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Echmiadzin Cathedral, Vagharshapat, Armenia

Echmiadzin Cathedral is the main and the most ancient Christian temple of Armenia and one of the oldest in the whole Christian world. The cathedral was built 301 by Grigor Lusavorich (Gregory the Illuminator)- the founder of the Armenian - Gregorian church and the first Armenian Catholicos, during the reign of king Trdat III (287 - 330). The cathedral was built in the form of the basilica, however, in 483 was rebuilt into a cross-shaped church and topped with a cupola.

The original wooden dome of the building served until the beginning of VII century and was later replaced by stone one. The cathedral's central part composition survived until our time and remained almost unchanged. In 1653-1658 a new three-tiered dome and bell tower were built in front of the western entrance. The six-column rotundas on four-pillar bases, built at the beginning of the XVIII century over the northern, eastern and southern apses, have given the cathedral a five-dome crowning. A unique feature of the temple is that besides the main altar in the eastern apse, it contains three more altars, two of them located in the northern and southern apses, and the latter is at the heart of the cathedral and serves a holy place.

According to legend, Christ appeared to Gregory the Illuminator and told him to build a temple in this place (Echmiadzin -"place of descent of the only begotten"). As Echmiadzin is the residence of the Catholicos, it is periodically endowed with rich relics and gifts, and to store them in 1869 on the east side of the cathedral were added three additions, which now houses a museum of the monastery. On the territory of the monastery yard special attention deserve khachkars (cross-stones) - one dated from 1279 belongs to "Amenaprkich" (Holy Saviour) type, another is from an old cemetery of Jugha ( XVII century) covered with a complex ornamentation, images of different scenes with human figures, saints, animals and birds. The last one is a modern monument khachkar devoted to all Armenians - Victims of 1915 Armenian Genocide. St. Echmiadzin Cathedral was placed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2000.


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