Sunday, 23 September

Sanahin in Trouble: Millions Spent but Church Roofs Still Leak



The 40.5 million AMD already allocated from Armenia’s state budget to restore and reinforce the Sanahin monastery complex has been misspent. And this squandering of tax payer money has occurred right under the nose of the Ministry of Culture.

It’s all part of an ambitious four year project (2012-2016) to renovate Sanahin, a jewel of Armenian early medieval architecture, in the country’s northern region.

Work to restore and reinforce the churches of St. Astvatzatzin (10th c.) and St. Amenaprkich (966 A.D), along with the Grigor Magistros Seminary, began in the fall of 2012 on the instructions of Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan. 18 million AMD was allocated that year.

Some of the money was to go towards removing plant growth from the roof and walls of St. Astvatzatzin and to reinforce its stone walls.

Hovik Veranyan, the complex’s 70 year-old watchman, was able to remove the top layer of plant growth but wasn’t able to get down under the stones to the roots. So, whatever he did, hasn’t the resolved the problem of cracking walls and leaky roofs.

“I cleaned the church roof. But to get down to the roots, the cement has to be broken up and stones removed from the walls. They told me just to cut the branches,” Mr. Veranyan said.

Workers removed the church’s roofing tiles in 2012 and reinstalled them on a section of the roof. Workers covered the remaining section with plastic sheeting and left the job. This is the extent of the restoration work on St. Astvatzatzin for which the 18 million AMD was allocated.

In 2013, 22.5 million AMD was allocated from the state budget to restore and reinforce the church’s outer vestibule and the Grigor Magistros Seminary.

Hetq has revealed that no such work was carried out in 2013 on the vestibule. As for the seminary, on which partial work was done, its roof and walls continue to leak. Instead, workers went back to the section of the church’s roof left unfinished in 2012 and installed tiles.

They also removed some loose stones from the church’s façade. After cleaning the underlying surface, the stones were replaced. But they did such a lousy job that the already decrepit stones were damaged even more.

Alaverdi parish priest Father Mikayel Shaghoyan told Hetq that the first and second stages of the restoration work at the Sanahin complex are complete. The third stage will begin this spring. Father Shaghoyan says the team of specialists working at the site is quite pleased with the work done so far.

Ahana Ltd. was the company that won the tender for the project announced by the Ministry of Culture in 2011. The restoration plan presented by the company was approved by the Ministry’s Scientific-Methodological Council. Ashot Hovsepyan, who drafted the plan, never monitored any of the work carried on in stages one and two. Local residents say that Hovsepyan never visited the site due to health reasons.

Mr. Veranyan told me the following about the materials used for the restoration work.

“When I saw the basalt tiles brought from the Tzater quarry to use on the roof being unloaded, I noticed they were quite porous. They crumbled in my hands. I immediately informed Sokhak Simonyan, who sells candles at the church.  She forbade the workers from using the tiles. So they were forced to get better ones.”

In the courtyard of St. Astvatzatzin I met Zaven Sargsyan, who heads the Segei Parajanov House-Museum. I asked him what he thought about the state of the buildings at Sanahin and the restoration work that’s been done.

All he would say was that the ministry should implement stricter supervision of the work. Sargsyan raised concerns about the dilapidated state of the northern wall of the St. Amenaprkich Church.

“After it rains, little ponds appear inside the church.  The biggest danger is to the stones forming the arch over the main altar. They are ready to fall any time now,” said candle seller Sokhak.

In fact, the entire roof of St. Amenaprkich is falling apart and torrents of rain water gush down everywhere inside.

While the entire Sanahin monastery complex has been transferred to the control of the Mother See at Etchmiadzin, church authorities have yet to intervene in the restoration work going on there.

Top photo: St. Amenaprkich


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Comments (6)
1. Հասմիկ18:49 - 29 January, 2014
Շատ շհորհակալ եմ Լարիսա Փարեմուզյանին, որ պապբերաբար Լոռվա սրբավայրերի վերականգնման աշխատանքների, հավաստի, լուսաբանմամբ է զբաղվում, ապրելով Սնահինի Սարահարթ հիշում եմ, որ վարչապետ Տիգրան Սարգսյանը 2010թ-ի ապրիլի 13-ին 200 միլիոնի հատկացման մասին էր խոստանում, ցավոք, իր խոսքին տեր չեղավ:Դրանից անմիջապես հետո լսեցի հուշարձաններ ուսումնասիրող հիմնադրամի տնօրեն Սամվել Կարապետյանի զրպարտիչ հայտարարությունը կաթողիկոսի հասցին: Կարծում եմ, որ սրանք իրար հետ կապ ունեն: Եկեղեցուն կարելի է մեղադրել Սանահինում հոգևոր սպասավորներ չունենալու հարցում, բայց ոչ վերականգնման, որոհետև դա ՀՀ օրենսդրությամբ մշակույթի նախարարության մենաշնորհն է, որը, ավաղ, իր պարտականությունները պատշաճ չի կատարում:
2. Արեն21:34 - 29 January, 2014
Հարգելի Լ. Փարեմուզյան, խնդրում եմ, որ Օձունի եկեղեցու վերականգնմանն էլ ժամանակ առ ժամանակ անդրադառնաք: Մանավանդ, կատարվող աշխատանքների որակին և ճարտարապետական տեսքին: Գիտեմ, որ խնդիրներ կան հիմնադրամի տնօրենի և ճարտարապետի միջև: Չեմ ուզում, որ նրանց պռոբլեմների պատճառով եկեղեցին տուժի:
3. Աշոտ21:59 - 29 January, 2014
Սանահինի վանքը բազմաթիվ հայ և օտարազգի այցելուներ ունի, որոնք դժգոհ են Ս. Հարություն եկեղեցու ժանգոտած և քայքայված տանիքից ներս թափվող անձրևաջրերից, վանքի տարածք մխրճվող գերեզմաններից, Ս. Հակոբ եկեղեցու, Զաքարյանների և Արղությանների դամբարանների անմխիթար վիճակից: Եթե քայլեր չձեռնարկվի Ս. Ամենափրկիչ եկեղեցու հարավայի պատը կքանդվի, իսկ որմնանկարներն անձրևաջրերից եղծվում են:Սանահինի վանքը համաշխարհային հուշարձաններ ցանկ մտած սրբավայր է և մշակույթի նախարարուհին պարտավոր հետևողական լինել:
4. Լարիսա00:01 - 30 January, 2014
Աշոտ, Ձեր նշած հուշարձանների մասին հոդվածը մի քանի օրից կուղարկվի : Ես դրանց վիճակին տեղյակ եմ:
5. Steve01:07 - 5 February, 2014
I have fond memories of the day I visited Sanahin and nearby Haghpat monasteries with Zaven Sargsyan and his wife (and the head of a museum in England whose name I forget). It was nice to see his photo in the article. I take doom-laden reports about the condition of Armenian monuments with a pinch of salt. "Restoration" projects seem to be often just moneymaking scams rather than architectural or archaeological necessities. Armenia's monuments urgently need impartial surveys done by conservation experts trained to European standards - people who know the difference between "restoration" and "conservation". The amount of repeated lifting and resetting or replacing of roof tiles that goes on in some of Armenia's monuments seems crazy - yet there are buildings unmaintained for centuries that still have perfectly watertight roofs.
6. Steve01:27 - 5 February, 2014
And regarding Ashot’s "foreign visitors" comment - I was a foreign visitor and on my visit to Sanahin (some 8 years ago) I found nothing there for Armenia to be embarrassed about, and nothing in its treatment or in its condition that was not consistent with the proper treatment and condition of a monument of that age. Zaven, for some reason, objected to the villagers' livestock straying onto the grounds, but for me this just added to the atmosphere. The only slightly troubling aspect was that the amount of vegetation around the monastery had dramatically increased compared to that shown in photographs from the 1970s. I have seen many "restoration" aftermaths in Armenia that would be regarded as horror stories by properly-trained conservation experts. Conservation practices in Armenia are currently so backward, and the Ministry of Culture’s conservation goals so under the heel of the Armenian Church and construction oligarchs, that, in my opinion, if a building is not in a state of near collapse it would be better to leave it well alone.
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