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Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots
Site number:
Type of site: Cultural
Date: 300-600 AD
Date of Inscription: 2000
Location: Eastern Europe/Western Asia, Armenia, Armavir Region
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Description: The archaeological remains at Zvartnots and the cathedral and churches of Echmiatsin vividly delineate the evolution and progression of the Armenian central-domed cross-hall type of church that is predominant in the architectural and artistic development in the region. --WHMNet paraphrase from the description at WHC Site, where additional information is available.
  Echmiadzin or Ejmiatsin (Armenian: Էջմիածին) is the holiest city in Armenia and the seat of the katholikos, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church. It is in the Armavir province, about 20 km west of Yerevan. The town originated as Vardkesavan in the 4th or 3rd century BC. King Vagharsh (117-140) had the name changed to Vagharshapat (Armenian: Վաղարշապատ), which still persists as the official appellation of the town. Several decades later the town became the capital of Armenia and remained the country's most important city until the 4th century AD. Historically, the focal point of the town is the Echmiadzin Cathedral, the oldest in the world. It was originally built by Saint Gregory the Illuminator as a vaulted basilica in 301-303, when Armenia was the only country in the world the state religion of which was Christianity. According to the 5th-century Armenian annals, St. Gregory had a vision of Christ descending from heaven and striking the earth with a golden hammer to show where the cathedral should be built. Hence, the patriarch gave the church and the town the new name of Echmiadzin, which may be translated as "the place where the Only Begotten descended". In 480, Vahan Mamikonian, the Roman governor of Armenia, ordered the dilapidated basilica to be replaced with a new cruciform church. In 618, the wooden dome was replaced with a stone one, resting on four massive pillars linked to exterior walls by arcades. This was the church much as it is today. Murals in the interior and extravagant rotundas surmounting the apses appeared in the early 18th century. A three-tier belfry was constructed half a century earlier. The cathedral formerly boasted the largest collection of Armenian medieval manuscripts, but these were lately handed over to the Matenadaran. Immediately west of the cathedral is the Gate of St. Tiridates, leading to the imposing patriarchal palace. To the northeast, with buildings both within and outside the enclosure, is the Spiritual Academy. Several Khachkars are north of the cathedral. Apart from the cathedral, the town contains two highly important and very ancient churches. The church of St Gayane, distinguished by its harmonious proportions, was constructed in 630 and underwent enlargement in the 17th century, when the dome was rebuilt and a porch was added. The church of St. Hripsime was built in 618 and survives basically unchanged. Those two churches, the cathedral and the nearby archaeological site of Zvartnots, are listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. --Wikipedia. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
Reference: 1. UNESCO World Heritage Center, Site Page.
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