Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
|Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
(See of Etchmiadzin)
The coat of arms of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia
|Founder||The Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus|
|Recognition||Armenian Apostolic Church|
|Primate||Catholicos of All Armenian, Karekin II.|
|Territory||Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh|
|Possessions||Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Europe, and North America|
|Website||Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin|
Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin (Armenian: Մայր Աթոռ Սուրբ Էջմիածին) is the spiritual and administrative headquarters of the worldwide Armenian Apostolic Church and the Pontifical Residence of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.
The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin found in the city of Vagharshapat, Armenia is a blend of the past, present and future of the worldwide Armenian Church and contains the Mother Cathedral, monuments, museums, libraries and the pontifical residence and other monastic residences. It was built earlier in the 4th century, during the days of Gregory the Illuminator and King Tiridates III in the place where -according to Armenian Church traditions- the Descent of Christ happened in Vagharshapat, Armenia, also known as Etchmiadzin. The wooden church was rebuilt in stone in the 5th and 7th centuries. The bell tower was built in 1653 and the vestry in 1869.
The complex includes the Etchmiadzin Cathedral (Armenian: Մայր Տաճար Սուրբ Էջմիածին), the vestry, residences, museums, Gevorkian Theological Seminary, V. and T. Manoukyan Library and many other amenities.
Structures of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin complex 
Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin 
Etchmiadzin Cathedral: was built by Saint Gregory the Illuminator in 301-303. The Etchmiadzin Cathedral is the oldest church built by a state in the world. According to the 5th-century Armenian annals, Saint Gregory had a vision of Christ descending from heaven and striking the earth with a golden hammer to show where the cathedral should be built. Hence, the patriarch gave the church and the city the new name of Echmiadzin, which may be translated as "the place where the Only Begotten descended". In 480, Vahan Mamikonian, the Sassanian governor (marzban) of Armenia, ordered the dilapidated basilica to be replaced with a new cruciform church. In 618, the wooden dome was replaced with a stone one, resting on four massive pillars linked to exterior walls by arcades. This was the church much as it is today. Murals in the interior and extravagant rotundas surmounting the apses appeared in the early 18th century. Between 1654-1658, the main three-tier belfry at the entrance of the Cathedral was erected.
The modern additions of the church include: the Open-Air Altar built in 2001 beside the Main Gate with a contemporary design and the Baptistery chapel named after Saints Vartan and Hovhannes consecrated on 26 September 2008.
Other notable additions include:
- Clock Tower: located at the north-western gate of the complex, built 1959.
- Vaskenian Gate (Vazgenian Darbas): erected in March 1961 at the eastern wall of the complex. In 2002, the gate was moved to the northern entrance.
- Gate of King Trdat (Durn Trdata): restored in 1964 on the basis of the well-preserved remains of the old medival gate. The arch leads to the Pontificial Residence.
- Main Gate: constructed in 2001 to form the main entrance to the Mother See.
- Pontificial Residence or Veharan: the construction of the building started on 6 June 1910 and completed in 1915. It consists of the administrative offices of the Catholicos, the pontifical residence quarters, meeting rooms and a treasury-museum. After World War I, it was used by the Soviets as a military base until 1956, when it was returned to the Mother See through the efforts of Catholicos Vazgen I.
- Chancellery or Divanatun: started in 2005 and completed in 2008, located next to the Pontificial Residence. The three-storied building serves as the working office of the Catholicos.
- Monastic Residence Building known as the Yeremian cells: constructed in 1889 through the efforts of bishop Yeremia Galustian. The building serves as residence of the clerical members of the Brotherhood of Holy Etchmiadzin.
- New Monastic Residence Building: consecrated on 31 August 2002, an L-shaped structure connected to the old Monastic Residence.
- Seminary Dormitories: adjacent to the Gevorkian Seminary, opened in 1997.
- Deacons' Residence Quarter: built in mid 18th century and located to the south of the Cathedral.
- Guest House or Vanatoon: three-storied building opened in 1978 designated to serve the visiting clergymen and guests of the Mother See.
Schools and museums 
- Gevorkian Seminary Building: built in 1874 by Catholicos Gevork IV.
- Old Pontificial Residence (Hin Veharan): built in 1738-1741 and served as residence until 1962. Since 1968 the building serves as Catholicosal Museum.
- Alex and Marie Manoogian Treasury House: opened on 11 October 1982, designed by architect Baghdasar Arzoumanian. The museum is home to treasures of the Armenian Church throughout the history.
- Khrimian Museum.
- Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Manuscript Depository: located near the main entrance of the complex, opened in October 2012.
Other buildings 
- Old Seminary Building: located north of the Monastic Residence, opened in 1911. It was designated to house the old Armenian manuscripts. During the Soviet period, the building has served as the main building of Gevorkian Seminary (1945–1997). Nowadays, it is used for administrative purposes of the information and the international relations departments.
- Administrative Building.
- Printing House: two-storied building located to the east of the Cathedral, erected in 1889.
- Bookstore: between 1959-1962 the printing house building was fully reconstructed to serve as a library as well.