Zvartnots

Cathedral

The magnificent cathedral referred to as Zvartnots or St. Grigor by medieval historians, was commissioned by Catholicos Nerses III from Taik region, between the years 643-652.

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Zvartnots History

This archeological site has been the focus of worship from pre-Christian times. Excavations also uncovered Urartian temple foundations, a sacrificial altar and a cuneiform stone of king Rusa II celebrating the construction of a surviving canal system connecting to the Hrazdan River. 

The Urartian structure was replaced by a Hellenistic temple and a basilica after Christianity was proclaimed the state religion in Armenia in 301. Thereafter it was replaced by a 5th-6th century single-nave basilica (its foundations are south of the cathedral). 

The cathedral was built in 643-652, during a time of turmoil. Arabs invaded Armenia in 640, taking the capital at Dvin, and were threatening to take the rest of the country.

Catholicos Yez'r I Parazhnakertsi died in 641. Prince Theodoros Rshtuni, striving to unite the country against competing claims by Arabs and Byzantines, supported the election of Nerses III from Taik region. Educated in Byzantium and having undergone military service there, Nerses became the bishop of Taik prior to the election as Catholicos.

Elected in 641, Nerses (641- 661) was known as “the Builder” for the large number of churches he founded. Commissioning Zvartnots Cathedral as the seat of Catholicos of all Armenians, Nerses III ordered the construction of the pontifical residence, the monastic residence buildings, the auxiliary structures, the walls, a canal connecting to the River Kasagh and gardens.

Zvartnots is a unique structure; at the time it was finished it was one of the tallest structures on earth, topping out at about 45 meters. Instead of domed cruciform or basilica types that had been popular in those centuries, the Zvartnots type was completely unique, a central dome type where the corners and apses became a part of the whole, suggesting a circle.

The massive size and unique construction suggest that the cathedral was a “true engineering marvel”, “a cosmic miracle”, and a number of legends and reports are connected to the monument. One story relates how, in 652, the Byzantine Emperor Constans II, attending the consecration of the temple, and, so impressed by the structure and scale, hired the master architect to build a similar church in Constantinople. The latter, however, fell ill and died on the way.

Armenian and Arab historians marveled at the beauty of Zvartnots. There are a number of copies in the Near East, and one in the village of Ishkhan (western Armenia), which was the birthplace of Nerses III. Nerses was also referred to as Nerses from Ishkhan for the name of the village he was born in.


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    Telephone +374 98 994121

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    Email zvartnots@zvartnots.am

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    Ticket price Adults: 250 AMD
    Children: 100 AMD
    Foreigners: 700 AMD
    Excursion: 1000 AMD
    Excursion with foreign language: 2000 AMD

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    Working period/season Year round

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    Working days Tuesday-Sunday

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    Working hours 10:00-17:00

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