Haghpatavanq made from local gray basalt was founded during the reign of Ashot II Bagratuni in 976 and it is situated on the plateau edged by rift canyons a little far from Alaverdi town, the region of Lori. It was considered a spiritual, cultural, secular and well-known education center of medieval Armenia visited by a number of Armenian as well as other prominent figures of the mentioned time to study grammar, rhetoric and theology, secrets of music and art of miniature. Many rich in content manuscripts and registries were decorated in here, but the most valuable one is the Haghpat Gospel. The impressive Haghpat monastery became the diocesan center of Kyurikyan kingdom during 12-14 centuries and the family sepulcher of their honorable predecessors was moved here from Sanahin. In 1105, Haghpat and Sanahin were looted by Seljuk Ghzil Amir and hence in the years from 1111 to 1113 the split kingdom underwent a decline. From the second half of the 12th century until the 14th century Haghpat belonged to Artsrunis of Mahkanaberd then to Zakaryans. By the order of Ivane Zakarian within the area surrounding the monastery the Hahgpat fortress was built for the purpose of defense.
The complex of Haghpatavank consists of St. Nshan (Sign) temple with 2 narthexes, 3 small churches, 2 sepulchers, a refectory, a square hall library, a bell tower, marvelous chapels, tombs and decorated crosses built by Hovhaness of Khachents. And since those days were highly distinguished by constant invasions the complex was surrounded by the tower wall, beyond which was the building of the spring water and several small churches.
St Nshan (Sign), the ancient church of Haghpatavanq, was built during the years of 976 to 991 by the initiative of the queen Khosrovanush, a wife of king Ashot III. It is a brilliant example of the new stylistic direction of architecture, decorated with 13th-century frescoes and which later was copied in numerous structures of the era. According to the legend, it was built by architect Tiridates. It is noteworthy to mention a big unique narthex built at the beginning of the 13th century on the spot of the shrine for princess Mariam, a daughter of king Kyurike. In 1257 abbot Hamazasp built a large narthex, which is still known and titled as Hamazasp’s building.
To protect the buildings of the complex from the rainy torrents permanently coming down the hill along the eastern side of the complex, fortified and vaulted sepulchers and a library were built in the shape of the corridor. In 1245 a three-storey bell tower was erected and each floor has comfortable chapels. The refectory and the memorial monuments built in the 13th century are in the northern part of the complex. At the entrance to St. Nshan, the magnificent cross stone of the Savior which dates back to 1276 is placed in honor of atabek and Amir Sadun.
The richest library near St. Nshan church which is considered one of the medieval treasures was consecrated in the 11th century. Later it was moved to nearby caves as a bookstore and a reading room of the monastery. Etymologically Haghpat means a solid wall and also a trap. The largest medieval monastic complex and the former University Haghpatavanq is under the auspices of UNESCO World Heritage.