Surb Gayane Church – Vagharshapat, Armenia

Surb Gayane Church – Vagharshapat, ArmeniaThe Surb Gayane Church is located in the Vagharshapat city (also known as Etchmiadzin), Armenia. It is a part of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral Complex.

Here at ca. 300, king Trdat executed 40 Christian women. One of them, Surb Hripsime, was buried separately. 38 women were buried slightly to the west while Surb Gayane was put to death even further to the west. On the site of Surb Gayane’s grave, a temple would then be erected.

The Surb Gayane Church was built by the Chalcedonian Catholicos Ezra in 630, which supposedly made the church the first Chalcedonian temple of the time. Interestingly, the church was constructed not in the traditional tetraconch style. The dome was complemented by below-dome pillars, making it similar to the Georgian Tsrom temple built around the same time.

The Surb Gayane Church survived an earthquake in 1679. A little bit later, a vestibule of the late type was added to the church.

The temple is quite unique for its time, although it does not look very ancient. One may even doubt that it was built in the 7th century. It has its own stylistic features – plane stone walls with no ornamentation and big, dark stone blocks, which look like they have been hewn recently.

If you carefully examine the walls of the temple, you can notice a plethora of bullet marks. Probably the Turks’ work done in 1918.

Since its construction, the appearance of the temple, as well as its interior, haven’t changed significantly. Only the dome and the ceilings were partially replaced during the renovation in the 17th century. The necropolis of the head Armenian clergy is located in the arched portico.

In 2000, the Surb Gayane Church was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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