpat monastery.
The Haghpat Gospel
Monastery monks produced the Haghpat Gospel. Scribe Hagkop copied it on the order of Sahak of Ani in 1211. It was then illustrated by Margaré, a painter who lived in nearby Ani. The Gospel is famous for its illuminations; miniatures in which secular features blend into religious scenes. The khorans (designs composed of columns and arches used to frame canon tables which compare the content of the Gospels) are decorated with men's figures in secular costumes of the period. Of interest are the representations of standing men in expensive costumes, one with a jar and the other with a fish on a stick, and of a “gusan'' musician sitting in the shade of a fruit tree.
The only narrative scene in the Gospel is the Entry into Jerusalem which shows figures dressed in Armenian clothing welcoming Christ entering Jerusalem on a donkey. The inscription says “Christ, with brothers Sahak and Arakel, receiving the Gospel.” It also shows a fragment of the city, a rich house and its owner.
The Gospel was taken to Horomos Monastery (Ani) and in 1211 given to Arjo Arich (or Alajah, a village in Shirak region) Monastery, built by the Sahak family. In 1223 the gospel was donated to Khach'n Bishopric, then carried to Artsakh (present Karabakh) and in 1920 to Echmiadzin. It now resides in the Matenadaran institute in Yerevan (manuscript 6288).

J’grashen Church (St. Astvatsatsin) (1)

This small chapel lies outside the monastery walls just beyond the parking lot. It is dated 1195, after the construction of the first monastery church, St. N'shan. The word “j’grashen” denotes “built out of agitation or anger” (from the medieval use of the word for 'liver' —in Europe 'spleen') and legend has it the church was built in a fit of anger by a student of the architect of Sanahin Monastery. The small church has some handsome khachkars on its west façade with a long expression of faith in the phrase carved as an arch over the portal.