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: Itineraries | : admin | 15.03.2007, 04:16

Echmiadzin is not far from Yerevan. This place is worshipped by Armenians throughout the world since here there is the Mother See of Armenian Apostolic Church.
Echmiadzin -formerly 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".
As Armenia frequently lost statehood the role of the Supreme religious head of all Armenians Katholicos- grew ever more. Therefore the cathedral of Echmiadzin as the most constant center of spiritual authority of the country, though frequently destructed, but also equipped with modern conveniences more than other monasteries.
In XV century the open vestibule of the front entrance was attached to the western part of church above which the bell tower with magnificent architectural furniture was erected. Then internal walls of the cathedral were decorated. Furnishing of the cathedral was finished in 1786 by gifted artist Hovnatanyan. Besides ornaments and other decoration the artist painted many scenes on themes of Holy Writ, made more than 120 portraits of saints and apostles, restored many of old ones. Within the next years many of frescos were destroyed. In XX century thorough restoration was implemented. Columns and arches supporting the dome were strengthened, and the dome was reveted with lead. The new altar was constructed of marble. The floor of church was covered with marble. Paintings inside the temple were updated and added. The rare feature of the cathedral is that except the main altar in its east part, there are three more altars. Two of them accordingly are in the southern and northern part, and the third is not an altar, but rather a sacred place. According to a legend Christ descended on the very place in his apparition.
For preserving of relics and the gifts of churches, the premises were attached to the cathedral in 1869, in which now there is a museum of the monastery. Sacred relics, the church clothes embroidered with gold and pearls, staffs and crosses of Katholicoses, numerous ritual subjects made of gold, silver, an ivory were preserved in the museum, Here are the armchairs of Katholicoses decorated with nacre and ivory, and figurines moulded with silver. In Echmiadzin the most ancient samples of art of the past were preserved as well. Here there were both the most ancient manuscripts, and miniatures, which later were transported to Yerevan.
The printing house of Echmiadzin founded in 1772 is to the left of the entrance to the territory of the monastery. Capitals of monks are on the right.
In territory of the monastery there are many cross stones. Among them are Amenaprkich (1279), and cross stone of XVII century, transported from the cemetery of Old Jug, and recently established modern cross stone - to victims of genocide of 1915.
ECHMIADZIN is a residence of the Armenian patriarch - the Katholicos of all Armenians. His palace is located in the courtyard of the monastery. At the entrance to the residence of Catholicos rise "the gates of Trdat". Though they were repeatedly reconstructed, but in its foundation the stone blocks of IV century were kept. It is believed, that the palace of the Armenian kings was located on the place of this gate.
On the territory of monastic complex is situated the Spiritual Academy of sacred Echmiadzin as well. Students are only 50 persons. Here the following subjects are basically studied: logic, rhetoric, psychology, world history, philosophy and languages. Especially Ancient Greek, Russian, English, Armenian - both Modern and Ancient Armenian (grapar) are carefully studied.
At the monastery the first Armenian school was opened as well.
In Echmiadzin there are three more ancient monuments. According to a legend these temples were erected in honour of martyresses of the first Christians escaped from Rome from prosecutions of the emperor. They are the temples of St. Ripsime, St. Gayane and St. Shoghakat.
The temple of St. Ripsime was constructed in 618 A.D.. It is a harmonious and majestic construction. Inside the church has the form of rectangular in which the cross was inserted forming by four semicircular apses. Side-chapels were located in four corners. From one of them it is possible to enter the crypt located under the altar where according to the legend Ripsime was buried. Decorative furniture of the building is very modest. In 1790 the two- tiered bell tower with an eight-column belfry is attached to it. Capital gates of 1741 enchased by nacre were preserved in the vestibule of church.
The temple St. Gayane was erected in 630 on the place of chapel of IV century. It is one of the best monuments of the Armenian architecture. The external appearance of the temple differs for its harmony of proportions. The laconic and strict building of church was decorated only with ornaments on the vegetative motives, located on the frames of doors and windows. The rectangular premise of church on the inside is divided by two lines of columns into three parts. Columns are intended for bearing the weight of the dome, leaning on a harmonious octahedral drum. In 1652 it was substantially renovated and in 1683 a gallery was added to it for burial of hierarchs of the Armenian Church. There are graceful belfries on the extreme domes of the gallery. There is an ornamental carving on architectural details. Above the entrance the mural of XVII century BC was preserved.
The temple of St. Shoghakat was erected in 1694. It is remarkable for its original architecture and is famous under the name of "dome halls". The unique door leading to church opens from an arcade situated in the western side. The dome of church on the inside is supported by only some columns. Due to careful calculations, the builders easily avoided using intermediate supports. The arcade above the entrance is crowned with a six-column belfry. The strict form of details and furniture has much in common with the device of the main cathedral and temple of St.Ripsime.
In the territory of Echmiadzin there is also the building of seminary constructed in XIX century. Here Great composer Komitas taught, and now here there is an art museum carrying his name. The collection of works of great artists of XX century such as Saryan, Khanjyan, Kochar, etc.
is displayed here.
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