Between 1998 until 2001, LCO worked on the partial renovation of the Saghmosavank Monastery and its complex.
The village of Saghmosavan is located in the Ashtarak region of the Republic of Armenia. It is some 40 minutes northwest of Yerevan and lies on the banks of the Kazakh River.
The awe-inspiring, medieval monastic complex of Saghmosavank is located in this village. This hauntingly beautiful structure can be seen from a distance as one approaches Saghmosavan. The enormous stone monastery and adjacent chapels stand on the edge of a ravine, and Mount Aragadz (the tallest mountain range in present-day Armenia) serves as a backdrop some distance away. The complex is made up of the church of Sourp Sion, the Gavit (a large ceremonial vestibule), the Library, Sourp Astvadzadzin Church and etched khatchkars inside and around the monastic complex.
The complex began with the construction of Sourp Sion church in the early 13th century (1215) by Prince Vatche Vatchoudian. Work continued on the remaining structures and ended in 1255 with the building of the Library by Prince Kourd Vatchoudian. The Old Cemetery, dating from the 13th-14th centuries, is found in the northwest area of the complex. There are a number of notable khatchkars still standing.
One of the best examples of Armenian medieval architecture, Saghmosavank has undergone numerous renovations throughout the ages. The 1988 earthquake did considerable damage to the main structure in the form of severe cracks in the walls and the roof. As a result, water leakage (which freezes during the winter months) had aggravated the damage.
Our volunteers completed renovation of the Gavit, the Bell Tower, Sourp Astvadzadzin Church, and parts of Sourp Sion. They dismantled the interior of the Gavit and repaired the weatherworn ceiling and interior. During this repair period, the volunteers discovered a concealed staircase near the main entrance of Sourp Astvadzadzin that was probably used long ago as an escape route leading to the bottom of the gorge by the Kazakh River. Volunteers continued to repair the damage to the monastic complex and renovated the three remaining edifices. This includes Sourp Sion Church, the Library, and the Cemetery.
The volunteers worked under the guidance of architects and historical preservationist. They performed tasks such as cleaning the walls that had been blackened by aging and weathering (Sourp Sion Church), constructing a drainage system to prevent water seepage through the stone walls, removing and replacing stones, filling cavities in walls, rebuilding the roof, and replacing floor slates in the library. In addition, there were pairs of khatchkars leaning against a structurally weak wall of the monastery. To preserve the valuable khatchkars, this wall was demolished and rebuilt and the khatchkars were carefully reset.Once this phase of the construction was completed, the renovation of the sacramental areas of the Saghmosavank Monastery was complete. In August of 2001, LCO sponsored the oodzoom, or re-consecration, of the Saghmosavank Church. This ceremony served as part of the nationwide celebration of the 1700th anniversary of the establishment of Armenian Christendom. All volunteers serving on a campaign during this time were invited to attend and participate in the celebration.