Vagharshapat is the fourth city in Armenia by its size. It is commonly known as Etchmiadzin to the public. Vagharshapat is the religious and historic center, which as once been the capital of Armenia.
Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
The focal point in Vagharshapat is the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin. Grigor Lusavorich first built it (Gregory the Illuminator) as a vaulted basilica in 301-303, when Armenia converted to Christianity as a state religion. The spiritual and administrative headquarters of Armenian Apostolic Church and the Pontifical Residence of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians is found in the complex of Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.
You can find many buildings of great architectural value in the surrounding territory. Among them are the Chancellery, the Alex and Marie Manoogian Treasury Museum, old and new Pontifical Residences, Khrimian Museum, the former Seminary building and so on.
Saint Hripsime Church
Etchmiadzin houses many other significant Armenian churches. One of them is St Hripsime Church built in 618. The church has remained unchanged and has survived the obstacles of time. The church was erected by Catholicos Gomidas on the original mausoleum, which was built by Catholicos Sahak the Great in 395. St Hripsime is one of those unique churches that remained active during the Soviet period.
Saint Gayane Church
St Gayane Church was built in 630 by Catholicos Ezra I. Its harmonious proportions distinguish it. The church is a three-nave domed basilica with an octagonal drum resting on four internal pillars. The design of St Gayane remained unchanged in spite of partial renovations.
Saint Shoghakat Church
St Shogakat Church was built in 1694 by Prince Aghamal Sorotetsi. Shogakat means “the drop of light”. The church is a single-nave domed basilica, erected on the remains of a 6th-century basilica. It is built with red and black tufa stones during the period of Catholicos Nahabed I.
Holy Mother of God Cathedral
The Cathedral of Holy Mother of God was built in 1767 during the period of Catholicos Simeon I. It is located at the center of modern-day Etchmiadzin. It was constructed on the remains of a 16th-century wooden church. The churchyard served for a religious school. The church remained active during the Soviet period and witnessed a major renovation thanks to the efforts of Catholicos Vazgen I.
All these churches and cathedrals have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage listing.