Etchmiadzin Cathedral the main religious structure of the Echmiadzin Catholicosate of the Armenian Apostolic Church. It is located in the city of Vagharshapat, Armavir region, Armenia. According to scientists, it is the first Cathedral (but not the first church) of ancient Armenia and is considered one of the oldest Cathedrals in the world. The church was built at the beginning of the fourth century, in the years 301-303, after the adoption of Christianity as the state religion, by order of Gregory the Illuminator. It was built on the site of a pre-existing temple, symbolizing the transition from paganism to Christianity. The main part of the current structure was built by Vahan Mamikonian in 483/4 after it was severely damaged during the Persian invasion. From its construction until the second half of the fifth century, the cathedral was the residence of the Catholicos of All Armenians.
In 1441, a National Ecclesiastical Assembly was convened in Vagharshapat and a decision was made to return the Catholicosate of All Armenians to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. From that time until now, the Holy Etchmiadzin Mother See has been the administrative center of the Armenian Church. Later, the temple underwent a number of renovations. In 1604, in order to weaken the devotion of Armenians to their country, Abbas I Sefi looted Etchmiadzin, taking relics and stones from the temple. The bell towers were built in the second half of the 17th century. In 1868, a depository was built in the eastern part of the temple. Today, the temple incorporates styles of Armenian architecture from different periods. Having weakened during the Soviet period, Etchmiadzin revived in the second half of the 20th century and during the period of independent Armenia.
Being the spiritual center of the majority of Armenians, Etchmiadzin was not only one of the important religious, but also political, economic and cultural centers of Armenia. This large pilgrimage site is one of the most visited places in Armenia. The cathedral, along with some important early medieval churches in the vicinity, were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000.
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