The Shirak province of Ayrarat state of historical Armenia has many architectural monuments of different times. There is a remarkable monument in a classic style of middle ages with a name of Harichavank.
So, what does Harichavank mean? If we open the word “Harichavank” in the Armenian language, we will get “Harichi Vank” (Հառիճի վանք), means ” Harich Monastery”.
In 1980-1985 there was a work for exploring and renovating the monastery. After investigating separate parts, investigators found out that, though there is an information about Harichavank, there is a need of correction.
About the Location of Harichavank
Harichavank is one of the cultural and religious centers of Armenia in middle ages. It is on the northern slope of Aragats mountain. In the south of the monastery, there is the residence of the Bronze Age. Archeological studies found out that it lasted until the 10th century.
According to H. Acharyan, Harich or Arinj means “village”. But Manandyan doesn’t agree with this view. He considers it more possible, that Harich or Arinj means “fortress” or “castle”.
The History of Harichavank
There is a little information about Harichavank in the historical sources. There aren’t even inscriptions about the date of the establishment. We can get an information from Mkhitar Anetsi narrator. He wrote about the places that Zaqaryans liberated. In the number of the regions that Zaqaryans liberated Anetsi mentions Harichavank too.
There is an information about Harichavank in Vardan narrator’s “Ashkharhatsoyts” work.
In Simeon narrator’s Patriarch’s “Jambr” work there is a little, but valuable citation about Harichavank. According to him, the date of the establishment goes back to 895 when Smbat I was the king. But it’s beyond suspicion that the date of the establishment is earlier than Simeon Patriarch mentioned. The evidence of this is that St Grigor church, one of the groups of the monuments of Harich is a 6-7th-century building. Besides, there are many marks of monuments from earlier ages where you can see the date of 572.
The Earliest Inscription of the Monastery
Among the inscriptions, the oldest one refers to the 7th century. On the southern wall of the Grigor monastery, you can read the manuscript of St Grigor. He wrote, that he rebuilt the church for the covenant of Harich. In the cemetery, there is the St Grigor’s tombstone. There he is remembered as a first guide to the second building. This inscription is from 1185 or 1190 years. From this information, we can conclude that the century of the ruination of the monastery is the 6th. For hundred years the monastery was a wreck until Grigor guide rebuilt it. And we don’t know anything about the monastery’s condition during that hundred years as bibliographical and lithographical sources are keeping silence.
Zaqare and Ivane Zaqaryans
After liberating some provinces of Armenia from Seljuk Turks Zaqare and Ivane Zaqaryans started wide structural activities. During those times Tatev, Kecharis, Hovhannavank, Makaravan and other monasteries were complete. After buying Harich and surrounding territories, he builds the gate of the monastery, St Astvatsatsin church. He builds St Harutyun church and the library. From this period there are many inscriptions. But except those inscriptions, there isn’t any other information. It’s possible that Mongols destroyed the monastery during their invasions.
Further facts belong to the 18th century. In 1789 Nerses Ashtaraketsi visits Harich. He reports that the monastery was in a bad condition. It was poor, under the domination of Muslims. In 1795 Agha Mahmagh Khan makes an invasion of Armenia. One of the generals Qyalabala destroys the gates of the monastery and St Harutyun church.
In 1850 the monastic society of Harichavank was built when the monastery was in an inconsolable condition. This society started the renovation of the complex. Then built the buildings attached to the monastery: refectory, apartments of Catholicos, bedroom, a school, eating house and dispensary.
Harichavank consists of two churches St Grigor and St Atvatsatsin, the Gavit, the library and two chapels. A little section is there of the gate surrounding the group of the monuments.
St Grigor Church
The oldest building of the complex is St Grigor church. This is a central domed, cruciate church. This is in the list of Mastara type monuments. Like St Grigor church there are four building from the middle ages: Mastara, Artik, Harich and Voskepar. The close research of these monuments can find out the standards of Mastara type.
There is no information of the date of the establishment. Abel Mkhitaryants considers the church as a tenth-century building. The same view give Jalalyants and Alishan. They use the facts of Mkhitaryants and repeat his viewpoint, though they are in doubt about the right date of the inscription. Other explorers, considering the map of the monument, tell that it is a seventh-century building.
There are three entrances. The first and the main entrance is from western part. The second entrance is from the southern part. The third entrance goes to the gavit of St Astvatsatsin church.
St Astvatsatsin Church
The main church of the group of monuments is St Astvatsatsin church. It has a dominant role in the complex for its location and size.
St Astvatsatsin church grabs attention with its high constructive art, the colors of the stones and for the cultivation of the material.