The Zvartnots Cathedral, the Temple of Watchful Forces – Armenia

The Zvartnots Cathedral, the Temple of Watchful Forces - Armenia15 kilometers to the west of Yerevan are the ruins of the cathedral symbolizing the apotheosis of the development of the early medieval Armenian architecture. However, it is not one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Art and architecture historians prefer most of them to the Zvartnots Cathedral, the temple of watchful forces.

A similar name is mentioned only once in the works of the chronicler of the 7th century Sebeos (Սեբեոս) (it, apparently, goes back to the name Grigor – awakened, awake). In other sources, it is called the tomb of Gregory the Illuminator, the first Catholicos of Armenia, who was buried here in 325.

In 641, Catholicos Nerses III initiated the construction of a grandiose memorial. The huge building consisted of three cylindrical stages, which attached pyramid-like design to the temple by repeating the main compositional theme with semi-circles piercing the temple from the bottom to the top.

An ingenious variation of the cross-domed architecture suggested the presence of more than hundred columns with amazing capitals “not yet defiled by Byzantium”, windows with fantastic platbands, and the richest galleries and arcades.

Apparently, the temple was destroyed by an earthquake in the 10th century. Studies have revealed that the diameter of its base and the dome was about 40 and more than 11 meters respectfully. The height of the structure was not defined, but if we apply the square principle of the Armenian architecture of the 7th century, it was equal to its width.

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  1. Tir’s biggest temple, known as the Erazamuyn (translated from Armenian “place where dreams are explained”), stood at what is today the ruined Zvartnots cathedral; the original design of the temple is still very evident in its construction as it is very different from the typical Armenian church, being circular, elevated by large steps and lined with columns. At Tir’s temple, priests would interpret peoples dreams and tell their fortunes, and the temple also served as a library and academy.

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