Etchmiadzin Monastery

 Etchmiadzin Monastery

Location: Movses Khorenatsi Street

Vagharshapat, Armavir Province   Map


Description of Etchmiadzin Monastery

Etchmiadzin Monastery is an ancient Christian complex that is made up of Etchmiadzin Cathedral, the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, church of Hripsime, Gayane basilica, church Shokagat and many others. Etchmiadzin Cathedral was built by the first Armenian Bishop George the Educator in 301-303 AD. It became the first Christian cathedral in the World. Just to give you a perspective of the time period. It is exactly the same time when the rest of the Ancient Roman Empire saw some of the worst years of Christian persecutions. They ended only by the edict of Milan in 313. Armenia being a semi- independent province of the Roman Empire saw numerous Christians flee the religious persecutions to a safe haven in Armenia. Etchmiadzin Monastery was later acuired a churches of Saint Hripsime (built in 618 AD), Saint Gayane and Saint Shokagal (1694) dedicated to the first Christian martyrs.


In the 5th and 7th century Etchmiadzin Cathedral was rebuilt from local stone that proved to be reliable and virtually prone to weather erosion. In the 17th century a bell tower was added and in 1869 additional sacristy. Murals and frescoes that cover the interior of the church date back to 17th- 18th centuries. In 1955 Historical Museum was opened. It houses a collection of artifacts and art that was discovered on the grounds of Etchmiadzin Monastery. It covers time period of late Antiquity and Medieval period.



The construction of the cathedral is associated with the name of Tsar Trdat III and the Catholicos Saint Gregory the Illuminator. According to legend, Trdat III ordered the stones of 35 nuns to be stoned, and then went crazy. One of the Christian prisoners named Gregory (who became known as Gregory the Illuminator) cured him and converted to Christianity, after which the entire population of Armenia followed the example of his ruler. According to legend, the place for the temple was indicated to Gregory the Illuminator by Jesus Christ himself, where the name comes from. Before, pagan rites and worship of local gods were held here.

The cathedral built in the 4th – 5th centuries is considered one of the oldest Christian cathedrals in the world. Throughout its history, it underwent many reconstructions. Initially, like other temples, it was a rectangular building, but was later rebuilt into a central domed cathedral. Over time, the building was supplemented by a bell tower, rotundas, a sacristy and other buildings.

History of construction and restoration
Echmiadzin Cathedral was built for more than one century. Originally, the Cathedral was built of wood in the shape of a basilica. But already in the V century it was rebuilt, it was given a cruciform shape, crowned with a dome. In the 7th century, the Cathedral was rebuilt in stone. In the XVII century, a new modern dome and a three-tier bell tower were erected over the cathedral. In the 18th century, six-column rotundas were erected on three sides of the Cathedral. In the XX century, a thorough restoration was carried out. The columns and arches supporting the dome were strengthened, and the dome itself was lined with lead. A new altar was built from marble. Marble was laid and the floor of the church. The paintings inside the temple were updated and supplemented.

Longin's Spear
piece of Noah's ark
relics of St. Stephen
particle of the staff of the Apostle Bartholomew