October 1. 2015

Over the past couple of weeks our team of AIST specialists has worked diligently to acquire spatial and historical research data at the Haghpat Monastery Complex. Excellent weather and exceptional cooperation from the current monastery priest, Father Ghazear Torosyan, and past rector, the Very Reverend Father Asbed Balian, now serving as the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, facilitated our work.

Father Ghazear and Me in front of the Bell Tower
Father Ghazear and me in front of the Bell Tower

We were able to collect more data from more related portions of the site then we had originally expected. including the Kusanats Anapat (St. Tiramair), a chapel about half a kilometer from the Monastery. The small church was built in the 13th century, and is located at the top of the hill that holds the village cemetery. We scanned and photographed the church and three exceptionally large khachkars (stone crosses) on its south side that date to the late medieval period.

Work at the Kusanats Anapat (St. Tiramair) Church
Work at the Kusanats Anapat (St. Tiramair) Church

We also were able to complete the interior of the Bell Tower, and importantly the entire interior and exterior defensive walls of the Monastery.

Portion of the exterior wall containing a carved crossed stone monument
Portion of the exterior wall at Haghpat containing  carved crossed stone monuments

We left Haghpat on Thursday, October 1. Many of the villagers that we had become friends with expressed their thanks for our work and asked that we return soon. We made our way to Lake Sevan, an Alpine-type lake lying some 6,000 feet above sea-level. We were about the only visitors to the resort community due to our arrival during the off-season. It was cold and blustery.

Father Gahzar, Vacho and Raiza Ghadyan (Monastery caretakers, and the AIST team
Father Gahzear (center); Raiza and Vacho Ghadyan, Monastery caretakers (right); and the AIST team in front of the Gavit at Haghpat

Our return to Yerevan was an adventure because of events, which included a half-marathon race, in the center of the city. At our every attempt to reach our hotel, the traffic was diverted. We ended up in a traffic jam, the likes of which none of us had ever witnessed. We were halted in the middle of the intersection for about a half an hour, and each vehicle wanted to go in a different direction. We were finally able to make our escape to the left in the photo below, ultimately reaching our hotel.

Yerevan traffic jam
Yerevan traffic jam

In Yerevan, we had the opportunity to visit the craft market, and it was great to be able to see the current artistry of the Armenian craftspeople.

Yerevan Market
Yerevan Market



We also had the opportunity witness Armenian interactions



We also had the pleasure of visiting with Varazdat Hambardzumyan and his son at his workshop in Yerevan. Varazdat is an artist who creates khachkars, or Armenian cross-stones] (խաչքար). His work has been commissioned around the world.These sculptures are usually carved from stone and represent focal points for religious worship or memorials that facilitate the communication between the secular and divine. In 2010, Armenian Cross-Stone Art was inscribed on the UNESCO list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Varazdat Hambardzumyan, (left), his on (center), me, and his apprentices in the rear.
Varazdat Hambardzumyan, (left), his son (center), me, and his apprentices in the rear
An example of Varazdat’s work in progress
Production of a khachkar in Varazdat’s workshop
Crossed stone monument in the Haghpat cemetery
Crossed stone monument in the Haghpat cemetery
An ancient khachkar
Examples of khachkars in Etchmiadzin

Yerevan is a vibrant city in the midst of a construction boom. The people are great and the food is fantastic.


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