Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin 
and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots (2000)

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The cathedral and churches of Echmiatsin and the archaeological remains at Zvartnots graphically illustrate the evolution and development of the Armenian central-domed cross-hall type of church, which exerted a profound influence on architectural and artistic development in the region. 

Armenians were converted to Christianity in the early 4th century, and by some accounts they were the first in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion. During centuries of foreign domination, when Armenians did not have a state of their own, the Armenian Church helped maintain a sense of collective identity. 

Armenia 1995. Souvenir sheet. Monastery in Echmiatsin.

Echmiadzin cathedral (“the place where the homogeneous come together”) is the most ancient Christian temple of Armenia. It was built in 301—303 by Grigor Lusagorich (Gregory the Enlightener), the founder of the Armenian Gregorian church. next to the kings palace, in place of a destroyed heathen basilica. The monastery which took shape around the cathedral is the residence of Katholikos, the head of the Armenian clergy.
  • Armenia 1995. Souvenir sheet. 1700th Years of Christianity in Armenia. Monastery in Echmiatsin after an engraving by Jakob Peeters (1660). In the background Mount Ararat on a modern photograph of the area. 

Echmiadzin cathedral was the main Christian temple of Vagarshapat. Gayane. Hripsimch, Shogakat and other churches, built at various times in place of small and not too expressive fourth-century chapels, complement it from the point of view of architecture and layout.

Situated relatively close to Echmiadzin cathedral, they are perceived as important components of a single architectural ensemble which changed after each new temple was built. The low residential structures all around set off to the best advantage the grandeur of these edifices and their domination in various parts of the city. 

  • Armenia 1995. From the series "1700th anniversary of Christianity in Armenia. “St.Gregory the Enlightener” (XVII century). 

Armenia 1995. "St. Gregory the Enlightener".

Armenia 2000. Souvenir sheet. Churches of Echmiatsin.

Armenia 1994. Art Treasures from Echmiatsin. Stamp #1 of five. Armenia 1994. Art Treasures from Echmiatsin. Stamp #2 of five. Armenia 1994. Art Treasures from Echmiatsin. Stamp #3 of five. Armenia 1994. Art Treasures from Echmiatsin. Stamp #4 of five. Armenia 1994. Art Treasures from Echmiatsin. Stamp #5 of five.
When Armenia was part of the Russian Empire, the head of the church, known as the catholicos, was considered the most important representative of the Armenian people. The church therefore developed as a strong symbol of the Armenian nation. The Armenian Church was allowed to continue as the national church of the Armenian republic during the Soviet period, although the Soviet Union was officially atheistic because of its Communist ideology. 

Soviet authorities granted official recognition only to Armenian clergy who were affiliated with a pro-Soviet political faction. Clergy who supported nationalist groups were not allowed to hold power in the church. Today, Christianity remains the country’s predominant religion. Most ethnic Armenians belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church. Among ethnic minorities, there are Russian Orthodox Christians, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims. 

  • Russia 1978. From the series "Architectural Art of Armenia". Echmiatsin Cathedral in Vagarshapat. 

Russia 1978. From the series "Architectural Art of Armenia". Echmiatsin Cathedral.

Armenia’s official state language is Armenian, an Indo-European language with no surviving close relatives. It has a unique 38-letter alphabet that dates from the early 5th century. Of its many spoken dialects, the most important are Eastern or Yerevan Armenian (the official language) and Western or Turkish Armenian. Armenia’s ethnic minorities also speak their own native languages, mainly Russian and Kurdish. 

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage sites in Armenia (on this site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing (Armenia-section for further information about such sites.

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Revised 21 jul 2006  
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