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Do you know that Armenian capital, Yerevan, is 29 years older than Rome, the Eternal City? ...
Market Vernissage
Market Vernissage
One of the most crowded places in Yerevan is Marcet Vernissage, which goes live on every Saturday and Sunday, no matter it’s hot outside, cold or heavily raining. It’s an open air market where the best and most impressive souvenirs are offered. Throughout the years it has turned into one of the most significant elements of Yerevan’s cultural life. The term Vernissage, which has French origins and simply means a private show before the opening of an art exhibition, was included in the vocabulary of Yerevan residents only in the late 1970s. The Arts and Crafts Vernissage seems to be divided into two parts, the one part where arts and crafts prevail, and the other one, where more technical things, like different metals and fasteners can be found. The latter is visited by people, whose TV, for example, has broken down, and they need a certain piece. This part, particularly, carries the Soviet Union era breath, and you will hardly see a young man selling those things. Instead, the part where arts and crafts can be found is more lively and even colorful. This part offers jewelry, woodwork, ceramics, paintings, books and carpets. Various souvenirs depicting Mount Ararat can be seen. Of special interest is the Armenian duduk, traditional Armenian woodwind instrument. Interestingly, the sound of the duduk seems to accompany every visitor while they are roaming around. Other than that, Vernissage offers puppies, dog leashes, hand-carved walnut backgammon boards and vintage clothing. Vernissage comes with really unique things. At the same time, it doesn’t mean every single thing is truly unique and exceptional. As you pick a certain item, be sure to hear a long description of that particular thing, which is usually being so strongly praised to the skies that you might think it will be one of the greatest mistakes in life not to have it in your house. In general, no seller at Vernissage has taken English courses, but they all understand English very well, and very often they will understand the language of the tourist much better than those who are specialized in that field. The purpose of every seller at Vernissage is to sell at least one item during the day. But at the same time even if they have already succeded to sell five, they will spare no effort to sell the sixth and so on. As you “fail” and let the seller know you are a tourist and not a local, the prices will go higher than they actually are. This is an annoying thing especially for locals, who are sometimes being taken for foreigners and therefore, asked the same price tourists would be required to pay. The best option in this regard, would be to have a typical Armenian by your side while making purchases. Vernissage is usually open from early morning till 5 pm, sometimes until 6 pm. So don't think of visiting it during your evening roams, as you will simply have to walk along the concrete sidewalks crumbling under the feet and only. Every relation there is based on a pure bargain over the prices. Long, sometimes boring, and very often funny negotiations are held until a proper price is settled on. As the sun rises over Yerevan on weekends, the Arts and Crafts Vernissage awakens and comes alive offering a great variety of things sure to entice every passer-by, be it a local or a tourist. Lastly, while leaving Vernissage make sure you buy pomegranate, the most mystical object and souvenir to take back home to your family. With its variety of goods and mix of visitors, Vernissage is always a delight!                              
Echmiadzin    Situted 20 km away from Yerevan, the ancient town of Echmiadzin is the Spiritual and admenistrative center of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the residence of the Catholicos of all Armeninas and the place, where chrism is consecrated for christening every Armenian child.   Echmiadzin - the former name of which is Vagarshapat, was founded in the first half of II century on the place of ancient settlement of Vardgesavan. Since 163, after destruction of Artashat by Romans, the city had become political, cultural, and then religious and educational center of the country.In 301 the Christianity became the state religion of Armenia. According to a legend, the first patriarch Gregory the Illuminator dreamt, that the only begotten, that is the Christ, came down from the sky with fiery hammer in hands and specified the place for construction of the cathedral. On this place in 303, in place of an ancient pagan temple, the church named ECHMIADZIN was founded which in Armenian means "the place of the advent of the only son".     The Museum of the Mother Cathedral is situated in the southeast section of the Cathedral. Through the sponsorship of the Armenian Diocese of Russia, Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Kevork IV, built the museum in 1869. The museum wraps around the main altar on the south and east sides. Unique holy relics and religious art are now housed in the museum. The museum contains many reliquaries. It was common practice for artisans and patrons to create reliquaries to properly display relics, sometimes long after the relic had been given to the Church and most often made separately from the relic itself. Among the many treasures are: the Holy Lance (Geghart) which pierced the side of Christ, housed in a silver reliquary; the relics of Noah’s Ark in a reliquary that was created in 1698; “Khotekerats Sourp Nishan” reliquary with the relic of Jesus Christ’s wooden cross (914-929); the cross of King Ashot Yerkat with it chest, one of the oldest processional crosses in existence; the cross of Hovhannes-Smbat King of Ani, made of mountainous crystal; relics of the Apostles, Sts. Thaddeus, Bartholomew and Andrew and St. George; the wooden icon of the Church of Havouts Tar (10th century); the miter (liturgical crown) of Archimandrite (Vardapet) Komitas; the paintings of Steppannos Lehatsi, Soureniants and other valuable pieces of art.                 Saint Hripsime Church is one of the oldest surviving churches in Armenia. The church was erected by Catholicos Komitas atop the original mausoleum built by Catholicos Sahak the Great in the year 395 AD that contained the remains of the martyred Saint Hripsimé to who the church was dedicated to. The structure was completed in the year 618 AD. It is known for its fine Armenian architecture of the classical period, which has influenced many other Armenian churches since. This church together with other nearby sites is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is located the present day city of Echmiadzin, Armenia in the Armavir Province. Saint Hripsimé Church sits on the remains of a pagan structure and also the site where the aforementioned saint was martyred during the time of the conversion of Armenia to Christianity in the year 301 AD. The fifth century Armenian historian Agathangelos wrote that the young and beautiful Hripsimé who at the time was a Christian nun in Rome, was to be forcefully married to the Roman emperor Diocletian. She and the abbess Gayané among other nuns fled the tyrant emperor and left to Armenia. The pagan Armenian King Trdat received a letter from Diocletian in which he described her beauty. Trdat discovered where the nuns were hiding, and fell in love with Hripsimé and later Gayané. After her refusal of his advances, Hripsimé was tortured and martyred at the location of this church, while Gayané was tortured and martyred at a separate location where the church in her name was later built. A third unnamed nun was martyred at the location of Shoghakat. During the time that Hripsimé was being tortured, Gayané told her to "be of good cheer, and stand firm" in her faith. King Trdat was to be later converted to Christianity and made it the official religion of the kingdom.In the early 4th century, Saint Gregory the Illuminator saw a vision in which Christ descended from the heavens, and struck the ground with a golden hammer to level it. In its place he saw the site where Hripsimé was martyred, with a red base symbolizing blood below "columns of clouds, capitals of fire, and on top, a cross of light." In the vision, Christ tells him to erect a memorial to Hripsme in the given place. Saint Gregory was designated to set out the foundations at the location where Hripsimé had been martyred.       St. Gayane Church built in 630 (according to a chronicle), Hripsime belongs to another architectural type worked out in the epoch of early Christianity in Armenia. This is a domed basilica with an octahedral drum resting on four internal pillars which divide the interior of the structure into three naves. A semi-circular apse with two annexes, rectangular in the plan, on its sides is fitted into the clear-cut outline of the building. The middle sections of the side naves are elevated slightly over the corner ones and roofed with vaults across the building, forming a transversal nave. The outward appearance of the structure is completed with a cross cupola emphasized on all the four facades by large gables characteristic of Gayane church, just as of similar temples in Odzun, Bagavan and other places, is the laconicism of architectural and structural shapes and their harmonious unity. In itself, the irreproachable smoothness of the stone surfaces of the arches, vaults and trompes is an artistic merit of the structure. The interior and the outward appearance of the church are distinguished by balanced composition, graceful proportions which emphasize the height of the structure. The same is true of architectural details the frames of the doors and windows, cornices and shelves livened up by carved floral ornaments. In 1652 the church underwent capital reconstruction, and In 1683 a gallery a sepulcher for the prominent figures of the Armenian church was added to its western facade. This is a five-span gallery. Its three central spans with large arched openings are roofed with domes, and the side ones, which are slightly lower, vaulted and blank, with graceful six-column belfries. The architectural features of the gallery, typical of the 17th century, do not contrast with the overall artistic image of Gayane church.                      
Geghard The monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley contains a number of churches and tombs, most of them cut into the living rock, which illustrate Armenian medieval architecture at its highest point. The complex of medieval buildings is set into a landscape of great natural beauty, at the entrance to the Azat Valley. High cliffs from the northern side surround the complex while the defensive wall encircles the rest. The exact date for the founding of the monastery is unknown but pre-Christians worshiped at springs at the site, particularly one inside a cave that is now enclosed by the main gavit. It is believed a monastery was established at the site in the beginning of the 4th century by the first Catholicos St. Gregory the Illuminator (S. Grigor Lusavorich) and became known as “Aiyrivank” or “Monastery of Caves”. It was developed by Gregory and a later Catholicos, St. Sahak Partev, who was head of the Church at the time the Armenian Alphabet was invented. The ascetic lifestyle of monks is illustrated by the numerous small caves on the cliffs inside and surrounding the site, exposed to the elements and many reached only by ladder or rope. Gregory is believed to have lived in one of these cells. Historians write that the old monastery had, along with the ascetic monk quarters several churches, shrines, well-built residential quarters and extensive support buildings. It was an important Manuscriptorium, seminary, academy of music and pilgrimage site.   During the Bagratuni era (920s), when Armenia was invaded by the Arab army, the Arab vice-regent in Armenia Nasr plundered the site. It was rebuilt (though countless manuscripts were lost) and the monastery was encircled with fortifications, many of which still survive. Though inscriptions are found from the 1160s, the current monastery is considered a product of the 13th century, when the Orbelian king and his generals the Zakarian brothers retook large portions of the Armenian kingdom from the Seljuks, including Geghard monastery. At its height in the 13th century, Geghard monastery benefited from patronage by princely families and was a pilgrimage site, not least for its reliquaries of the Holy Lance, the spear used by a Roman soldier to pierce the crucified Christ. This reliquary gave the monastery its current name Geghardavank (Monastery of the Spear). Another relic was a wooden fragment said to have been a piece of Noah's Ark. The monastery was sacked by Mongols and later Timurids, destroyed in 1127, 1679 and 1840 earthquakes, rebuilt in succeeding centuries and serving as a summer residence for succeeding Catholicos. The name commonly used for the monastery today, Geghard, or more fully Geghardavank, meaning "the Monastery of the Spear", originates from the spear which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, called here Thaddeus, and stored amongst many other relics. Now it is displayed in the Echmiadzin treasury.                   
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