St. Gayane Church, Vagharshapat, Armenia
According to the X century Armenian historian Catholicos Hovhannes Drasxanakertci, St. Gayane church was erected by the Catholicos Ezr (630-641) at the site where the Abbess Gayane was martyred by the order of pagan Armenian King Trdat III. Church was later renovated in 1652 and in 1683 next to facade a gallery was added. St. Gayane church belongs to another brilliant variety of Armenian church-types of the VII century. It is a basilica-type church with a central nave and two aisles, and crowned at the center with a dome. St. Gayane is one of the earliest examples of this synthesis by Armenian architects of the three-aisle basilica-type church built in Armenia in earlier centuries and the central-plan church which later became widespread there. The interior has four tall pillars which support the central dome and create the shape of a cross. St. Gayane both echoes Armenian's architectural past since it resembles the important V century Armenian church at Tekor, (St. Sargis church or Tekor Basilica in Kars Province is the first domed church in historical Armenia) and foretells its future since it is the forerunner of the magnificent cathedral at Ani constructed by the architect Trdat in 989-1010. St. Gayane church was placed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2000.
As described by the fifth century Armenian historian Agathangelos, this church is dedicated to the abbess Gayane, who in the III century led Christian Hripsime and other nuns from Rome to Armenia to escape a forced marriage with the pagan Roman emperor Diocletian. Despite tortures inflicted on her at the orders of the king Trdat of Armenia she also rejected his advances. Finally the pagan Armenian king Trdat martyred Hripsime, Gayane and other nuns. St. Gayane church was built at the site where abbess Gayane was martyred.