Ejmiatsin, the spiritual capital of Armenia, where “Christ has descended”


St. Hripsime Church

If you have already seen and enjoyed in Yerevan all the things that you have read about here, then it’s time to move to the spiritual capital of the country – Ejmiatsin. Only 20 km away from Yerevan and you will find yourself in a place where the symbol of the unwavering faith of the Armenian people, the Mother Cathedral is located, which is the stone-made expression of St. Gregory the Illuminator’s (the first Catholicos of the Armenian Church 303/305-326) vision. According to the history, Grigor, tortured for spreading Christianity, dreams about Christ descending from heaven and striking upon a stone with a golden hammer. Because of this very dream, the 4th century King Trdat III, during whose reign Christianity was adopted in 301 in Armenia as a state religion, decided to build a church in the same place where Christ appeared and called it Ejmiatsin – “the only begotten descended”. In 303 the monastery was already built, and it is still considered one of the most significant architectural buildings of the early Middle Ages.

During the centuries, the temple has been ruined, marauded, plundered, become an apple of discord between many powers, but remains standing. Moreover, the murals have also been preserved throughout all these centuries and give a special appeal to the gray walls that bear centuries-old history and the prayers of millions of people.

During 8-9 centuries “Ejmiatsin” lookalike structures became widely spread over the Europe: Churches Germigny-des-Prés (Loiret, France, 836), Saint Basil Chapel (Bruges, Belgium, IX century), and Saint Satyrus of Milan (859) belong to the Ejmiatsin-Bagaran type of construction.

In 1994 the scale model of the Cathedral was placed in Mini Mundus, the open air museum of fine arts of the world’s best architecture models and in 2000 the Cathedral was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Today, the Cathedral is the seat of the Catholicos of All Armenians and one of the most spiritual tourism destinations in Armenia. You just need to enter the city to experience the incense-scented spirit of Ejmiatsin and other monasteries. Yes, yes, the pulse of Ejmiatsin City is its monasteries. Besides the Cathedral, there are five more monasteries built in the 4th to 10th centuries and are masterpieces of medieval Armenian architecture.

The most prominent of these are the three monasteries dedicated to martyred saint virgins Hripsime, Gayane, and Shoghakat. According to Armenian historian Agathangeghos, the Roman pagan Emperor tries at any cost to marry to Christian nun Hripsime. Hripsime, as well as other nuns and abbess Gayane, flee to Armenia from Rome.

When the Emperor finds out about it, he sends a letter to King Trdat, asking him to find the girls and execute them, and return Hripsime to him. However, when the Armenian King meets Hripsime, he gets charmed by her beauty and decides to marry her himself. He does not succeed, however. The raging king orders to kill the virgins.

And in those places where the virgins were killed, churches Saint Hripsime, Saint Gayane and Saint Shoghakat were built. It is said that the bodies of the girls are buried in the area of churches. And the proof is the gravestones that are still preserved intact.

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