The monastery of Hakobavank (literally “monastery of Hakob”) or Metsaranits is located in the Martakert district of Artsakh in 1.5 km from the village of Kolatak (the historic province of Mets Hayk, the province of Metsarank, later renamed to Lower Khachen). In historical chronicles, there is no information on the specific date of the establishment of the monastery.
The oldest inscription carved on the pendant of the khachkar (used for the re-construction of the church) dates back to 853.
According to information in the chronicle sources, individual buildings of the monastery, including churches, were built, renovated, and re-constructed between the 9th and 18th centuries. One of the manuscripts stored in the Matenadaran (Institute of Ancient Manuscripts) claims that the Church of Metsaranits was re-built by the mother of Hasan-Jalal and sister of Ivane and Zakare Princess Horisha for “the salvation of the soul” (12th century).
In the Middle Ages, Hakobavank was considered to be the shrine of Eastern Armenia, a place of pilgrimage for believers. In the 13th century, the monastery, which used to be a diocesan center, became the residence of the Catholicos.
The Hakobavank complex consists of two churches, two porches, and residential and household premises surrounded by a defensive wall. Most of the buildings communicate with each other through passages.
The first church of the monastery is a long rectangular single-nave hall. The altar’s position in this church is higher than usual since the easternmost cell adjacent to the northern wall is located directly below it. From the west to the church adjoins a three-arch hall-porch, so the western facade of the church is at the same time its center.
The masonry is unusually beautiful – against the walls of blue stone, khachkars of pink stone, tombstones with epigraphic inscriptions of gray and white, as well as a sundial of light orange stone (a kind commonly used in wall building) look quite organic.
From the north to the porch adjoins the second church of the monastery. This is a rectangular church with an apse in the east. Two entrances lead to the church – from the south through a three-arch porch and from the west through a chapel attached to it.
The porch of the second church is one of the most ancient structures of its kind. It is distinguished from other buildings of its type by the fact that it is attached to a small church and is connected to it by a 2.5 meters wide corridor.
The porch is a square structure, with its arch supported by intersecting arches that rest on pilasters. The parlor, aside from its main function, served as a burial vault for the nobility and representatives of the higher clergy. Catholicoi Aristakes, Simeon, and Hovhannes are buried here.
The small architectural forms of the monastery, in particular, its khachkars, tombstones, arches, cornices, etc., being perfect examples of medieval art, have a high artistic value.
In the territory of the monastery complex, there used to be other buildings as well. These were a matenadaran, a scriptorium, cells with balconies hanging over the precipice, reservoirs, storerooms, stalls, tonirs, etc.
The original article was prepared by Natalia Gukasyan. Photos: www.mamul.am