Echmiatsin and Zvartnots

  • Name of Site: Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvarnots
  • Located in Armenia
  • Added to the World Heritage List in 2000
  • Nominated under the criteria of being (ii) a good representation of the cathedral architecture of the period and (iii) showing the spirituality and foundations of the early Armenian Christian church
  • There are three Cultural Heritage Sites in Armenia
  • The site actually contains three different areas: The mother cathedral at Echmiatsin, the site of the Zvarnots ruins, and the Saint Hripsimeh and Saint Shoghakat Churches. Total, the area of the combined sites is about 75 hectares, or about 185 acres
  • The Cathedral of Echmiatsin was originally constructed around 300 A.D. The Saint Hripsimeh and Saint Shoghakat Churches and the Ruins at Zvartnots were both constructed in the middle 7th century
  • The Churches of Saint Hripsimeh and Saint Shoghakat represent good examples of Armenian architecture from the Middle Ages
  • All of the churches and cathedrals on the Heritage site are representative of the architecture of the Armenian Apostolic Church
  • There are no threats to the site at this time

The Kingdom of Armenia declared Christianity to be its national religion in 301 A.D. Construction of the Mother Cathedral of Echmiatsin began in the same year. It is the oldest Christian church in the country. Through the years, there have been necessary repairs made to the original structure. The result is a building that shows an eclectic range of styles in basilicas, pillars, belfries, central domes and arches which together as a whole, show the evolution of the traditional architecture of the area. As a site that marks the beginning of the Armenian Christian Church, the City of Echmiatsin and the Mother Cathedral draw tourists every year who are interested in the history and architecture of the area.

The Cathedral and Royal Palace at Zvarnots were built in the 7th century, destroyed by an earthquake in the 10th century, and the ruins were not discovered until the 20th century. The Cathedral is an ideal example of 7th century Armenian Christian architecture, being of simple layout but with intricate mosiac details that are still being reimagined in architectural renderings. Although now in ruins, the building was designed circular and three-tiered, like a wedding cake but with the main chamber inside forming a cross shape, which is seen often in designs from this period.

This photo of the Echmiatsin Cathedral is from

This picture, by Lea_from_Armenia on Flikr, is of the Holy Trinity Church in Yerevan, Armenia. This church was built as a replicate of the Zvartnots Cathedral.

An interesting thing about this World Heritage Site is that the Cathedral at Echmiatsin was built at the base of Mount Ararat, which supposedly the site at which Noah’s Ark came to rest.

There is a website for the Armenian Church with a section on the history of the Echmiatsin Cathedral and the UNESCO World Heritage Website is here.

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