Vagharshapat, Republic of Armenia
Zvartnots Cathedral is located in the Ararat valley, 3 km south of the city of Echmiadzin. This historical site once was a famous place of worship in the pre-Christian period. During the excavations, the foundation of an Urartian temple was revealed, as well as an altar for sacrifice and a cuneiform inscription of King Rusa II, which testifies the construction of the Hrazdan River canal were found.
The ancient pagan temple was dedicated to Tir - the God of written language and schooling. After adopting Christianity the pagan temple was turned into a Christian church. Supposedly Zvartnots temple was built between 643 and 652 AD.
According to historian Sebeos, the name of the cathedral is derived from the old Armenian word "Zvartun" which means “an angel”. Thus the temple was called “a cathedral of angels”. Perhaps the name of the cathedral was connected with its architectural style, as the abundance of sunlight entering through a multitude of windows made an impression that angels flew into the windows.
Interestingly only Sebeos names the cathedral “Zvartnots”. In all the other records it is mentioned as St. Grigor. The temple stood until the end of the 10th century and was most likely destroyed by an earthquake. Until the excavations in 1901 the ruins of the cathedral were covered in the ground.
Zvartnots Cathedral was a unique architectural structure of impressive dimensions. Instead of cross-domed or basilica type structure characteristic of the period, Zvartnots introduced an entirely new style. It had three levels and the central dome rested on one complete circle. It was also one of the tallest structures of its time (45-49 m).
In 1989 the cathedral was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.