St Gayane Church
There is a town in Armenia that is known among all Armenians around the world. It is the town of Echmiadzin, which is often referred to as the "Vatican" for Armenians. The town does not have excessive decoration and is much simpler than the Vatican, but it will definitely grab your attention. Located west of Yerevan, it takes about 30 minutes to reach the town and light a candle in the magnificent church of St. Gayane. According to the Armenian historian and Catholicos Hovhannes Draskhanakertsi (10th century), St. Gayane's Church was constructed from 630-641 by Catholicos Yezr. It is said that the church was built in the same area where abbess Gayane was tortured and killed by order of the Armenian King Tiridates III. A chapel with Gayane’s grave inside may be uncovered in front of the church.
According to Agathangeghos (the name means "bearer of good news"), the Roman emperor Diocletian wanted to marry the Christian virgin Hripsime. Hripsime refused, and to escape his persecution together with other virgins and the abbess Gayane, she fled to Armenia. But that did not let the Emperor change his mind; he sent a letter to King Tiridates III asking him to find the virgins, make them martyrs and send Hripsime back. Noticing how beautiful Hripsime was, it is not surprising that the Armenian king was also tempted by her beauty and he himself wanted to marry her, but Hripsime refused his proposal. Angry, Tirdates isolated the maidens in various places and martyred them. It is said that later Tridates fell in love with Gayane. According to the legend, the church of St. Gayane was built in the place where Gayane was martyred. After the decision of the Armenian Church, Gayane was later referred to as a saint. St. Gayane Church belongs to the dome basilica type of churches. The interior is divided into three naves. On both sides of the main sanctuary, there is a cross-domed vault. St. Gayane Church is one of the most brilliant examples of the Armenian architecture, combining three-aisled basilica and the central domed church. This type of architecture was later widely used in Armenia. The central dome is located on four high columns. It should be noted that St. Gayane Church represents both the past of the Armenian architecture and the future of the Armenian architecture. As the example of Armenian architecture of the ancient times, it resembles the 5th-century Tekor temple (the temple of St. Sargis or Tekor is the first Armenian domed church in Kars). Meanwhile, it had a great impact on the future of Armenian architecture and its influence can be felt on the splendid Mother Cathedral of Ani, constructed in 989-1010 by the architect Tiridates. The frescoes may be revealed on the interior walls and above the door. These illustrations represent saints and are carved above the main door. The Church of St. Gayane was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000. In 1652 the walls and the dome of the church were reconstructed. The hall was added in 1683. In summary, the church of St. Gayane is very famous with Armenians. There is something spiritual about the church that may appeal to you. In this church many loving couples get married, for this reason, it is always crowded. Regardless of what day of the week you visit the church, you can always be sure to be part of a wedding ceremony that takes place there and gives your visit more significance and excitement.