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Mysteries of Armenia

The Vigilant Ruins

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Zvartnots cathedral ruins lie 15 km west from Yerevan and symbolize the triumph of the Middle Age architecture. Though the cathedral is not listed among the Seven Wonders of the World, art historians and architects tend to give it more attention. Sebeos, a 7th century chronicler refers to Zvartnots as the Temple of Vigilant Powers, most probably associating it with the name of Gregory, meaning vigil. Other sources claim the church to house the relics of Gregory the Illuminator, the first Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church. In 641, Catholicos Nerses III started sponsoring the construction of an enormous memorial. The huge building had three cylindrical circles, resembling pyramids. This ingenious variation on cross-domical architecture boasted more than hundred of finely-carved pillars with astonishing capitals, “untouched by Byzantine yet”, windows with fantastic fingerplates, rich galleries and arcs. An earthquake in the 10th century must have caused the cathedral to collapse. The studies revealed the cathedral to have been approximately 40 m in diameter and its dome to have reached the height of more than 11 meters. Its height is yet to be found out, though taking into account the square principle of the 7th century Armenian architecture it must have amounted to the cathedral’s width.

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