The monks of Haghpat Monastery studied science, theology, painting and hand-copied books. The monastery was a monument of prosperity of the Armenian kingdom. It is said that the spirit of competition helped with the construction of the monastery. The monks constructed a temple in nearby Sanahin and one of the students, named Hovannes, boasted that he could make a better temple.
The head architect heard the statement and said “I would advise the one whose words are empty like ringing, to leave the brotherhood.”
With this he expelled the student. Hovannes moved to the next village and began the construction of a temple and fortress. The teacher was curious about the new construction and one day went to see it. As he looked upon the creation he tearfully forgave the student’s audacity.
The head architect was so impressed by it all that he called it ‘precious’, and since then the monastery was known as Haghpat.
The legend goes, as each stone of the monastery was laid, a verse from the Scripture was read. This way, once complete, the sacred place would be a living testament to the Armenian kingdom. The student grew up and became the famous monk, Hovannes the Wise. He was well known as a scientist, philosopher, poet and theologian, and also a reformer of the Armenian calendar. Hovannes’ love of reading was so great that he would spend days in solitary, sorting manuscripts. So passionate was he about his work, he would often lose track of time and forget to eat.
Even today, if you press your hands against the walls of the monastery and be patient, you can hear the sound of ancient Psalms.