Ejmiadzin

formerly  Echmiadzin , or (until 1945)  Vagarshapat 

      city, west-central Armenia. It lies on the plain of the Aras River, 12 miles (20 km) west of Yerevan. Ejmiadzin is the seat of the supreme catholicos, or primate, of the Armenian Catholic Church.

      Originating in the 7th century BC as the town of Vardkesavan, it was renamed Vagarshapat about AD 140, when the Parthian king Vologases III made it his capital. Upon the conversion of Armenia to Christianity about AD 300, Vagarshapat became the residence of the Armenian patriarch. In 344 the town ceased to be the Armenian capital, and in 453 the patriarchal seat was removed elsewhere, but in 1441 the catholicos Kirakos brought back the seat to Vagarshapat, which thereafter remained the home of the “catholicos of all Armenians.”

      The monastery, founded in the 6th century AD and called Echmiadzin from the 10th century, consists of a complex of buildings surrounded by a brick wall 30 feet (10 m) high; it includes a modern college and seminary. The present cathedral, on the site of the original church, goes back to the 7th century but was considerably restored after 1441. In the cathedral treasury is the hand (relic) of St. Gregory the Illuminator.

      The city itself is the centre of a rich region of orchards and vineyards and manufactures plastics, wine, and canned food. Pop. (1987 est.) 53,040.

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Universalium. 2010.

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