Gayaneh and Chripsimeh

Only 50 km away from the capital Erevan, the city of Wagharschapat gives shelter to he religious center of Armenia: the Monastery of Edschmiadzin. the cathedral of Etschmiadzin

The monastery consists of the cathedral, the biggest church of Armenia and the residence of the armenian Katholikos, the seminar and the famous printshop. Like many spiritual buildings, the cathedral is erected on top of a pagan place of worshipping. The cathedral is not only the biggest, she is also the oldest church of the country and dates from the 4th century. The sacristy (from the 19th century) now houses the famous museum.
The grave of the  Katholikos

In front of the main church, the plain graves of some katholikos are placed, so the grave of the late Katholikos Garegin I. Sarkisjan.

The flower beds and the roses in the parks, which surrounds the churches, reminded me of iranian gardens and the strange red flowers with their almost velvet-like blossoms gave me a real deja vu..

The two armenian saints Gayaneh and Chripsimeh, martyrs in th early fourth century, found death here in this region and wonderful churches were built in their memory. Gayaneh Church

It was in the church of Gayaneh, that I first heard Anna Mailian singing and I felt close to heaven.

Chripsimeh Church
When she sang in the church of Chripsimeh, the organ player joined in and performed Beethoven's Song of Joy. Music from different times, at one place.

Listen to: Sirt im sasani, a mediaval sharakan, sung by Anna Mailian (MP3)

Zvartnoz The church of Zwartnoz was destroyed by a strong earthquake in the 10th century and only impressive ruins are left. It is interesting that this church was built as a building with a central dome, as nearly all armenian churches have a cruciforme ground plan. Capitel in Zvartnoz

Many capitels are testimony of the highly developed art of stonecutting.

The ruins of Zvartnoz are not completely excavated, only few could be restored, but every visitor gets an impression of the majestic church, overlooked by the snowy Ararat.

After having seen so many sacral buildings, testimonies of the armenian belief, this day, I could understand very well Adriano Alpago Novello, head of the Center of the Studies of Armenian Culture at the university of Milan. He wrote:

The tough clinging to christian religion, the merely compulsive erection or engraving of crosses everywhere and at every occasion, as well as the extraordinary richness of sacral buildings, is not only a religious decision, it is a characteristical element of Identity, a symbol for the physical survival of the armenian people.

Adriano Alpago Novello
Die armenische Architektur zwischen Ost und West
in: Die Armenier, Brücke zwischen Abendland und Orient
Belser Verlag Stuttgart / Zürich, 1996, S. 131

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