Prepping for Night Scanning

Sep 28, 2015 | 3D World Heritage Program in Armenia

Today we are reversing our sleeping schedules to accommodate night-time scanning for the next two days at the Haghpat Monastery. We will be conducting our work in two of the more heavily visited areas of the monastery, in order to reduce any interference with tourist traffic and daily activities. Tonight we work in two important areas: the Gavit and the Cathedral of St. Nishan.

Sunset from the Hotel showing the Debed Gorge area

The Cathedral is remarkable for its fresco-painted dome, triangular niches, intersecting vaults and cruciform shape (not so obvious from the exterior). While we are now concentrating on the interior, the exterior of this structure is also interesting, with a large bas-relief monumental sculpture carved into its pediment. In the Cathedral, we will perform high resolution scanning at ground and elevated positions, as well as gigapixel and other imaging techniques. Cross-stones and special features and details will be scanned using close range methods as well as our phase shift scanners.

The Gavit served as a narthex-or entrance into the church-and at Haghpat, it is an area of vaulted wings that form a hall. The vaults in this portion of the site were constructed at varying times, but are a great example of medieval architecture. Our laser scanning of these structures will be able to forensically examine architectural aspects of construction and allow for views that are not otherwise possible. The interior scanning will be brought together with the exterior documentation, providing a complete 3D documentation of the entire site and terrain features.

Laser scan detail showing interior vault features at Haghpat

A Bit More on the Background of Haghpat and the Rationale for the Digitization Effort


The history of Armenia and the traditions and identity of its people were and are profoundly influenced by Christianity. Among the most important symbols of the country’s patrimony are the churches and monasteries that played a crucial role in the development of Armenia’s cultural and ancestral legacy. These monastic complexes were centers for advancements in the arts, sciences, and architecture that impacted the development of these disciplines throughout Medieval Europe and Western Asia. Today, these structures, their contents, history, and surrounding landscapes serve as direct ties to Armenia’s exceptional past. They are tangible links that evoke a collective memory and maintain a sense of the Armenian community and identity. They also represent cultural resources that are at significant risk, threatened by natural and human actions.

Image taken from the AIST UAV platform

Known originally as Sourb Nshan (Saint Nishan) of Haghpat, this monastery was selected as the inaugural project for the Armenian Heritage and Social Memory Program because of its major historical significance, its recognition as a World Heritage Site, and the completeness and range of its ancient structures and features. The architectural complex is largely intact and retains its original character. Beyond the superb architecture, the compound includes frescos, bas-reliefs, and monumental sculptures that will serve as an ideal presentation of Armenian culture to the world.

The Haghpat Monastic Complex, in the northern Lori district, was the first location in Armenia to be selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site ( It was inscribed on this exclusive list because “it is of outstanding universal value” that represents “the highest flowering of Armenian religious architecture, whose unique style developed from a blending of elements of Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture and the traditional vernacular architecture of the Caucasian region” in the 10th to 13th centuries. The complex at Haghpat is also recognized by the International Council on Monuments (ICOMOS) as one of most culturally significant in Armenia.

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