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"Etchmiadzin" redirects here. For other uses, see Etchmiadzin (disambiguation).

Coordinates: 40°10′22″N 44°17′33″E / 40.17278°N 44.29250°E / 40.17278; 44.29250


Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Vagharshapat


Coordinates: 40°10′22″N 44°17′33″E / 40.17278°N 44.29250°E / 40.17278; 44.29250

Country Armenia
Marz (Province) Armavir
Established 685 BC
 • Mayor Karen Manvel Grigoryan
 • Total 13 km2 (5 sq mi)
Elevation 853 m (2,799 ft)
Population (2009)
 • Total 57,300
 • Density 4,400/km2 (11,000/sq mi)
Time zone   (UTC+4)
 • Summer (DST)   (UTC)
Area code(s) 0231
Sources: Population[1]

Vagharshapat (Armenian: Վաղարշապատ), commonly known as Ejmiatsin or Echmiadzin (Armenian: Էջմիածին), is the fourth-largest city in Armenia, one of the historic capitals of Armenia and the spiritual center of the Armenians, as it is the seat of the Catholicos of All Armenians, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church. It is the most populous city in Armavir province, located about 18 km (11 mi) west of Yerevan, 25 km (16 mi) east of the regional center of Armavir, only 10 km (6 mi) north of the Armenia-Turkish border. The 1989 census counted the population of Ejmiatsin as 61,000; it has declined somewhat since: 58,388 in the 2001 census, and an estimated 56,757 in 2008.

Etymology and history

The territory of ancient Vagharshapat was inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC. Many sites, such as Metsamor, Shresh hill and Mokhrablur date to the neolithic period. The first written records about Vagharshapat were found in the inscriptions left by the Araratian king Rusa II (685–645 BC), where it was mentioned as the 'Valley of Kuarliny'. According to Movses Khorenatsi, the oldest name of Vagharshapat was probably Artemid, derived from the ancient Greek deity Artemis. It was renamed Avan Vardgesi (Town of Vardges) or Vardgesavan (Վարդգէսաւան) after being replenished by prince Vardges during the reign of king Orontes I Sakavakyats of Armenia (570–560 BC).

During the first half of the 1st century under the reign of the Armenian Arshakuni King Vagharsh I (117–144), the old town of Vardgesavan was renovated and renamed Vagharshapat (Վաղարշապատ); this is the official name of the city. The original name, as preserved by Byzantine historian Procopius (Persian Wars), was Valashabad — "Valash/Balash city" — named after king Balash/Valash/Valarsh of Armenia. The name evolved into its later form by the shift in the medial L into a Gh, which is common in the Armenian language.

Khorenatsi mentions that the town of Vardges was totally rebuilt and fenced by Vagharsh I to become known as Noarakaghak (The New City) or Vagharshapat.

It was the capital of the Ashakuni Kingdom of Armenia between 120 AD and 330 AD and remained the country's most important city until the end of the 4th century AD. When Christianity became the state religion, Vagharshapat was gradually called Ejmiatsin, after the name of the Mother Cathedral. Since 301, Vagharshapat became the spiritual centre of the nation, being home to the Armenian Catholicosate, one of the oldest religious organizations in the world.

After becoming the seat of the Catholicosate, Vagharshapat grew rapidly to become the education and cultural centre of the Armenians. The city was home to one of the oldest educational institutions established by Saint Mashtots.

After the fall of the Armenian Arshakuni Kingdom in 428, the city gradually lost its importance under the Persian rule, especially when the seat of the Catholicosate was transferred to Dvin in 452. However, the first manuscripts library in Armenia was founded in 480 AD in Vagharshapat. In 491, the Armenian Katholikos Babken I along with Albanian and Iberian bishops met at Vagharshapat and issued a condemnation of the Chalcedonian creed.[2]

In 658 AD, Vagharshapat — along with the rest of Ancient Amrneia — was conquered during the height of Arab invasions. The city was revived between the ninth and eleventh centuries under the Bagratuni Kingdom of Armenia before being overrun by the Byzantines and later by the Seljuks. In the mid 13th century, it became part of the Ilkhanate of the Mongol Empire. After the invasion of Timur in 1387, the city fell under the rule of the Timurid dynasty. In 1410, Armenia came under the rule of the Kara Koyunlu Turkomans until 1468 when the Aq Qoyunlu Turkomans ruled the Armenian territories until 1502. After 1045, with the beginning of the foreign rule, Vagharshapat turned into an insignificant city until 1441, when the seat of the Armenian Catholicosate was transferred from the Cilician town of Sis back to Etchmiadzin. During the Turkic-Mongol rule, the city was known to Turks as Uchkilisa (Üçkilise, "Three churches" in Turkic).

Between 1502 and 1828, Armenia became part of the Persian state under the Safaavid, Afsharid and Qajar dynasties, with brief periods under Ottoman rule between 1578 and 1603 and again between 1722 and 1736.

In 1828, after the Russo-Persian War, Vaghasrhapat — as a part of the Erivan Khanate — was handed over to the Russian Empire as a result of the Treaty of Turkmenchay signed on 21 February 1828.

Armenia enjoyed a brief independence in 1918–1920 before falling to the Bolshevik 11th Red Army and becoming part of the Soviet Union. Under the Soviet rule, the city was officially renamed Etchmiadzin in 1945.

After the independence of Armenia, the city was renamed Vagharshapat in 1992.

The archaeological site of ancient Vagharshapat

According to Movses Khorenatsi's History of Armenia and as a result of several archaeological researches conducted in the area, the most probable location of the ancient city of Vagharshapat is the area of Shresh Hill near Kasagh River.[3]

Shresh Hill' or the Kond of Ghugo, as it was called by the local population, is 500 meters northeast of the current city of Ejmiatsin, on the way to Oshakan. This artificial hill of 123 meters diameter was first excavated in 1870. In 1913 and 1928, the area was excavated by archaeologist Yervand Lalayan. Large-scale excavations were conducted in Shresh Hill and the nearby sites of Metsamor and Mokhrablur between 1945 and 1950.


Vagharshapat is the largest satellite-city of Yerevan and the 4th largest in Armenia, very close to Zvartnots International Airport. It is in Eastern Armenia to the center-west of the country in the northeastern extremity of Ararat Valley, in the basin of Kasagh River. Historically, Vagharshapat is at the heart of the Armenian Highland, in Aragatsotn canton (Armenian: Արագածոտն գաւառ Aragatsotn gavar, not to be confused with the current Aragatsotn Province) of Ayrarat province, within Armenia Major. The city has an average elevation of 853 metres (2,799 feet) above sea level with a dry continental climate.


Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Main article: Etchmiadzin Cathedral

Historically, the focal point of the city is the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin, (Armenian: Մայր Տաճար Սուրբ Էջմիածին Mayr Tajar Surb Ejmiatsin) which is one of the oldest churches in the world. Originally known as the Holy Mother of God Church (Armenian: Սուրբ Աստուածածին Եկեղեցի Surb Astvatsatsin Yekeghetsi), it was first built by Saint Gregory the Illuminator as a vaulted basilica in 301–303, when Armenia had just adopted Christianity as a state religion (the first such in world history). The church was enlarged on occasion, notably in 480, 618 and 1658.

The religious complex of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin

Main article: Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin

The Mother Cathedral is found in the complex of Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin (Armenian: Մայր Աթոռ Սուրբ Էջմիածին ), the spiritual and administrative headquarters of the worldwide Armenian Apostolic Church and the Pontifical Residence of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

The main Etchmiadzin Cathedral is surrounded with many structures built throughout the centuries. Most buildings are of great architectural significance, such as the old and new Pontifical Residences, the Chancellery or the Divanatoon, the Gate of King Trdat, Alex and Marie Manoogian Treasury Museum (1982), Khrimian Museum, Yeremian Monastic cells, the old Seminary building, the Clock Tower, the Bookstore, etc.

Gevorkian Theological Seminary is a theological school-college of the Armenian Apostolic Church founded by Catholicos Gevork IV in 1874 and found in the complex.

Apart from the Mother Cathedral, Vagharshapat is home to many other important Armenian churches and cathedrals. The Cathedral of Etchmiadzin, the Churches of Saint Hripsimé, Saint Gayane and Saint Shoghakat, and the archaeological site of Zvartnots are listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Saint Hripsimé Church

Main article: Saint Hripsime Church

Built in 618, Saint Hripsimé Church survives basically unchanged. It is considered one of the oldest surviving churches in Armenia, known for its fine architecture of the classical period, which influenced many other Armenian churches. It was erected in 618 by Catholicos Gomidas atop the original mausoleum, built by Catholicos Sahak the Great in 395, which contained the remains of the martyred Saint Hripsimé. According to the 17th century Armenian historian Arakel of Tabriz, the church was renovated during 1651–1653 by Catholicos Philip I. Repairs were made on the roof, top of the dome, the walls and bases. A cross was placed on top of the roof, and a small portico was added to the western side. It is one of the few churches in Armenian that remained active during the Soviet period.

Saint Gayane Church

Main article: Saint Gayane Church

Built in 630 by Catholicos Ezra I, Saint Gayane Church is distinguished by its harmonious proportions. It is a three-nave domed basilica with an octagonal drum resting on four internal pillars that divide the interior of the church into three. Its design remained unchanged despite partial renovations of the dome and some ceilings in 1652.

Zvartnots Cathedral

Main article: Zvartnots Cathedral

Zvartnots is a 7th-century ruined circular Armenian cathedral built by the order of Catholicos Nerses III the Builder between 641 and 653. It is at the eastern edge of modern-day Vagharshapat.

Zvartnots was a majestic cathedral famous for its unique design, dedicated to Saint George, built at the place where a meeting between king Tiridates III and Saint Gregory the Illuminator was supposed to have taken place.

In 930 AD, the church was ruined by an earthquake and remained buried until it was rediscovered in the early 20th century by architect Toros Toramanian. The site was excavated between 1900 and 1907, uncovering the foundations of the cathedral as well as the remains of the Pontifical palace and a winery.

Saint Shoghakat Church

Main article: Shoghakat Church

Meaning 'the drop of light', Shoghakat Church is a single-nave domed basilica, built and completed in 1694 by prince Aghamal Sorotetsi during the period of Catholicos Nahabed I. It is built with red and black tufa stones, erected on the remains of a 6th-century basilica. The remains of a 4th-century small chapel could be seen at the southwestern end of Saint Shoghakat Church.[4]

Holy Mother of God Cathedral

The Cathedral of the Holy Mother of God in Vagharshapat was built in 1767, during the period of Catholicos Simeon I. It is located north of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, at the centre of modern-day Vagharshapat. It was built on the remains of a one-century older wooden church. The churchyard was home to a school. The church was active during the Soviet period and renovated in 1986 by the efforts of Catholicos Vazgen I.[5]

Currently, the Holy Mother of God Cathedral in Vagharshapat is the seat of the Armavir Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Education and sports

Gevorkian Theological Seminary is one of the most significant educational institutions of the Republic of Armenia. Other educational institutions include the Grigor Lusavorich University and the intermediate college of vocational education.

There are 14 public education schools, 8 kindergartens and 2 music academies operating in the city.[6]

"Ejmiatsin Day" is celebrated on 8 October every year since 2008. According to the old Armenian tradition, Mesrop Mashtots brought the newly created Armenian alphabet to Vagharshapat on 8 October 405.[7]

FC Vagharshapat, the city's only football club, made its debut in the Armenian Premier League as Zvartnots Echmiadzin in 1992. The club was dissolved in early 2006 and is inactive from professional football. Vagharshapat Stadium is able to host 3000 spectators.

International relations

Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin) has been a member of the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC)[8] since 2007.[9]

Twin towns — sister cities

Vagharshapat-Ejmiatsin has six sister cities:[10]

Famous people

  • Zacharias II (?-1520), Catholicos of All Armenians 1515–1520
  • Gregory XII (1498–1590), Catholicos of All Armenians 1576–1590
  • David IV (?-1633), Catholicos of All Armenians 1590–1629
  • Makar Yekmalyan (1856–1905), composer
  • Levon Manaseryan (1925), painter

See also


  • GEOnet Names Server

External links

  • Armenia Photos: The Holy City of Etchmiadzin by
  • Etchmiadzin Old Photos by
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