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Haghpat 4: St. N'shan Gavit (4). St. Astvatsatsin (5)

St. N'shan Gavit (4)

The present gavit adjoins the west end of St. N'shan and was begun by the Abbot Hovhannes of Khachen in 1208/09 on the ruins of a previous building. It is an extraordinary achievement of Medieval architecture in Armenia, for its intricate plan, combining several earlier structures. Originally there was a portico (known as Mariamashen) on the Western wall of the church, built in 1185 on order of Princess Mariam, as a mausoleum for the Kiurikian family. The floor of the gavit is paved with gravestones, putting even the most powerful literally “underfoot”.

In line with other gavits of the time (based on the peasant 'hazarashen' dwelling with a domed central space built around four support columns), St. N'shan's gavit is unusual for its large size (21 x 18 m) and because of its roofing system composed of two pairs of crossing arches repeated twice in height. This daring use of arches expands the space and “lifts” the inner room.

The design is unique among gavits, the arches resting on abutments on three walls, then on two massive columns connected to slender shafts on the western wall. The columns themselves have the same capital designs, unusual for Armenian gavits, columns of which normally change the design of each capital. The top central part (the 'yerdik') is particularly striking, made from alternating colored stone.

There are two small two-story rooms with apses on the eastern corners, used for reading the liturgy. The floor is paved by tombstones of the Kiurikan family, wealthy donors and members of the religious community.

St. N'shan gavit had enormous influence on architecture in Medieval Armenia, especially civil structures, with its use of multi-hued colored stone, intersecting arches and the division of space through roof arcature.

St. Astvatsatsin (5)

Just to the north of the gavit is the main St. Astvatsatsin (1208-1220), also known as the “Khatunashen” for Lady Khatun, the daughter of Prince Hassan Desumian, who had it built.

The church has cruciform type interior encased in square outer walls, topped by a dome, its circular drum covered by a gable roof. The western portal has a geometric frame, the tympanum showing a sun symbol flanked by two small khachkars (stone crosses) with stylized Trees of Life.