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Zvartnots Temple, Vagharshapat, Armenia

Zvartnots, a complex of buildings near Vagharshapat, has exceptional architectural value. It consisted of Zvartnots temple and the palace of Catholicos. This majestic cathedral was built in 641-661 years by order of the Catholicos Nerses III the Builder, who due to construction activities was called "Builder". Zvartnots was erected at the place where king Trdat III walked toward Gregory the Illuminator, arriving to Vagharshapat, and it is assumed that Catholicos Nerses III built the temple as a dedication to this meeting. So, the temple is also called St. Gregory, however, it's better known as Zvartnots, since it was also devoted to heavenly angels. "Zvartun" meant "angel" in ancient times and, therefore, Zvartnots is Temple of Celestial Angels. According to the medieval Armenian historian Movses Kaghankatvatsi, the cathedral was consecrated in 653. Following the Arab occupation of Dvin and the intensifying wars between the Byzantine and Arab armies on the eastern borders, Nerses transferred the patriarchal palace of the Catholicos from Dvin to Zvartnots.

At the end of X century Zvartnots was destroyed probably by an earthquake, but historical sources are silent as to the cause of its collapse. Zvartnots remained buried until its remains were uncovered at the start of the 20th century under the direction of vardapet (Archimandrite) Khachik Dadyan . The site was excavated between 1901-1907 with participation of architect Toros Toramanyan, who restore the temple design and till now most scholars accept this reconstruction. It became known that this central-dome temple consisted of three reducing in diameter polyhedrons crowned with a cone-shaped cupola. Zvartnots was built from light gray to black colored tufa stones and had 5 entrances, and the height of the temple was almost 45 meters, while the diameter of the lower polyhedron was equal to 35.75 meters.

Architectural style and beauty of Zvartnots were so significant, that during the final decade of X century, king Gagik I Bagratuni ordered architect Trdat to build a close imitation of the temple in Ani, Gagikashen Church (St. Gregory).


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