Etchmiadzin

Etchmiadzin Cathedral is the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, located 20 km from Yerevan. It is the oldest cathedral in the world, that was built in 301-303 by Armenia's patron saint Gregory the Illuminator, following the adoption of Christianity as a state religion. It replaced a preexisting temple, symbolizing the conversion from paganism to Christianity. From its foundation until the second half of the 5th century, Etchmiadzin was the seat of the Catholicos, the supreme head of the Armenian Church. In 1441 it was restored as catholicosate and remains as such to this day. Since then the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin has been the administrative headquarters of the Armenian Church. Along with several important early medieval churches located nearby, the cathedral was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.

Among those there are churches St. Rhipsime (618), St. Gayane (630) and Shoghakat (1694), which are built to nuns, who preached the Christianity in Armenia. Rhipsime, along with the abbess Gayane and 38 unnamed nuns, are traditionally considered the first Christian martyrs in Armenia's history. They were persecuted, tortured, and eventually killed by king Tiridates III of Armenia. The latter went mad after the horrible massacre and only Gregory the Illuminator could heal him, going out from 
Khor Virap ("Deep pit"). After the conversion from paganism to Christianity, there were built churches dedicated to them at the location of their martyrdom. Excavations around the St. Rhipsime church have uncovered remains of several tortured women buried in early Christian manner. He established monsteries in Amaras, Sevan, Geghard.

Sardarapat memorial is located 15 km far from Etchmiadzin. It is a symbol of pride and survival, the Sardarapat Memorial marks the place of Armenia's successful last-ditch effort to save the nation from obliteration at the hands of the Turks in the Battle of Sardarapat on May 22-26, 1918. Against tremendous odds, and during the haunting backdrop of genocide during the previous few years, Armenia's makeshift army rebuffed the Turkish troops and safeguarded the small portion of historic Armenia, what became the current republic as it stands today. On the grounds of the historic battle one can today visit the Sardarapat Ethnography and Liberation Movement History Museum adjacent to the outdoor monument.

Another cathedral, Zvartnots, was built in 643-652. Dedicated to St. Gregory, it was located the place, where a meeting between King Trdat III and Gregory the Illuminator was supposed to have taken place. Nerses transferred the patriarchal palace of the Catholicos from Dvin to Zvartnots. It remained standing until the end of the 10th century. A close copy of the cathedral was erected at Ani out. Describing it, Gagik I had inaugurated as a large structure at Vagharshapat, dedicated to the same saint that had fallen into ruins. The ruins of Zvartnots remained buried until its remains were uncovered at the start of the 20th century. The site was excavated in 1901-1907, uncovering the foundations of the cathedral as well as the remains of the Catholicos palace and a winery.

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