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Echmiatsin and Zvartnots

Echmiatsin and Zvartnots

The Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots are two prime examples of Armenian church design.

Echmiatsin is the center of the Armenian Church. It locates the Echmiatsin Cathedral, which was built in 480 (making it the most ancient church in Armenia).

Zvartnots dates from the 7th century, and was built to surpress the Echmiatsin Cathedral in grandeur. This complex consists of a temple and the palace of Catholicos Nerses III. Presumably, the architect if Zvartnots knew of Syrian and Byzantine structures.

Map of Echmiatsin and Zvartnots


  • Cultural

Visit May / June 2005

I visited this site (Echmiatsin, to be precise) twice during my stay in Armenia. The first time when fresh out of the plane, the second time after travelling around in Armenia for a week. At first I found the main cathedral a bit sober, but it's exuberant compared to others around the country.

May / June 2005

Zvartnots is a completely different sight. In ruins and with snow-clad mountains in the backgrounds, it looks like a classic Greek temple in the Peloponnesos. Later I saw a recnstruction of what it could have looked like before demolition, and that was definitely more like a typical Armenian cathedral.

May / June 2005

On my second visit, I also went to Surp Hripsime (shown in the big photo above): a 6th century church about 2 km. from the main Echmiatsin complex. It's a bit big and bulky, but nice.

May / June 2005

Community Reviews

Nelli, ARMENIA 12-Jul-14

According to the respectful author : "Presumably, the architect if Zvartnots knew of Syrian and Byzantine structures" Yet, it is absolutely on the contrary as according to the historical chroniclers , the Byzantine Emperor Constantin who was present at the ceremony of consecration of the Cathedral of Zvatrnots was so much admired by the structure that requested that Catholicos Nerses sent out the architect with stonemasons to Constantinople to build a similar rotunda shaped Cathedral there. On his way to Constantinople the architect died...

Very few unfortunately have heard about the "Golden Rule" of the ancient Armenian architecture which said "NO COPY, MAKE IT DIFFERENT".

The architect according to the tradition having no other choice committed suicide. Why? Simply because 1/. his rule of professional honor did not let him to "copy" his work, 2/. the Emperor would kill him it the new one was worse than Zvartnots and finally 3/. being a true patriot and believer he wanted to preserve his style's uniqueness for his Homeland for as long as possible...

William Dunbar, UK 18-Jul-10

Echmiadzin and Zvarnots are a little underwhelming, especially compared to other monuments in Armenia. I would recommend Gerghard and Khor Virap as more interesting trips if you are staying in Yerevan. The museum in the main cathedral at Echmiadzin does have some interesting exhibits, but the main museums in Yerevan are better.

Solivagant UK

Echmiatsin and Zvartnots by Solivagant

Echmiatsin is the “Rome” or “Canterbury” of the Armenian Church being the home of the Katholikos of All Armenians and his cathedral. As such it is clearly an important site. The town is a relatively short drive from Yerevan and is an automatic excursion for anyone who visits the capital. The archaeological remains of Armenia’s 7th century cathedral at Zvartnots are just outside the town and will be passed on the road to/from Yerevan.

I personally didn’t find these 2 sites particularly memorable – certainly less so than the other 2 ecclesiastical WHS. The Zvartnots remains hinted at little in the way of the possible former glories of the site and the Cathedral has undergone a lot of later development and its siting close to the town centre among gardens lacks the drama and scenery of the other sites.

That morning in Yerevan we had visited the Matenadaran (Institute of Ancient Manuscripts), which is inscribed on another UNESCO list “The Memory of the World Register”, and the Genocide Memorial. Both were far more memorable. (Visited Jul 2000)

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Community Rating

Community Rating 2.68. Based on 11 votes.

Site Info

Full name: The Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots

Unesco ID: 1011

Inscribed: 2000

Type: Cultural

Criteria: 2   3  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2000 - Inscribed 


The site has 6 locations.

  • Echmiatsin and Zvartnots: Archaeological site of Zvartnots with ruins of the Temple, the Royal Palace, and other constructions Echmiatsin, Armavir Marz, Armenia
  • Echmiatsin and Zvartnots: Cemetery of Congregation
  • Echmiatsin and Zvartnots: Church Saint Gayaneh and surrounding buildings
  • Echmiatsin and Zvartnots: Mother Cathedral of Echmiatsin and surrounding constructions Echmiatsin, Armavir Marz, Armenia
  • Echmiatsin and Zvartnots: Saint Hripsimeh Church and St. Shoghakat Church - part I Echmiatsin, Armavir Marz, Armenia
  • Echmiatsin and Zvartnots: Saint Hripsimeh Church and St. Shoghakat Church - part II


The site has 19 connections.


  • Tetraconch: Saint Hripsime Church at Echmiatsin: "has a square tetraconch highly complex central plan" (wiki); also Zvartnots "a 7th-century centrally planned aisled tetraconch type"
  • Double chapel: St Hripsime Church, Echmiatsin




Religion and Belief

  • Cathedrals: St Gregory, St George (Ruined)
  • Armenian Orthodox Church
  • Christian Pilgrimage Sites: Echmiatsin
  • Zoroastrianism: Remains of a Zoroastrian fire-altar have been found directly beneath the main altar of the Echmiadzin Cathedral
  • Religious Relics: Echmiatsin: The Holy Lance that pierced our Lord?s side by the Roman soldier during His crucifixion is among them. According to the tradition it was brought to Armenia by Apostle Thaddeus when he came to evangelize. The Lance is kept in the Cathedral Museum. The greatest relic of Armenian Church is the Right Hand of St. Grigor Lusavorich (St. Gregory the Illuminator). The relic is housed in a gold artwork depicting the sufferings of the saint. The third major relic is the piece of Noah?s Ark (kept in the Cathedral Museum). According to the tradition, it was given to St. Hakob (Jacob), Patriarch
  • Early Christianity: The Cathedral was originally built in AD 301- 303 (and rebuilt in 480) by St Gregory the Illuminator who had been brought up as a Christian in Caeserea and later converted the Armenian king. His son, Aristakes of Armenia, attended the council of Nicaea.
  • Introduction of Christianity: Armenia declared Christianity as its state religion in 301CE. According to the great 5th century Armenian historian Agatangeghos (Agafangel in Greek), St Gregor Lousavorich (St Gregory the Illuminator), first Patriarch of Armenia, had a vision. Christ came down from Heaven and touched the earth with a golden hammer. In that place, then called Vagharshpat and then the capital of Armenia, a church was built between 301-303 called Echmiatsin, ?the place where the Only Begotten descended".



WHS on Other Lists

  • Memory of the World: A large part of the Matenadaran collection was preserved in Echmiatsin until the early 19th century: "This treasure has a centuries-long history, the nucleus of its manuscript fund is made up by the Echmiadzin Patriarchate Matenadaran. According to the 5th century historian Lazar Papetsi, the Echmiadzin Matenadaran existed as early as the 5th century."  Link

World Heritage Process

  • Incorrect UNESCO 'Number of locations': AB ev & map insist on 3 separate areas. UNESCO shows 6 different locations, of which the 6th (Cemetery of Congregation) is especially doubtful for a separate location.