"Zvartnots" complex, located not far from Vagharshapat, is of unique value; it consists of
Zvartnots temple, and catholicos’s palace, situated nearby.
This wonderful complex was built in 641-661 by Nerses III Shinogh’s order, who got the nickname "Shinarar"(Builder) due to his construction activity.
"Zvartnots" was founded on the path, where king Trdat (Tiridate) met Gregory the Enlightener, visiting Vagharshapat, and it is supposed, that Nerses III built temple after st. Gregory to commemorate this exact event. Part of his relics is preserved in the temple. Nevertheless, the temple is known more as "Zvartnots", because it is dedicated to angels’ joys. So, "Zvartnots" literally means "Angels meeting".
"Zvartnots" was standing until the end of the Xth century. At beginning of the XXth century, ruined "Zvartnots" was under thick soil layer. According to the excavated materials, before the erection of this temple, there were constructions of IV-V cc here. It is supposed, that on the place of "Zvartnots" temple of god Tir (god of science and education) stood. During excavations, the temple, catholicos’s palace, the South-West of it, additional constructions (bath, cells and so on), graves, household items as well as church ruins and stone winery (near the ruins, in Southeastern part) were found on the spot.
"Zvartnost" had its influence on Armenian architecture as a whole; this is a unique compound of Armenian constructing practice, sculpture, decorative art of early Middle Ages. Yerevan Opera House building has many similarities with "Zvartnots" temple.
Since 1937 there have been many open and close exhibitions in the territory of the museum-reserve, which is aimed not only to represent history and architecture of "Zvartnots", but to give people particular knowledge about the origins of Armenian architecture, its traditions, and, of course, its role in history of Armenian culture.
The Holy See of Etchmiadzin is the main religious construction of Armenian Apostolic Church, one
the unique architectural monuments of early Christian period; its architectural solutions became
basis for building many Armenian churches.
According to the legend, Gregory the Enlightener, who was preaching Christianity in Armenia, had a dream of Jesus Christ coming down from heaven with a hammer in his hand and hitting on the place, where a pagan temple was located. Gregory the Enlightener told his dream to king Trdat (Tiridate), and he ordered to build a temple on that spot and call it Echmiadzin (Only begotten came down). The temple was built at beginning of the IV century after adoption of Christianity as state religion in Armenia. The building is situated on the place of a pagan temple, the foundation of which is under the main altar.
At first the church had basilica style, but in 480 Duke Vasak Mamikonyan rebuilt it; the temple got crossed layout with a dome, based on four separate columns.
The painting work in the Holy See is done by Naghash Hovnatan (illustrations on the upper part of the dome and Holy Virgin’s depiction on the inner marble of the main altar are preserved). Periodically Harutyun and Hakob Hovnatanyans worked for the Holy See. The main elements of the interior of the building are painting and machine tool works by artist Naghash Hovnatan. He depicted saints, priests, other thematic illustrations.
There is a museum in the building of Holy See, where different works of Armenian spiritual art, manuscripts, and other artworks are kept. Here there are also collections of coins, carpets, paintings and other valuable materials. One of the treasures of the museum is Geghard (which Jesus Christ was pierced with) and a remnant of Noah’s Ark.
The temple was rebuilt in the 7th century by Komitas and Nerses G Catholicoses; in the 17th century the belfry was constructed and in the 18th – The Treasury Museum of Etchmiadzin.
Garni pagan temple was built in the second half of the 2nd century AD (77 AD). After the
adoption of Christianity the temple became “summer residence” of Trdad G (Tiridate G)’s sister
Khostrovdukht. This Hellenistic temple was destroyed during the earthquake of 1679. Near the
temple bass-relieved columns, wall stones, arks were found. That contributed to the restoration
of the temple, which took place in 1969-75.
The temple was dedicated to the pagan god Mithra: god of light, truth, justice; very often, he was illustrated fighting against the bull – darkness. Near the temple a marble bull hoof was found, which was an idol in pre-Christian period; it was destroyed after the adoption of Christianity. This already restored amazing monument continues admiring thousands of people. The temple is a world value, one of the unique monuments of Armenian material culture of pagan period.
Twenty-four columns of the temple symbolize 24 hours of a day. To the East of the temple: nearly at the edge of the plateau, royal palace was located. Royal baths, located nearby, consist of four consecutive rooms in one line. Fresco of the dressing room is of great scientific and artistic value – example of monumental art of pre-Christian period. It illustrates different gods, mermaids, tritons: people with horse body and fish tails, fishermen, different fish etc..
There is an opinion, that the prototype of Garni temple is Musasir temple of god Khald, which functioned in the 9th century BC. Detailed information came from king Sargon the Second's records. There are many constructing and architectural elements, which give reason to think that Greek-Roman architecture had its own prototype.
Geghard is one of the most popular monasteries of medieval Armenia, one of the unique cultural
monuments. According to the legend, the monastery was founded during the first years of adoption
of Christianity as state religion (the beginning of the 4th century).
In the remote past the monastery was called “Ayrivank” (monastery in rock) because of the constructions, dug into the rock; from the XIII century it was also called Geghard in honor of the spear, kept in the monastery (spear, which Jesus Christ was pierced with on the cross). Before that, the cherished spear was kept in st. Echmiadzin. Nevertheless, it was moved from Echmiadzin to Ayrivank because of the unstable domestic and foreign politics. Due to the fact, the monastery started to be called “Geghard” as well. The foundation of the monastery is attributed to Gregory the Enlightener. The main church: st. Mary Virgin or “Katighike”, according to the lithographic inscription found on the Western front exit, was built in 1215 (during the reign of Zakaryans). In the 13th century Duke Prosh bought the church from Zakaryans and started the construction of premises in the rocks (under architect Galdzak’s control).
Geghard Monastery was one of the spiritual and cultural centers of medieval Armenia, where besides religious buildings a school, a library, a typography, many cells for local monks were established.
Mkhitar Ayrivanetsi (Mkhitar from Ayrivank) and Simeon Ayrivanetsi (Simeon from Ayrivank) lived and worked right here. They had great contribution in the development of calligraphy art. Geghard is popular with wonderful bass-reliefs and exquisite khachqars. The school had a repository of manuscripts. A part of the manuscripts is kept in Yerevan Matenadaran after M. Mashtots There were many attempts to invade the monastery, but it stood inaccessible, and Geghama Mountains were its loyal guardians.