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Mysteries of Armenia

Here Descended the Only Begotten

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Echmiadzin Cathedral acquired its present form for 17 centuries. More large-scale reconstruction works were held in the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as in the middle of the previous century, when ruins of a pagan sanctuary were found near the temple. The latter vastly reminded of a refectory. This fully corresponded to the myth about choosing the site for the first official church. The fact is that the establishment of Christianity in Armenia was accompanied by interpretations regarding the place and significance of the Armenian Land in the history of mankind. The rebirth life (the Deluge) and the resurrected man (the Christian) were viewed as parts of a single divine chain. This determined the choice of the place for building the first official Christian church. The cathedral that was built in 302–303 on the spot of a desolate pagan temple established the borders of Patriarch Naoh’s refectory. St Gregory the Illuminator’s vision served as an additional argument in favour of such a choice. Legend has it that an angel pointed at the radial centre of the construction (Noah’s gold anchor in front of the royal palace in Vagharshapat), coinciding with the place of the legendary feast. The myth of the second apparition has enjoyed far wider popularity since the 13th century. According to it, on coming down to earth Christ struck the centre of the future church with a gold hammer. This legend reveals the etymological origin of Echmiadzin’s name, which is the Armenian for “the descent of the only begotten”.

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