After having breakfast at the hotel, we’ll head to a city of an important destination – Vagharshapat.
The holy city of Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin) founded by the Armenian Arsacid king Vagharsh I in 117 is the historical center of the Armenian Apostolic Church and place of worship of the early Christians. In the territory of Etchmiadzin Cathedral is situated the residency of the current Catholicos of All Armenians Garegin II.
You’ll also see the temples dedicated to the martyred nuns St. Hripsime and St. Gayane. After Christianity was proclaimed a state religion by king Tiridates III in 301, Vagharshapat became the religious capital of the country. And right in the place of destroyed pagan temple was built the first Armenia Cathedral – the St. Etchmiadzin. In 1945 the town was renamed to Etchmiadzin, but in 1992 the former name was given back to the city. Nowadays both names are widely used. In 2001, when celebrating the 1700th anniversary of the Christianization of Armenia, Pope John Paul II brought the relics of the first Armenian Catholicos. For 500 years the relics of Gregory the Illuminator were kept in Naples, and now they are in Etchmiadzin Cathedral.
On our way back to Yerevan we’ll stop near the ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral.
The temple of Zvartnots (or “the Temple of Vigil Powers”) is the pearl of Armenian architecture of the early Middle Ages. From the territory of the temple is perfectly visible the Biblical Ararat in all its unique glory. The divine architecture of Zvartnots and the nature are merged here. Nowadays, from the temple remained only ruins, which you can tirelessly admire, ruins, which treasure pride and majesty. The temple was 49 meters in height. From the bottom and up to the height Zvartnots was exquisitely carved. The powerful three-tier cathedral with a spherical cupola was the highest building of the era. Zvartnots was destroyed by the severe earthquake in 930. The supporting columns of the second tier were weak and collapsed, burying all the beauty and splendor of the temple.
After having dinner in Yerevan, we’re heading to Garni.
We’re heading to Garni, where we’ll continue our tour after the dinner. The only memorial in Armenia, which remained from the era of paganism, the temple of Garni, was built in the second half of the first century AD by the Armenian Arsacid king Tiridates I and was dedicated to the sun god Mihr, whose figure was standing in the depths of the sanctuary. The fortress of Garni is one of the clearest evidences of the centuries-old culture of pre-Christian Armenia. Its construction began in the II century BC and continued during ancient times and, partly, in the Middle Ages. The temple is characterized with its unique structure. 9 massive 30 cm high steps stretched-out over the entire width of the facade strengthen the majesty of the temple. The 24 columns have their designation (2+4=6, i.e. perfection, 24=8*3, according to the sacral geometry – new life multiplied by the Holy Trinity, i.e. life given by God). The location of the columns also has its designation: 6 columns set up on both front and rear parts of the structure, and 8 columns (the symbol of life, infinity) on each of the sides.
After visiting the temple of Garni we’ll head to the monastic complex of Geghard, which is a unique architectural construction located in the gorge of the river Azat. According to the chronicles, Geghard was founded in the IV century. In the times of paganism in its place was a stream, which starts from the cave, and the water from this stream was considered sacred. The old name of the fortress is Ayrivank, which means “the Monastery of the Cave”, and the full name Geghardavank literally means “the Monastery of the Spear”. The biblical spear, by which Jesus Christ had been wounded on the Cross, allegedly was brought here by Apostle Thaddeus and is kept in the museum of Etchmiadzin monastery nowadays. After our interesting sightseeing trip we’ll return to the capital, which is very dear to us.
Further you’ll have free schedule. Let’s enjoy the colors and warm atmosphere of the evening Yerevan, not forgetting to relax, as we’ve got an eventful day ahead of us tomorrow.