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Shoghakat Church, Vagharshapat, Armenia

Surb Shoghakat church was built in 1694 by prince Aghamal Shorotetsi in the time of the Catholicos Nahapat to the west of St. Hripsime church on the site of IV century chapel( a holy site of martyrdom associated with the conversion of Armenia to Christianity in 301 A.D). Shoghakat was erected from the reddish black smooth face tufa stone and is notable for unique architecture, known as "domed hall". The church is a single- span church- hall, completed with the dome- a design, that was used by Armenian architects from the first half of VII century. Vaulted gallery above the entrance that was built at the same time with the church, surmounted by a six-rotunda-belfry. High octagonal dome emphasizes internal volume of the most illuminated part of the hall. Discreet form of architectural details and ornamental decoration has much in common with the decorations of St. Echmiadzin Cathedral and St. Hripsime Church. Surb Shoghakat church of Vagharshapat was placed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2000.

As described by the fifth century Armenian historian Agathangelos, the abbess Gayane led the Christian maiden Hripsime and her companions from Rome to Vagharshapat to escape the persecution of pagan Diocletian. The pagan Armenian king Trdat martyred Hripsime and Gayane in separate locations and third unnamed nun here. When St. Gregory Illuminator erected memorial structures for Hripsime, and Gayane, the structure here was named Shoghakat, referring to the ray of light appearing at the martyrdom of the unnamed nun. St. Gregory the Illuminator later converted king Trdat who declared Christianity the official religion of the Armenian kingdom. The original church has not survived. The present church was erected at the same site. Excavations to the southwest revealed the remains of a single-chamber church, possibly the original fourth century memorial chapel.


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