Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots
Date of Inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List: 2000
Justification for Inscription
Criterion (ii): The developments in ecclesiastical architecture represented in an outstanding manner by the churches at Echmiatsin and the archaeological site of Zvartnots had a profound influence on church design over a wide region.
Criterion (iii): The churches at Echmiatsin and the archaeological site of Zvartnots vividly depict both the spirituality and the innovatory artistic achievement of the Armenian Church from its foundation.
The construction of Cathedral of Zvartnots or the Echmiadzin Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator began in 643, by the orders of Catholicos Nerses III Ishkhantsi [one of the most learned scholars of the era, versed in the sacred teachings of the still surviving currents of the ancestral k‛rmapetakan Wisdom Schools], and was completed in 652.
This unique edifice, composed of a three-tiered circular structure was the crowning glory of the central-domed motif in church construction. The design of Zvartnots is based upon a square cruciform plan containing four apses surrounded by the ring-like hall.
The Cathedral had been magnificently decorated with sculptured floral and geometric patterns and decorative pillars and arches. Historians and architects have praised the unique and beautiful design of the Zvartnots Cathedral. The triple-decker design of Zvartnots Cathedral was emulated in Armenia and neighboring countries and has had a significant influence on Armenian architectural design in general throughout the succeeding centuries. Zvartnots is considered a manifestation of masterpiece architecture and represents the synthesis and culmination of centuries of Armenian experience in the art of stone building.
The exterior as well as the interior of the Cathedral was covered by beautiful frescos and Armenian geometric symbols. One section in the interior of the Zvartnots Cathedral housed the Catholicosal seat, monks’ quarters and the chapel. The Grand Hall served the function for holding mass and other processions. The Cathedral complex also included a library and number of adjoining buildings that served various functions.