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Sanahin 7: Sepulchers. Khachkars

Sepulchres, Khachkars

The southeast part of the 10th-11th cc. Zakarian Sepulchre (11) is a semi-underground crypt with a vaulted ceiling with partially preserved chapels on top. The side chapels are stylistically close to Grigor chapel. The western end, built in 1189, is simpler with a large ornamental doorway.

St. Hakop Church (13) is a cross-winged dome church with four (half-ruined) annexes in its corners. The church was built in the second half of the 10th century, making it one of the earliest structures in the complex. About 20 m east is the 13th century St. Harutiun Church (14), a vaulted hall, interesting for its two identical eastern altar apses.


The khachkars at Sanahin include one carved in 1192, commissioned by Queen Vaneni, who had Sanahin bridge built over the Debed River and memorial khachkar carved for her husband King Abbas Bagratuni, who died prematurely. The single span bridge is in central Alaverdi and still used by city dwellers.

Other significant khachkars include the 1205-1222 khachkar known as Tsiranavor, east of the main cluster of buildings, carved by the master David. According to the inscription on its pedestal, it was erected by Father Hovhannes to commemorate the construction of an inn.

Most khachkars have the traditional cross with fennel seeds and branches of the Tree of Life on its sides. 10th-11th cc. khachkars are generally not as ornamented as 12th-13th cc. stones and overall ornamentation is geometrical (floral motifs, squares and rosettes).

Original text edited by ICOMOS-Armenia and approved by the Holy See of Echmiadzin.