Rediscovering Armenia with Hyur Service: Echmiadzin and Zvartnots

Zvartnots

Hi everyone! Ready for the regular daily trip to Echmiadzin with Hyur Service? Ready for more monasteries? Say yes! It’s worth it. Trust me on that one.

On Sunday Hyur Service took me to Echmiadzin, a city in Armavir province, very often described as the most important spiritual centre of all Armenians. This is where the Catholicos of all Armenians (read: the head of the Armenian church) lives and where the most important Armenian cathedral is located.

First, before we explored the main Cathedral, we saw St. Gayane Church and St. Hripsime Cathedral, both built in memoriam of the Christian virgins killed by the Armenian king back in Pagan times. Both the churches are the finest examples of early Christian architecture in Armenia and the Caucasus.

This was only the beginning. Ready for more? Take a look on Echmiadzin’s most precious gem – The Angels of Sky Cathedral. Founded in 301 by St. Gregory the Illuminator. Pretty old, isn’t it? I will tell you more. It’s the oldest state-built church in the world. Of course, it has been renovated but…um…that’s just a detail. It was built over an old pagan temple. As our lovely guide told us, according to the legend God showed shape of the cathedral to St. Gregory the Illuminator in his dream. He wanted to teach the nation what the Christian architecture should be like to please him. Apparently, I do have a similar taste because it pleases me too.

The cathedral is not only the single building located somewhere in the city. You know, like in the middle of a big square or something. It is a whole complex situated in a walled compound. You can find a monastic school, a library a museum and more. What I loved the most about the place and what makes is truly scenic and peaceful are the gardens surrounding the main cathedral building. I loved sitting on the bench by the cathedral and watching people passing by.

The gardens hide a great collection of khachkars, Armenian engraved cross-stones. Near the new entrance gates are a few exquisite khachkar examples from historical Armenian city of Jugha in in the region of Nakhichevan, which is today a part of Azerbajian. Armenian cultural heritage monuments in the area, including the old cemetery complex, were completely destroyed back in 2005.

The cathedral complex, is not only a place of an extreme importance to religious Armenians. It’s a great place to wander around for literally everyone. I’ve been there three times already. Got there in summer. Saw it in winter. Visited in autumn. I will be back next spring.On our way back we stopped at Zvartnots. I mean the cathedral, not the airport. Zvartnots was a 7th century Armenian cathedral. Really imposing, centrally planned building influenced by Byzantine architecture. Now in ruins, it remains absolutely pittoresque.

Now it’s time for a little confession. I don’t know how many months and how many tours it will take to make me feel tired of Armenian religious architecture. Anyone wants to bet?

I was lucky enough to be a guest of Hyur Service. All of the opinions are my own. 

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