Etchmiadzin Monastery (in Armenian Էջմիածնի Մայր Տաճար)

Echmiadzin — Monastery of the Armenian Apostolic Church; the seat of the throne of the Supreme Patriarch of the Catholicos of All Armenians in 303-484 years, and again from 1441 years. It is located in the city of Vagharshapat, Armavir region, Armenia. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Etchmiadzin — the former name of which is Vagharshapat — was founded in the first half of the 2nd century on the site of the ancient settlement of Vardgesavan. Since 163 years, after the destruction by the Romans of Artashat, the city has become a political, cultural, and then religious and educational center of the country.

In 301 year, Christianity became the state religion of Armenia.

According to the legend, the first patriarch Grigor Lusavorich (the Enlightener) dreamed as a single-born, that is, Christ, descended from the sky with a fiery hammer in his hands and indicated the place for the construction of the cathedral. At this place in 303 year, where there was an ancient pagan temple, and was laid the church, called Echmiadzin, which in Armenian means «the site of the descent of the only begotten.»

As Armenia was often deprived of statehood, the role of the supreme religious head of all Armenians, the Catholicos, grew ever greater. Therefore, the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, as the most constant center of the spiritual power of the country, though often destroyed, but also improved more than other monasteries.

In the 15th century, an open porch of the main entrance was attached to the western part of the church, above which a bell tower with magnificent architectural decoration rose. At the same time, the inner walls of the cathedral were decorated. The decoration of the cathedral was completed in 1786 year by the talented artist Ovnatanyan.

In addition to ornaments and other ornaments, the artist wrote many scenes on the themes of the holy scripture, made more than 120 portraits with images of saints and apostles, restored many old ones. During the following years, many of the frescoes were destroyed.

In the twentieth century, a thorough restoration was carried out. Columns and arches supporting the dome were fortified, and the dome itself was lined with lead. A new altar was built of marble. The floor of the church was also glazed with marble. The murals inside the church were updated and supplemented.

What to see
A rare feature of the cathedral is that in it, besides the main altar in its eastern part, there are three altars. Two of them are respectively in the southern and northern parts, and the third is not so much an altar as a holy place. According to the legend, Christ came to this place in his appearance.

For the storage of relics and gifts entering the church, in 1869 year the building was added to the cathedral, in which now there is a museum. The museum stores holy relics, church garments embroidered with gold and pearls, staffs and crosses of Catholicos, numerous ritual objects made of gold, silver, ivory. Here and the chairs of the Catholicos, decorated with mother of pearl and ivory, and with figures of silver cast. Echmiadzin also kept the oldest examples of the art of the past. There were also ancient manuscripts and miniatures, which later were transported to Yerevan.

To the left of the entrance to the monastery territory is the Echmiadzin Printing House, founded in 1772 year, and to the right — the monks’ cells.

On the territory of the monastery there are many khachkars. Among them was Amenaprkich (1279 year) and Khachkar XVII, transported from the cemetery of Old Jugha, and the recently installed modern khachkar to the victims of the 1915 year genocide.

Etchmiadzin is the residence of the Armenian patriarch, the Catholicos of all Armenians. His palace is located in the courtyard of the monastery. At the entrance to the residence of the Catholicos, the «gate of Trdat» rises. Although they were repeatedly rebuilt, but in their basement preserved stone blocks of the IV century. It is believed that the palace of Armenian kings was located on the site of this gate.

On the territory of the monastery complex there is also the Theological Academy of Saint Etchmiadzin. This is the only educational institution of its kind in the world. There are not many listeners — only 50 people. Here, basically, the following subjects are studied: logic, rhetoric, psychology, world history, philosophy and languages. Of the languages, the Old Greek, Russian, English, Armenian — as modern as the Old Armenian are studied very carefully.

The first Armenian school was opened at the monastery.

On the territory of Etchmiadzin there is also a seminary building built in the 19th century. Here the great composer Komitas taught, and now there is an art museum bearing his name. Here is exhibited a collection of works by major artists of the twentieth century: Saryan, Khandzhyan, Kochar.

Other churches of Etchmiadzin
Etchmiadzin is also called the city of churches. This is not in vain: in addition to the Etchmiadzin Monastery, there are three other ancient monuments here. According to the legend, these temples are erected in honor of the martyrs — the first Christians who fled Rome from persecution of the emperor. These are temples: Surb Hripsime, Surb Gayane and Surb Shoghakat.

The temple of St. Hripsime was built in 618 year. This is a slender and majestic structure. Inside, the church has the shape of a rectangle in which a cross is inscribed, formed by four semicircular apses. In the four corners are located the Etchmiadzin Monastery (in Armenian Էջմիածնի Մայր Տաճար)