While we like to think otherwise, the world is not always a pleasant place.
I mean, for those of us who live in a first world country, it mostly is – but this is certainly not true for the rest of the world’s population.
In fact, there are many countries that are fighting to survive. Countries that are full of people forced to face death and destruction on a near daily basis. Countries that been struggling, unheard and unhelped, for centuries.
With Armenia being one of them.
This small European country shares its borders with Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. It is often considered for its amazing scenery, lovely people, and its unique culture. Within this, it also happens to be one of the earliest Christian civilisations in the world – making it the home of numerous ancient Christian sites.
But unfortunately, many of these are in danger.
Over the last century, Armenia faced several invasions from neighbouring countries. While it remained strong for most, it eventually fell to the Soviet Union in the 1900s. Then, after regaining independence in 1991, it was drawn into a bloody war with Azerbaijan – a country set on wiping out its religious history completely.
Including the amazing Hakobavank Monastery.
The History of Hakobovank
The monastery of Hakobavank (which literally translates to the ‘monastery of Hakob’) is an ancient Armenian monastery complex located in the Martakert district of Artsakh, approximately 1 mile from the village of Kolatak
While there is no clear information as to when the monastery was established, there is an inscription carved on one of the monasteries khachkars that dates all thew way back to 853 AD – giving us some insight into the age of the building.
According to information gleaned from historical texts, the key individual buildings within the monastery (including its beautiful churches) were built, renovated, and re-constructed between the 9th and 18th centuries.
In fact, an Armenian text stored in the Armenian Institute of Ancient Manuscripts claims that the Church of Metsaranits within the complex was built by the mother of famous Hasan-Jalal, to increase the spirituality of the region.
Throughout the Middle Ages, Hakobavank was the shrine of Eastern Armenia. It was a place of spirituality like few others, serving as a popular location of pilgrimage for believers across the country.
Interestingly, early in the 13th century, the monastery became the residence of the Catholicos – which amongst the Armenian people, was the title for used the principal bishop of the entire country.
There is a reason Hakobovank is so famous within Armenia.
The Hakobavank complex is comprised of two beautiful churches, two amazing porches, and several residential and household premises, all surrounded by a large defensive wall. Most of the buildings are attached via small passages that travel between them.
The first church in the monastery is a long rectangular single-nave hall. The altar sits higher than normal, as the easternmost cell adjacent to the northern wall is located directly below it. From the west, the church adjoins a three-arch hall-porch, making its western facade the true centre of the building.
The masonry is unusual for the time.
With walls of blue stone, khachkars of pink stone, tombstones with epigraphic inscriptions of grey and white, as well as a sundial of light orange stone, the building has an interesting organic feel that has not been replicated anywhere else in Armenia.
The second church of the monastery adjoins the first to the north. This rectangular church with an apse in the east has two distinct entrances – one from the south through a three-arch porch, and one from the west through an attached chapel.
Amazingly, the porch of the second church is one of the oldest of its kind.
This square structure has its primary arch supported by intersecting arches that rest on pilasters. The parlour, aside from its main function, served as a burial vault for nobility and representatives of the higher clergy.
It is believed that Catholicoi Aristakes, Simeon, and Hovhannes are all buried here.
Historical texts would suggest that the monastery also contained a matenadaran, a scriptorium, cells with balconies hanging, reservoirs, storerooms, and stalls. However, it appears they were destroyed in the 18th century during an avalanche – along with much of the monastery complex.
The Dream of Rebirth
While the Armenian people had every intention of rebuilding Hakobavank and retuning it to its former glory, they have not had opportunity.
When the Soviet Union took over the country in the early 1900s, their atheist approach to life completely eradicated the chance of restoring Hakobavank. In fact, the location was abandoned, left to mother nature.
Then, when they finally managed to escape Russia’s clutches, Armenia was forced into the “care” of the Republic of Azerbaijan –as a result, their history, and the amazing religious monuments within, are at risk of destruction.
If this is let unnoticed you can be sure that Hakobavank will never be rebuilt.
Armenia has repeatedly surprised the world with is strength and stoicism in the face of danger. But many believe the current threat to their culture, and their way of life, is unavoidable if faced alone.
Which is why we want it to be supported by the help and faith of the world.
Supported by your help, and your faith.