Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin

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This article is about the Holy See. For the Holy Etchmiadzin cathedral, see Etchmiadzin Cathedral.

Coordinates: 40°09′43″N 44°17′28″E / 40.1620°N 44.2912°E / 40.1620; 44.2912

Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
(See of Etchmiadzin)
Armenian Apostolic Church logo.png
The coat of arms of the Catholicosate of All Armenians
Founder The Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus
Independence Apostolic Era
Recognition Armenian Apostolic Church
Primate Catholicos of All Armenian, Karekin II.
Headquarters Vagharshapat, Armenia
Territory Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh
Possessions Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, Middle East, North America, and South America
Language Armenian
Members 6,000,000
Website Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin

Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin (Armenian: Մայր Աթոռ Սուրբ Էջմիածին, Mayr At'oř Surb Ēĵmiatsin), is the administrative headquarters of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Pontifical Residence of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

Covering an area of around 150,000 m², the complex includes the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, the vestry, residences, museums, Gevorkian Seminary, V. and T. Manoukian Library and many other amenities.

Structures in the complex[edit]

Churches and the baptistery chapel[edit]

  • Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin 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 and 1658, the main three-tier belfry at the entrance of the cathedral was erected.
  • Saints Vartan and Hovhannes Baptistery, a chapel located north of the Mother Cathedral and designated for baptism ceremonies. The three-domed chapel was designed by architects Jim Torosyan and Romeo Julhakyan. The chapel was consecrated on 26 September 2008 and the construction was funded by the British-Armenian philanthropist Armen Sarkissian.
  • Church of the Holy Archangels, built between 2009 and 2011, located in the yard of Gevorkian Seminary building. The single-domed church was consecrated on 5 November 2011. It was designed by architect Jim Torosyan. The construction work was funded by the Armenian philanthropist Gagik Galstyan.


  • Veharan Pontifical Residence: 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.[1]
  • Ghazarapat Deacons' residence: built in mid 18th century and located to the south of the Cathedral.[2]
  • Yeremian cells monastic residence: 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.[3]
  • Vanatoon monastic guest house: three-storied building opened in 1978 designated to serve the visiting clergymen and guests of the Mother See.[4]
  • Seminary Dormitories: adjacent to the Gevorkian Seminary, opened in 1997.[5]
  • New Monastic Residence: consecrated on 31 August 2002, an L-shaped structure connected to the old Monastic Residence.[6]

Educational institutions[edit]

  • Gevorkian Theological Seminary: built in 1874 by Catholicos Gevork IV. A new extension designed by architect Jim Torosyan was connected to the old building in 2013.[7]
  • Karekin I Centre of Theology and Armenology, functioning since 26 June 2000. The new building was officially opened on 28 September 2015.
  • Christian Education Centre: located within the old seminary building north of the Monastic residence. Built in 1911, to operate as a depositary (matenadaran) to house old Armenian manuscripts. During the Soviet period, it has served as the main building of Gevorkian Seminary (1945–1997).[8]
  • Eduardo Eurnekian High School (new building is currently under construction).

Museums and libraries[edit]

  • Etchmiadzin Cathedral Museum: built in 1869 by Catholicos George IV. It is located to the southeast of the Cathedral's main altar.[9]
  • Catholicosal Museum: the old pontifical residence or Hin Veharan was built in 1738–1741 and served as the catholicosal residence until 1962. Since 1968 the building serves as Catholicosal Museum.[10]
  • Printing house and Bookstore: two-storied building to the east of the Cathedral, built in 1888-1889. It was fully reconstructed between 1959 and 1962 to serve as a bookstore as well. It is also home to the publishing house of the Mother See.[11][12]
  • Khrimian Museum: built and opened in 1896 by Catholicos Mkrtich I of Van. It was recently renovated to become a museum of art.[13]
  • 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.
  • Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Manuscript Depository: located near the main entrance of the complex, opened in October 2012.[14]
  • Ruben Sevak Museum: opened in 2013 within the Ghazarapat building to commemorate the Armenian poet Ruben Sevak and other Armenian intellectuals who became victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Administrative buildings[edit]

  • Administrative building of the old Synod: Built by Catholicos Mkrtich I between 1896 and 1897 to serve as a chancellery and synod building. Since 2011, the building is home to the Round Table Foundation of the World Council of Churches and the inter-church affairs department of the Mother See.
  • 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.[15]
  • Pontifical Events Centre: located adjacent to the Pontifical residence, designated to host religious and secular events of the Mother See.


  • Gate of Vazgen I (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 medieval gate. The arch leads to the Pontificial Residence.
  • Gate of Saint Gregory: built in 2001 to form the main entrance to the Mother See.

Notable additions[edit]

  • Clock Tower: at the north-western gate of the complex, built in 1959.
  • Armenian Genocide memorial: group of khackhars (cross stones) erected in 1965.
  • Open-air altar: built in 2001 along with the Gate of Saint Gregory.
  • Souvenirs centre.
  • Khachkars, sculptures and tombstones of Armenian Catholicoi.


See also[edit]