A splendid St. Gregory Temple of Vagharshapat, otherwise called Zvartnots Temple was erected in Ararat valley and is considered a masterpiece of an early medieval Armenian architecture. According to the Armenian historians and preserved Greek inscriptions, it was built by the Cathollicos Nerses III Ishkhanatsi / The Builder /, for which he was honorably attributed with the name “Builder”. As a delicate and insightful person he considered the fact of his living right in the center of multi-religious Vagharshapat near the ecumenical residence of Catholicoses inappropriate and that is the reason that the temple of the unyielding beauty was built in 643 – 652, which is 7km far from the center and located in Arapar Vagharshapat valley. Nowadays, it is called S. Gregory of Arapar and according to Movses Kalankatvatsi, it was consecrated in 652.
It is believed that the Byzantine Emperor Constantine attended the consecration ceremony and, being fascinated by the grandiosity and majesty of the temple, he took the architect with him, so that the latter would build the identical temple in Constantinople. Nonetheless, the master died on the way and the mission remained unfulfilled. Zvartnots was a new type of an expression in the course of the Armenian architecture and it exerted a profound influence traced on numerous buildings. Zvartnots became a unique combination of Armenian construction, sculpture, decorative art and a fruitful result of the general development of Armenia civilization. The relic of St. Gregory was buried in the foundation of the temple and geographically it is placed within Arapar Vagharshapat valley. Hence the name of St. Gregory Temple of Arapari was originated. In addition to the abovementioned, it is worth mentioning that the location for the construction of the temple is connected with the spot, where St. Gregory the Illuminator coming to Vagharshapat and King Tiridates coming to meet him, joined.
Historian Sebeos gave the name Zvartnots to the temple and there built a heavenly church “Zvartnots”, which means heavenly soldiers, i.e. the crowd of angels who appeared to St. Gregory in his vision. In other words, Zvartnots also means place or house of angels. It is believed that the temple of the pagan god Tir was located on the temple of Zvartnots. The temple is also believed to have been destroyed by the earthquake, yet it had been preserved until the 10th century. At the beginning of the 20th century the ruined temple was still entirely covered with a thick layer of ground. By the efforts of master Khachik Dadyan, the excavations were only initiated in 1901 and in the result of the scientific research headed by the architect Toros Toramanyan the Temple, Patriarchal Palace with its adjacent buildings, such as a bathroom, cells and etc., as well as cemeteries, church ruins, stone-made winepress were discovered in 1904. Tuffs of a wide variety of qualities and colors, such as pumice stones, obsidians and others, were used during the construction of the temple.
In 1905 Toramanyan created a scientific reconstruction of Zvartnots temple. His detailed studies restored the real and the previous appearance of the temple. The temple was built in the center of the tile-set pedestal made by a seven-step layered multi-faceted wall located in low area of a circular shaped hill. Johan’s signature, who was probably the architect, was preserved in one of the high sculptures.
Nowadays, the ruins of the temple still possess a mysterious spell and transfer a magical power and grandeur of the ancient monument to viewers. The colonnades of the altars, the highly placed chapiters the lower part of the walls of the first floor were restored in the 1980-90-ies. Not far from the ruins of Zvartnots a small museum was built in 1937, where the excavated items are being displayed. To honour the divinity and worthiness of its title, the Temple was included in the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage in 1989.