Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin
Echmiatsin is the holy city of Armenia and the headquarters and official residence of the Catholicos of all Armenians, Supreme Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church. It is in the Armavir province, 20 kilometers west of Yerevan.
The word “Echmiatsin” means «The Descent of the Only Begotten Son». The legend says that Jesus Christ descended from heaven and indicated the place for a church to be built.
Echmiatsin Cathedral is the oldest in the world. The construction of the first Christian church began in 301 in the same year that Armenia adopted Christianity as its official religion and ended in 303. St. Gregory the Illuminator, the first Catholicos laid the foundation stones of the temple. Since 1945, the city also bears name Echmiatsin.
It has a traditional Armenian design with a belfry and a number of rotundas. If you wander around the gardens you will see astonishing carvings and khatchkars. In the museum of the cathedral among relics you can see the Holy Lance with which the Roman soldier stabbed the body of Christ crucified and a slice of the Ark of Noah.
Since 1441 the city has been Armenia’s religious center. Today it’s the center of the Armenian church where the Catholicos of All Armenians resides. There is a beautiful garden around the cathedral, which is decorated on Christian holidays.
You can also buy books and souvenirs here.
Saint Hripsime Church
Saint Hripsime Church is one of the major early churches in the city. Catholicos Komitas erected the church atop the original mausoleum built by Catholicos Sahak the Great in the year 395 AD; it contained the remains of the martyred Saint Hripsime to who the church was dedicated to.
According to the legend, Hripsime was to be forcefully married to the Roman emperor Diocletian. She was one of the 40 virgins who had fled the emperor and left for Armenia. The relics of St. Hripsime lie in a tomb below the church. Hripsime Holy Temple is known for its majestic simplicity, monumentality and unity of constructive and architectural forms. It is the embodiment of the creative search of an entire generation of architects Armenians and a classic example of central-domed church of Armenian architecture.
Saint Gayane Church
Saint Gayane church is situated in Echmiatsin in the place of an old chapel built in the 4th century over the grave of Abbess Gayane, the spiritual mother of the virgin, who escaped the Roman Empire with St. Hripsime. It is a domed basilica erected by the Catholicos Ezr from 631-640 AD. This Holy Temple is the finest Armenian architectural monuments of Middle Ages. St. Gayane is located only a few hundred feet from the Cathedral of Holy Echmiatsin, where seats the Catholicos of Armenia. A chapel was constructed under the East apse for the Saint’s relics, and the bema was rebuilt. In 1688, an inscription by the Catholicos Eliazar state that he erected a gait on the west end.
Saint Shoghakat Church
St. Shoghakat Church is a small and cozy church. It was built in the end of 17th century, to the west of of Saint Hripsime Church. The legend has it, the church was built in the place where the “light dropped” on the martyred Christian virgins (translated form Armenian, Shoghakat means “drop of light”).
The treasury Museum of Echmiatsin, named after he great American/Armenian benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Alex and Marie Manougian, includes the museum and a library.
Echmiatsin is about 23 km far from Yerevan.
On your way to Echmiatsin, don’t forget to visit also Zvartnots Temple.
Choose one of our tours to Armenia to enjoy beauty of Armenia with your own eyes.