Etchmiatsin Cathedral Armenia

Welcome to Etchmiadzin – the Christian Pilgrimage

July 25, 2015 - Travel to Armenia

So, is it the city of Etchmiadzin or Vagharshapat? That is the first thing you might be interested to know as a tourist. Well, it is Vagharshapat, which is commonly known as Etchmiadzin – located in Armavir Province of Armenia, west of the capital city of Yerevan.

Here are some important facts you might be interested to know before visiting the spiritual center and holy city of Vagharshapat:

1. Vagharshapat – one of the historical capitals of Armenia

The city sits on the ruins of the ancient city of Vagharshapat. Since the early Stone Age, there was a settlement in the territory of ancient Vagharshapat. Thousands of years later, during the reign of king Yervand Sakavakyants (570-560), Vardges Manouk his son-in-law founded Vardgesavan. It was King Vagharsh A. Arshakuni of Armenia (117-140) who walled Vardgesavan, renamed it Vagharshapat and declared the capital. Vagharshabat is the sixth among the twelve historic capitals of Armenia. The city gained significance after Christianity was adopted as a state religion in Armenia in 301 and got its name Etchmiadzin from the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin built in the city soon after Armenia’s conversion to Christianity. Vagharshapat was renamed and lost its significance as a spiritual center due to the long period of invasions and foreign rule. Since 1945, under the rule of the Soviet Union the town of Vagharshapat was rebuilt and named Etchmiadzin. However, in 1995, after the collapse of the Soviet regime and declaration of independence of Armenia it was officially named Vagharshapat and is, currently, the fourth largest city in Armenia by population.

2. The Pontifical Residence and Seat of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians is in Vagharshapat

Vagharshapat became the seat of the Catholicate of the entire Armenian nation in the 4th century. The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin (301-303) is the oldest Christian cathedral in the world and the administrative headquarters of the Armenian Apostolic Church. It is composed of the Mother Cathedral, the monastery, monastic brotherhood, the residence of the Catholicos of All Armenians, various religious and cultural institutions.

Etchmiatsin Cathedral ArmeniaPhoto by Edgar Harutyunyan

Tip: The must-see in the museum of this very holy place of Armenian heritage are the historic treasures of Armenian Church.

3. Mesrop Mashtots’s First School was founded in Vagharshapat

Mesrop Mashtots, the creator of the Armenian Alphabet founded his first school here in 405. If you happen to be in Vagharshapat in fall, do not miss the celebration on October 8 – the day when Mesrop Mashtots brought the newly created Armenian Alphabet to Vagharshapat in 405.

4. The Churches of St. Gayane and St. Hripsime Martyrs sit in Vagharshapat

Before the adoption of Christianity, Vagharshapat sheltered the Saint Virgin Martyrs Hripsime and Gayane and churches built in the honour of them are still being preserved in Vagharshapat.

The Church of Saint Gayane dates back to the 7th century and is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Saint Gayane Church Etchmiatsin
Photo by Gregor Samsa

The Church of Saint Hripsime is one of the oldest surviving churches in Armenia and is also listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Saint Hripsime Church Etchmiatsin
Photo by Gregor Samsa

Let us know how does it feel to visit this holy city and the religious center of Armenia? 

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