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Coordinates: 40°10′22″N 44°17′33″E / 40.17278°N 44.2925°E / 40.17278; 44.2925

Etchmiadzin is located in Armenia
Coordinates: 40°10′22″N 44°17′33″E / 40.17278°N 44.2925°E / 40.17278; 44.2925
Country Armenia
Marz (Province) Armavir
 - Mayor Karen Emena Grigorian
Population (2008)
 - Total 52,757
Time zone   (UTC+4)
 - Summer (DST)   (UTC+5)

Ejmiatsin (also, Echmiatsin, Etchmiadzin, and Echmiadzin; Armenian: Էջմիածին) is the fourth largest city in Armenia. Ejmiatsin is the spiritual centre of Armenia and the seat of the Catholicos of All Armenians, the head of the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church. It is the most populous city in Armavir province, about 20 km west of Yerevan. The 1989 census counted the population of Etchmiadzin as 61,000; it has declined considerably since: 56,388 in the 2001 census, and an estimated 52,757 in 2008.



The city originated as Vardkesavan or Vardgesavan in the 4th or 3rd century BC. King Vagharsh (117-140) had the name changed to Vagharshapat (Armenian: Վաղարշապատ), which still persists as the official appellation of the city. The original name, as preserved by Byzantine historian, Procopius ("Persian Wars"), was Valashabad--"Valash/Balash city" (named after Balash/Valash/Valarsh, a Parthian prince of Armenia). The name evolved into its later form by the shift in the medial L into a Gh, which is common in Armenian language. Whence the name Vagharsh-abat/apat

Several decades later the city became the capital of Armenia and remained the country's most important city until the 4th century AD.

Over the centuries the city has borne several other names, including: Avan Vardgesi, Artemed, Iejmiatsin, Kaynepolis, Kayrak’aghak’, Norak’aghak’, Uch’k’ilisa, Üçkilsə, and Valeroktista.

The Etchmiadzin Cathedral

The Etchmiadzin Cathedral (480, 618)

Historically, the focal point of the city is the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, the oldest church in the world. It was originally built by Saint Gregory the Illuminator as a vaulted basilica in 301-303, when Armenia was the only country in the world the state religion of which was Christianity.

The Etchmiadzin Cathedral is listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Etchmiadzin Complex

Immediately west of the cathedral is the Gate of St. Tiridates, leading to the imposing patriarchal palace. To the northeast, with buildings both within and outside the enclosure, is the Gevorkian Theological Seminary. Several Khachkars are north of the cathedral.

Other Churches in Etchmiadzin

The church of St. Gayane (630)

Apart from the Etchmiadzin cathedral, the city of Ecthmiadzin contains three other important Armenian churches:

  • The church of St. Gayane, which is distinguished by its harmonious proportions. It was constructed in AD 630 in Etchmiadzin by Catholicos Ezra. The design remains unchanged despite partial enlargement in the 17th century with renovations to the dome and of some ceilings.
The church of St. Hripsime (618)
  • The church of St. Hripsime was built in AD 618 and survives basically unchanged. It is considered as one of the oldest surviving churches in Armenia, and is known for its fine Armenian architecture of the classical period, which influenced many other Armenian churches.

The churches of St. Gayane, St. Hrispsime, St. Shoghakat, and the archeological site of Zvartnots, are, just like Etchmiadzin Cathedral, listed among the World Heritage Sites designated by UNESCO.


Only a few kilometers away is also the archaeological site of Zvartnots Cathedral famous for its unique design. The church was built between AD 643 and 652 by Catholicos Nerses III (nicknamed the Builder). Zvartnots was a majestic cathedral dedicated to St. George at the place where a meeting between king Trdat III and Gregory the Illuminator was supposed to have taken place.

In AD 930, the church was ruined by an earthquake, and remained buried until its rediscovery in the early 20th century. The site was excavated between 1900 and 1907, uncovering the foundations of the cathedral as well as the remains of the Catholicos palace and a winery. The interior of the fresco-decorated church had the shape of a Greek cross with three aisles, while the exterior was a 32-sided polygon which appeared circular from a distance.

See also


External links



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