Vagarshapat, Republic of Armenia
Echmiadzin cathedral is the main and the most important center of Armenian Apostolic church. The monastery complex is located in Echmiadzin city in the Region of Armavir. According to the historians, it was the first cathedral in Armenia but not the first church. The cathedral was built by Gregory Enlightener in the beginning of the fourth century, after adopting Christianity as a state religion. It was built on the basis of the old pagan temple and became the symbol of the transformation of the religion. Most of the nowadays building was built by Vahan Mamikonyan in 483. From the construction until the 5th century the cathedral was the main sear of Catholicos.
According to the historian Agatangheghos, Gregory saw a dream, in which Jesus came down from the heavens and with the gold hammer knocked at the floor, marking the place where the cathedral should be constructed the Saint Church. And from here originated the name "Echmiadzin" - "էջ" is ancient Armenian word, meaning "come down", "միածին" means the only son of God, thus the word means "Jesus came down".
The historian Pavstos Buzand, in one of his recordings, mentioned that in 360 Shapuh kings attacked Vagharshapat (now Echmiadzin) city and destroyed it completely, but Nerses Mets and Sahak Partev renovated the church. Until the end of the 5th century, the church was half-ruined. According to Ghazar Pharpetsi, the church rebuilt Vahan Mamikonyan in 483-484 when Armenia was without wars.
Though the cathedral was ruined and rebuild during different periods of time, the church is still standing. The building has a cruciform plan with a central cupola, four free-standing piers, and four projecting apses which are semicircular on the interior and polygonal on the exterior. The central piers, divide the interior space into nine equal square compartments.
The monastery complex has 5 churches; Mother Cathedral of Holy Echmiadzin. Saint Hripsime, Saint Gayane, Saint Shoghakat and Saint Virgin Mariam.
Saint Hripsime Church is a 7th one of the oldest surviving churches in the country. The church was built by Catholicos Komitas, the remains of Saint Hripsime were kept under the church. St. Gayane's church is a domed basilica-type church and was built by Catholicos Ezra I in the 7th century. It is three-nave domed basilica standing on four internal pillars that divide the church into three naves.
St. Shoghakat was built by Prince Aghamal Sorotetsi in 1694 during the reign of Catholicos Nahabed I. The name of the church means "drop of light" because the ray of light that came down from heaven upon Hripsime. The church is a domed single-nave basilica with a semi-circular eastern apse flanked on either side by narrow chapels. Some portions of the apse wall could possibly date to the 5th century.
The monastery complex was included in UNESCO world heritage in 2001. This is a real treasure for Armenian architecture. It has a simple but meantime fascinating look. If you’re in Yerevan, you should come and visit this lovely city. It doesn’t take too much time to reach this place. Don’t miss the opportunity of visiting Etchmiadzin’s historical places and see those cultural treasures and feel the history.