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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.












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