The Cathedral and Churches of Echmiadzin and The Archeological Site of Zvartnots
Date of foundation:
The churches of Echmiadzin and the Zvartnots archeological site witnessed the birth of
Christianity in Armenia and are extraordinary examples of unique Armenian architecture. They
showcase some of the typical Armenian architecture features, yet also show how they introduced
new approaches that were one step ahead and different from other monuments of that time.
The Cathedral of Echmiadzin is, in fact, the oldest cathedral on earth.
The site has been in use since ancient times, as archeological findings from the Stone, Bronze,
and Iron Ages indicate that this was a holy site even before the arrival of Christianity.
The city of Echmiatsin is located in the Armavir Marz region of Armenia. The settlement has
existed since ancient times, as evidenced by Stone, Bronze, and Iron Age archaeological sites
located in and near the city. The oldest written information about Echmiatsin refers to the period
of the Urartian King Rusa II (685-645 BC). The settlement was mentioned in the Urartian
cuneiform inscription by the name of Kuarlini. Life in this Armenian settlement has continued
uninterrupted. The town has been called, successively, Artimed, during the rule of Yervandunis
(as evidenced by Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi (5th century AD)), Vardgesavan, and
afterwards Vagharshapat, during the age of development under the rule of King Vagharsh I
Arshakuni (AD 117-140). The name Echmiatsin was used along with that of Vagharshapat after
the adoption of Christianity (AD 301).
The inscribed property is divided into three separate areas: the first area includes the Mother
Cathedral of Echmiatsin and St Gayane Church. The area is about 30.2 ha. 18.8 ha belongs to the
Mother See of Echmiatsin (the Mother Cathedral and surrounding constructions covering 16.4
ha, the St Gayane Church and surrounding buildings covering 2.0 ha, and the cemetery of the
congregation covering 0.4 ha) and 11.4 ha belongs to the community of Echmiatsin City. The
second area includes St Hripsime Church and St Shoghakat Church. This area is about 25.3 ha,
with 6.2 ha being the territory of St Hripsimeh Church, belonging to the Mother See. The
remaining 19.2 ha belongs to the community of Echmiatsin City.
The third area consists of the archaeological site of Zvartnots, with the ruins of the temple,
Catholicos Palace and other constructions, and occupies about 18.8 ha.
The first and the second areas together are surrounded with one common buffer zone of
approximately 93 ha. The buffer zone of the third area is 24 ha.
The religious buildings of Echmiatsin and the archaeological remains at Zvartnots bear witness
to the implantation of Christianity in Armenia and to the evolution of a unique Armenian
ecclesiastical architecture, which exerted a profound influence on architectural and artistic
development in the region. They graphically illustrate the evolution and flowering of the
Armenian central-domed cross-hall type of church.