Next stop is the is the Vatican!
No, not the Vatican in Rome, its the Vatican of the Armenian Apostolic Church, The Cathdral of Echmiadzin.
Long before the arrival of Christianity the site was already considered a holy place.
Called Vagharshapat at the end of the 3rd century BC, a Zoroastrian fire temple had been functioning there for untold centuries.
The name Etchmiadzin means 'Only Begotten Descended' and refers to the place where Surp Grigor Lusavorich (St Gregory the Illuminator) saw a beam of light fall to the earth in a divine vision, and where he built the first Mayr Tachar (Mother Church of Armenia).
For Armenian Christians, Echmiadzin has unparalleled importance.
Did you know that Etchmiadzin was the capital of Armenia from 180-340 AD when Christianity was first adopted by the Armenian nation.
The church was rebuilt in the 6th and 7th centuries, with more recent additions in 1654 and 1868.
The cathedral has sprouted more bell towers over the last 400 years, but the core is much as St Gregory's vision guided him.
The Palace of the Catholicos in front of the Mayr Tachar is the home of the present Catholicos, Garegin II, enthroned in November 1999. He is the supreme prelate of the 1700-year-old Armenian Apostolic faith.
The cathedral and churches of Echmiatsin graphically illustrate the evolution and development of the Armenian central-domed cross-hall type of church, which exerted a profound influence on architectural and artistic development in the region.
Wow, Nopi has just told us that relics in the church collection include one of the lances that pierced the side of Christ; AND wood from Noah's Arc (this wood, which has been carbon dated as 6000 years old, was supposedly given by an angel to an Armenian monk who had tried to climb Mt. Ararat three times in the 13th century)!!
I am so glad that Nopi, the historian is with us on this tour.....;-)
Of course Sita, our UNESCO WHS expert, says that the cathedral and churches of Echmiatsin graphically illustrate the evolution and development of the Armenian central-domed cross-hall type of church, which exerted a profound influence on architectural and artistic development in the region.