THE ZVARTNOTS' CATHEDRAL OF ST. GREGORY

In the first half of the VIIth century, a number of renovations and constructions took place throughout Echmiadzin. The Mother Church of the Holy See of Echmiadzin -- Seat of The Catholicos, was rebuilt and remodeled by Catholicos Komitas of Ałts . In the year 618, the Monastery of St. Hripsimē was built. The church to this day is a remarkable and spectacular in its geometric order and aesthetic simplicity. The church is complete in terms of its formal and as well as functional design. The monastery of St. Gayanē, was completed in the year 630. One of the most superb and outstanding churches to be built during this period was undoubtedly  the triple-decker [symbolic of the Trinity and the Triple decker Universe] Cathedral of Zvartnots or the Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator. The construction of the Cathedral began in 643 by the orders of Catholicos Nerses III Ixanči and was completed in the year 652. It was extraordinarily enormous in its size and towering in its height - three layers, one on top of another. The Cathedral was massive in size and was completed with a traditional Armenian conned dome. The whole of the structure was covered by frescos of saints as well as Armenian geometric ornaments of fine craftsmanship. Inside, the Cathedral housed the Catholicosal quarters, monks quarters as well as the main chapel. The Grand Hall served everyday mass as well as similar rituals. The Cathedral also housed a library. There were also a number of adjoining structures, including baths and shops. The frescos of the Cathedral of Zvartnots were also found in the decorations of the Church of Ste.-Chapelle of Paris, Roman Catholic pilgrims must have seen the Cathedral of Zvartnots and were amazed by its superb architecture. The Ste.-Chapelle fresco depicts Zvartnots on top of Noah’s Ark, most probably, the Cathedral of Zvartnots at that time along with Holy Mt. Ararat, must have stood as symbols of Armenia. The Cathedral was destroyed in the Xth century most probably as a result of a devastating earthquake. As time went on, the Cathedral was covered in deep layers of dirt and the debris. Even the place, were Zvartnots once stood were forgotten. Not until the archaeological excavations in the first half of the XXth century, when the remnants of the beautiful frescos and obelisks from the columns of interior and exterior frescos were uncovered, did we discovered the lost grandeur that was once Zvartnots.