Monasteries of Haghpat and
Sanahin (1996, 2000)
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These two Byzantine monasteries in the Tumanian region from the period of prosperity during the Kiurikian dynasty (10th to 13th century) were important centres of learning. Sanahin in particular was renowned for its school of illuminators and calligraphers. The two monastic complexes represent the highest flowering of Armenian religious architecture, whose unique style developed from a blending of elements of Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture and the traditional vernacular architecture of the Caucasian region.
The fortified monastery of Haghpat was founded by Queen Khosrovanush around 976. It has a St. Nshan church finished in 991 by Smbat Bagratuni and his brother Gurgen, and served as the religious headquarters of the Kyurikians.
The gavit was built in 1185, with the following inscription on the N facade: “In the year 634/AD 1185, I Mariam, daughter of King Kyurike, built with great hope this house of prayer over our tombs -- those of my paternal aunt Rousoudan, my mother Tamara, and myself, Mariam, under the superior Ter Barsegh, archbishop, who finished the construction. You who enter through its door and prostrate yourself before the cross, in your prayers remember us and our royal ancestors, who rest at the door of the holy cathedral, in Jesus Christ.”
Sanahin is a village in the Northern Lorri province of Armenia, now considered part of the city of Alaverdi (the cable car that connects it with the Alaverdi centre is supposed to have the steepest climb in the whole former USSR). The village is notable for its monastery complex, founded in the 10th century.
The name Sanahin literally translates from Armenian as "this one is older than that one", presumably representing a claim to having an older monastery than the neighbouring Haghpat. The two villages and their monasteries are similar in many ways, and lie in plain view of each other on a dissected plateau formation, separated by a deep "crack" formed by a small river flowing into the Debed river. As with Haghpat, Sanahin is frequented by an increasing number of tourists, due to its recent inclusion on the itineraries of numerous Armenian tour agencies, the beauty of its monastery complex matching that of Haghpat's. The complex belongs to the Armenian Apostolic Church with numerous khachkars (stones with elaborate engravings representing a cross, see stamp below left) and bishop gravesites scattered throughout it.
As an aside, it should be mentioned that Sanahin was also the birthplace of the two well-known Mikoyan brothers. Artem Mikoyan was a well known airplane constructor, and one of the "fathers" of MIG fighter planes. Anastas Mikoyan was the politician with the longest "career" at the Soviet politburo, He was involved in negotiating the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, was a member of the Soviet delegation trying to improve relations with Tito's Yugoslavia, and played a major role in the Cuban Missile Crisis negotiations.
Sources and links:
Other World Heritage sites in Armenia (on this site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing (Armenia-section for further information about such sites.
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Revised 21 jul 2006