Haghpat, Sanahin

Monastic complexes of Haghpat and Sanahin 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. Haghpat monastery is one of those two, that were chosen as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1996, the first in Armenia. It is located 190 km far from Yerevan. That medieval monastery complex was founded by Armenian Queen 976. It is built on a verdant promontory located in the middle of a mountain cirque, which is often wreathed in clouds. Among the monks, who spent their lives in Haghpat, was also famous Armenian musician and writer Sayat-Nova (1712-1795), whose songs are in Armenian, Georgian, Turkish and Persian.

Another one is called Sanahin, that literally translates from Armenian as "this one is older than that one". According to the legend, it was built by local architect, the son of who built Haghpat. The father used to tell the son, that he will never became an architect. He left and started to built another monastery. The father told his students to ruin the monastery and to beat the son. The students could not ruin it, since the walls were strong. Also they weren't able to touch the son of their teacher. Henceforth, the father went there, and saw, that the walls were really strong (strong wall - hagh pat). The son told him, that the father's church is older than his (this one is older than that one - sa nra hin). Thus, they were called so, Haghpat and Sanahin.

Sanahin and Haghpat monastic complexes were important cultural centers for many centuries. The inhabitants of those settlements were closer to Tbilisi than to Yerevan. The connections were held even during the middle ages, the best fact of which are the roots and the trails. Sanahin Bridge is one of the most significant architectural constructions of medieval Armenia. The basalt bridge with its bewitching outlines, type of stone and color combines with the picturesque surrounding becoming its inseparable treasure. It is located in Alaverdi city, to the both cites of which Haghpat and Sanahin are located. It was built in 12th century. The bridge is located above narrow and fertile banks of the River Debed flow. The latter means "back-side" (dep-yet) in Armenian, since it's the only one which flows from south to north.

Not far from those two complexes Akhtala monastery is located. It is a 10th-century fortified Armenian Apostolic Church monastery. The etymology of the name Akhtala is believed to be of Turkic origin, meaning white glade. The fortress of Akhtala played a major role in protecting the north-western regions of Armenia and is among the most well preserved of all in modern Armenia. The main church at the compound is famous for its highly artistic frescoes, which cover the inside walls, the partitions, and the bearings of the building. The murals of the main church are one of the best representations of Byzantine art outside the traditional borders of Byzantium. The majority of them bear scriptures in Greek. The murals were painted in 1205-1216.
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