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Armenia: Ejmiatsin Cathedral

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Ejmiatsin Cathedral | Armenia | Asia

[Visited: May 2012]

We had a late breakfast in the park close to the holiest place of Armenia after a very early start in the south of the country, and entered the park from the east. We passed several monumental buildings, one erected to commemorate the papal visit in 2001, another for the Armenian genocide of 1915. Behind the trees, we could see the cathedral we had come for. From afar, it looked similar to the many churches in Armenia we had seen in the 12 days before. Getting closer, the bell tower looked different, and we took some time to study the wall with carved decorations of animals and religious figures. The timing was not perfect: it was near midday, and the sun was shining unrelentingly on the light walls of the church. Time to go inside.

Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): Close-up of crosses at the exact spot where the Only Begotten is supposed to have indicated where to build the cathedral

As soon as our eyes had adjusted to the darkness of Ejmiatsin Cathedral, we stood in awe at the richness of it. Where other churches in the country more often than not have quite stark interiors with relatively little decorations, we were now surrounded by so many different objects and things to see, we had to keep calm and take in things one at a time. There were the ceilings, all beautifully painted with floral or geometric motifs, and with angels added to them, lanterns hanging from above, coloured columns; not to mention the religious relics on display in a glass case in the middle of the church. This is where most visitors went directly: it is the holiest place of the church, and people were constantly kneeling, and touching the crosses in front of the glass case.

Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): View of the cathedral of Ejmiatsin from the east

After Armenia had turned into the first Christian nation in the world in 301 with the help of Gregory the Illuminator, he had a vision right at this spot from above, from the Only Begotten (Christ) descending to the earth - thus, Ejmiatsin Cathedral was born. Originally known as Vagharshapat, the town was renamed Ejmiatsin, which means Only Begotten Descended. Even before, the place had a religious function: the cathedral is built on top of where a Zoroastrian fire temple and a Roman temple of Venus had once stood. We bought tickets for the museum, and waited for assistants to open the door. While they guided Armenians around, we had a look at the original religious items on display, such as the geghard or spear which supposedly wounded Jesus, robes used by popes of the Armenian Orthodox church, richly decorated manuscripts, and other things, until one of the girls of the museum kindly gave us an explanation of what we could see. Ejmiatsin certainly is a unique place in Armenia, and we were very glad to have felt the atmosphere inside.

Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): Lamp hanging from a richly decorated ceiling
Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): The original spear that supposedly wounded Jesus in the museum of Ejmiatsin cathedral
Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): Interior of Ejmiatsin with the relics at the precise spot where the Only Begotten gave a sign to Gregory the Illuminator
Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): Bell tower of Ejmiatsin Cathedral
Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): Small piece of wood with historic significance guarded in the museum of Ejmiatsin Cathedral
Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): Close-up of decoration on the wall inside Ejmiatsin Cathedral
Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): Close-up of clothes of religious figures on display in the museum of Ejmiatsin Cathedral
Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): Altar inside the Ejmiatsin Cathedral
Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): Religious figures carved out of cross-shaped khachkar outside Ejmiatsin Cathedral
Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): Heads of snakes carved on the wall of Ejmiatsin Cathedral
Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): Ribbed columns of Ejmiatsin Cathedral
Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): Angels decorating the ceiling of Ejmiatsin Cathedral
Picture of Ejmiatsin Cathedral (Armenia): Richly decorated arch inside Ejmiatsin Cathedral in close-up

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