Theme Week Armenia – Vagharshapat

Wednesday, 24 January 2024 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  7 minutes

Zvartnots Cathedral and Mount Ararat © Vahagn Grigoryan/cc-by-sa-4.0

Zvartnots Cathedral and Mount Ararat © Vahagn Grigoryan/cc-by-sa-4.0

Vagharshapat is the 4th-largest city in Armenia and the most populous municipal community of Armavir Province, located about 18 km (11 mi) west of the capital Yerevan, and 10 km (6 mi) north of the closed Turkish-Armenian border. It is commonly known as Ejmiatsin (also spelled Echmiadzin or Etchmiadzin), which was its official name between 1945 and 1995. It is still commonly used colloquially and in official bureaucracy, a case of dual naming.

The city is best known as the location of Etchmiadzin Cathedral and Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the center of the Armenian Apostolic Church. It is thus unofficially known in Western sources as a “holy city” and in Armenia as the country’s “spiritual capital”. It was one of the major cities and a capital of the ancient Kingdom of Greater Armenia. Reduced to a small town by the early 20th century, it experienced large expansion during the Soviet period becoming, effectively, a suburb of Yerevan. Its population stands just over 37,000 based on 2016 estimates.

The Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin is found in the complex surrounded with many other structures built throughout the centuries. Most buildings are of great architectural significance, such as the old and new Pontifical Residences, the Chancellery or the Divanatoon, the Gate of King Trdat, Alex and Marie Manoogian Treasury Museum (1982), Khrimian Museum, Yeremian Monastic cells, the old Seminary building, the Clock Tower, the Bookstore, etc. Gevorgian Seminary is a theological college of the Armenian Apostolic Church founded by Catholicos Gevork IV in 1874 within the complex of the Mother See. Apart from the Mother Cathedral, Vagharshapat is home to many other important Armenian churches and cathedrals. The Cathedral of Etchmiadzin, the Churches of Saint Hripsimé, Saint Gayane and Saint Shoghakat, and the archaeological site of Zvartnots are listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Saint Vartan Baptistery © Marcin Konsek/cc-by-sa-4.0 St. Hripsime Church © D-man/cc-by-3.0 Zvartnots Cathedral and Mount Ararat © Vahagn Grigoryan/cc-by-sa-4.0 Etchmiadzin Cathedral © Areg Amirkhanian/cc-by-sa-3.0 Komitas Palace of Culture © Armineaghayan/cc-by-sa-3.0 Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin © Alexxx1979/cc-by-sa-4.0
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Zvartnots Cathedral and Mount Ararat © Vahagn Grigoryan/cc-by-sa-4.0
In 2000, the churches of Vagharshapat, together with the nearby ruin of Zvartnots Cathedral, were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Principal churches include:

  • Etchmiadzin Cathedral – The “Mother Cathedral” was built by Gregory the Illuminator as a vaulted basilica in 301–303, when Armenia had just adopted Christianity as a state religion, making it one of the oldest churches in the world. The church was repeatedly enlarged, notably in 480, 618 and 1658.
  • Saint Hripsime Church – The church was erected in 618 by Catholicos Gomidas atop an existing mausoleum containing the remains of the martyred Saint Hripsimé. According to the 17th century Armenian historian Arakel of Tabriz, when the church was renovated during 1651–1653 by Catholicos Philip I, a cross was placed on top of the roof and a small portico was added to the western side. It is one of the few churches in Armenian that remained active during the Soviet period.
  • Saint Gayane Church – Built in 630 by Catholicos Ezra I, Saint Gayane is a three-nave, domed basilica with an octagonal drum resting on four internal pillars that divide the interior of the church into three. Its design remained unchanged despite partial renovations of the dome and some ceilings in 1652.
  • Shoghakat Church – Meaning drop of light, Shoghakat is a single-nave domed basilica, built and completed in 1694 by prince Aghamal Sorotetsi during the period of Catholicos Nahabed I. It is built with red and black tufa stones, erected on the remains of a 6th-century basilica. The remains of a 4th-century small chapel could be seen at the southwestern end of Saint Shoghakat Church.

Vagharshapat is the cultural center of Armavir and one of the important centers of the entire republic. The Komitas Palace of Culture is operating in the town since 1957, while the Ejmiatsin National Gallery is operating since 1970. The town is also home to a number of museums including the Vagharshapat Ethnographic Museum, Khoren Ter-Harutyunyan Museum and Gallery, Mher Abeghian Museum and Gallery, and Hovhannes Hovhannisyan House-museum. However, the most prominent museums of Vagharshapat are located within the Mother See complex, including:

  • Etchmiadzin Cathedral Museum opened in 1869 by Catholicos George IV,
  • The Catholicosal Museum within the old pontifical residence or Hin Veharan built in 1738–1741 and serves as Catholicosal Museum since 1968.
  • Khrimian Museum: built and opened in 1896 by Catholicos Mkrtich I of Van. It was recently renovated to become a museum of art.
  • Alex and Marie Manoogian Treasury House: opened on 11 October 1982, designed by architect Baghdasar Arzoumanian. The museum is home to treasures of the Armenian Church throughout history.
  • Ruben Sevak Museum: opened in 2013 within the Ghazarapat building of the Mother See.

The Mother See is also home to the Pontifical Bookstore operating since 1962, and the *Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Manuscript Depository opened in 2012. The town celebrates the “Ejmiatsin Day” annually since 2008 in Vagharshapat on 8 October. According to the old Armenian tradition, Mesrop Mashtots brought the newly created Armenian alphabet to Vagharshapat on 8 October 405. Being the spiritual centre of the Armenian nation worldwide, Vagharshapat is a major tourist destination for Armenians as well as foreign visitors. It is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Etchmiadzin Cathedral, Zvartnots Cathedral, Saint Hripsime Church, Saint Gayane Church and Shoghakat Church, grouped overall as the Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots. The Machanents Touristic Centre of Vagharshapat provides a unique facility for the visitors of the town. The complex houses a cultural centre with small theatre, pub and jazz club, traditional cuisine, and a boutique hotel. The Zvartnots hotel and casino complex is located at the eastern entrance of the town.

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

Read more on Etchmiadzin Cathedral, Wikivoyage Echmiadzin and Wikipedia Vagharshapat. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organizations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.






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