"To the Right Hand (of St. Gregory the Illuminator)
and to Holy Etchmiadzin, the whole of the Armenian nation is bound"
- Arakel Vardapet Davrizhetsi
17th Century Historian
The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin is the pre-eminent center of authority in the worldwide Armenian Orthodox Church. Located near the capital of Yerevan in the Republic of Armenia, it is composed of:
The cathedral dates back to the 4th century, and is reckoned the oldest Christian cathedral in world. Although the current sanctuary was erected in the 1600s, remnants of the 4th-century altar have been unearthed beneath the present structure.
In its capacity as the residence of the pre-eminent Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians (the spiritual leader of the Armenian Church), Holy Etchmiadzin is known as the "Catholicate of All Armenians" and the "Throne of Sts. Thaddeus and Bartholomew". It became the seat of the Catholicate of the entire Armenian nation in the 4th century, following the conversion of King Tiridates III to Christianity by St. Gregory the Illuminator in AD 301. In the turbulent centuries that followed, the seat of the Catholicate moved from region to region and city to city. It finally returned to Holy Etchmiadzin in A.D. 1441.
According to the chronicler Agathangelos, soon after Armenia's conversion to Christianity, St. Gregory had a vision of the Son of God. Appearing as a heroic figure of light surrounded by a mighty angelic host, Christ struck the ground with a golden hammer, indicating the place where the Mother Cathedral of the new Christian nation was to be established. The name Etchmiadzin--literally, "where the Only Begotten descended"--refers to this episode.
More information can be found at www.armenianchurch.org.
Catholicos of All Armenians
2003: 1700th Anniversary of Mother See of
"Holy Etchmiadzin became the spiritual Motherland of the Armenians, and kept alive the love and vision in Armenian life, for the reestablishment of the lost independent statehood. In the difficult twists, turns and temptations of history, love and faith in deliverance, emanating from the Mother See, generated hope and strengthened Armenian souls. They kept the small flower bed of the Armenians cohesive and unanimous, the survival of which, both in the conquered Motherland, as well as far from her on foreign shores, was endangered for centuries. The greater the calamity, greater still was the protective strength felt from Holy Etchmiadzin. The light radiating from the Holy Altar of Descent became more visible and kept us warmer the farther we were dispersed. Holy Etchmiadzin is a singular, unconditional sanctity for every Armenian, the vessel to be an Armenian and a Christian."
- His Holiness Karekin II