SARDARAPAT MEMORIAL PARK The heroic Armenian people have suffered much from numerous devastating wars, but have always overcome the miserable situation. Numerous wars during the history have taken place for the nation’s freedom and independence. Sardarapat Memorial Park complex was laid out on the spot of a battlefield, where the Armenian army defeated the Turkish invaders at the very end of the World War I in May 20-22, 1918. The memorial park is located in the village Araks, in the Armavir Province. The complex was built here in 1968 in commemoration of the victory. At the entrance to the park you can see great winged oxen, made of red tuff. After a few steps ahead the 26 meters high bell tower rises. The beautiful grating structure comprises nine bells discerned from afar. They say that Sardarapat bells ring every night to remind everybody the day of the historic victory. Assyrian style winged lions guard the monument. A lane decorated with eagle shapes leads to a curved Wall of Victory. The scenes of battle are depicted on the Wall of Victory, together with a woman and a child, as a symbol of revival. The eagles symbolize the spirit of the courageous men fighting against the enemy. Today, the Memorial Park of Sardarapat is a holy place for Armenians, where representatives of the government and ordinary people visit every year on May 28 to celebrate the anniversary of the victory. ZVARTNOTS TEMPLE Not far from Etchmiadzin on the way to Yerevan lie the ruins of the church of Zvartnots (church of the Guardian Angel or Celestial Angel), a colossal and unique masterpiece of Armenian architecture. Zvartnots was built at a time when much of Armenia was under Byzantine control or influence and during the early invasions of Armenia by the Muslim Arabs. Construction of the cathedral began in 642 under the guidance of Catholicos Nerses III. Dedicated to St Gregory, it was located in the place where a meeting between king Trdat III and Gregory the Illuminator was supposed to have taken place. From 653 to 659 the construction of the cathedral continued under Anastas Akarratsi. Following the Arab occupation of Dvin and the intensifying wars between the Byzantine and Arab armies on the former's eastern borders, Nerses transferred the patriarchal palace of the Catholicos from Dvin to Zvartnots. Zvartnots remained standing until the end of the 10th century but historical sources are silent as to the cause of its collapse but most probably it was destroyed by an earthquake. A close copy of the cathedral was erected at Ani out by Trdat the Architect under the reign of Gagik I Bagratuni during the final decade of the 10th century. Zvartnots is an example of a cult building of a new type which is organically linked up with the general trend of previous development. Like the earlier cruciform domed churches it was built on a central plan. On the outside the church was a polygonal, three-storied dome building. All the interior decorations – geometric and floral ornamental motifs, half-length representations of builders holding their tools, cornices, capitals – are supremely perfect showing that the work was performed by an artist of brilliant talent and outstanding skill. The Cathedral of Catholicos Nerses III of which only the lower parts of the walls have survived was situated next door to the Zvartnots temple. The Cathedral comprised numerous rooms – ceremonial halls, a chapel, a refectory, a bath house and living quarters. At a short distance from the Cathedral complex a 17th century distillery still stands, an interesting example of Armenian workshop and a survival from the early Middle-Ages. Zvartnots is of great value not only for Armenians but also for international society, as it is inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site. St. SHOGHAKAT CHURCH St. Shoghakat (meaning “a drop of light”) church is one of the comparatively recent pieces of reli-gious architecture. It was built only in 1694, near St. Gayane and St. Hripsime. The church was constructed at the holy place where thirty eight nuns had been tortured and martyred by the king Trdat III. Following Gayane and Hripsime, those nuns preferred to die for the sake of their religion. And according to a legend, in honor of those nuns, a drop of light fell on the place where the church was later constructed. The original St. Shoghakat church was built in the 5-6th centuries, but it was destroyed in the course of the time, and the new one was erected on the very spot of the original one. The church is a domed single-nave basilica. The edifice is built with red and black tuff typical to Armenian architecture. Near St. Shoghakat the remnants of a 5th century small chapel can be found. St. GAYANE CHURCH Holy Gayane has the same history behind as holy Hripsime. Both of them sacrificed themselves, together with thirty eight nuns, for the sake of their religion. Later in 301 AD the king Trdat III, who tortured and killed the nuns, became the king to accept Christianity as a state religion. Though the church of St. Gayane was built centuries ago, in 630, its design remains unaltered. Only partial renovations of the dome and separate sections have been done. St. Gayane church in Etchmiadzin is an outstanding example of a central-plan domed basilica. The dome of the basilica rests on four piers dividing the rectangular hall into a nave and two aisles, with rectangular chapels. Harmonious proportions and unity of plan are the distinguishing features of this monument. The church is free of special decorative elements. Before the construction of the present day masterpiece, the spot hosted the burial site of St. Gayane with its chapel. St. Gayane St. Hripsime together with the other churches in the territory and the main Cathedral are inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. St. HRIPSIME CHURCH The church of St. Hripsime is situated in the eastern part of Etchmiadzin. All its facades have deep twin niches, making the massive stonework of the walls look wonderfully delicate and giving a peculiar charm and at the same time a forceful expression to the severe and magnificent appearance of the whole building. The structure has withstood numerous earthquakes due to many aspects that give it strength and stability. In the walls niches were used to increase the building's resistance to collapse. The church of St. Hripsime was reconstructed in 1653, when a four-column portico was attached to its west entrance, which was transformed into belfry in the 19th century. St. Hripsime has survived basically unchanged. There is a legend across Hripsime dating back to the early days of Christianity. The young and beautiful Hripsime who at the time was a Christian nun in Rome, was to be forcefully married to the Roman emperor Diocletian. She and the abbess Gayane among other nuns fled the tyrant emperor and left to Armenia. The pagan Armenian King Trdat received a letter from Diocletian in which he described her beauty. Trdat discovered where the nuns were hiding, and fell in love with Hripsime and later Gayane. After her refusal of his advances, Hripsime was tortured and martyred at the location of this church, while Gayane was tortured and martyred at a separate location where the church in her name was later built in 630. The remaining thirty-eight unnamed nuns were martyred at the location of Shoghakat. In the church of St. Hripsime relics of the martyr St. Hripsime are kept. Today the church is considered one of the oldest ones in Armenia, famous for its architecture of the classical period. It also influenced other Armenian churches. St. Hripsime together with the other churches in the territory and the main Cathedral are inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Nowadays many Armenian couples celebrate their marriage in St Hripsime inspired by the courageous legend about the martyred Hripsime. St. ETCHMIADZIN CATHEDRAL – THE MOTHER SEE OF HOLY ECHMIADZIN The Cathedral of St. Echmiadzin is an important place for all Armenians in the world. Construction begun in the 4th century, built on the ruins of a pagan cult site, but it has been heavily restored through the centuries, most thoroughly in the 17th cent. Displacing a rival mother church at Ashtishat in Western Armenia, Echmiadzin has been seat of the Katholikos in the 4th and 5th centuries and again since 1441. As such, and as the seat of the miraculous relics of the Armenian church – the Lance, the hand of St. Gregory the Illuminator, the hand of the Apostle Thaddeus, a finger of St. Jude, a drop of St. Hripsime's blood, etc. – it came to control vast estates and received rich gifts from around the Armenian world. The place where the Cathedral sits is not an occasional one. It is said that Gregory the Illuminator had a vision in his dream that Jesus descended from heaven and pointed to the place where the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin is currently situated. Thus, the name Etchmiadzin means the “coming of the only begotten”. The main edifice of the structure is pretty enormous. However, the major part of the interior is used for purposes other than worship and the area inside is much smaller than it seems from the outside. The entire complex is designed with a traditional Armenian design including a belfry and a number of rotundas. Most of the exterior of the church is plain, until you reach the entrance which is intricately carved and very beautiful. A visit to the Cathedral will not be full without a tour to the Museum. The structure contains nu-merous cultural values, exclusive art works, candles, curtains, old carpets, religious artifacts as well as illuminated artifacts worth seeing. These national values were brought from different Armenian colonies which proved Armenian national high taste and conception of beauty. Another secret place worth seeing is the fire pit beneath the altar. Here in ancient times the pagans worshiped fire before the adoption of Christianity. The fire pit will be shown only upon request. The Cathedral of St. Echmiadzin full of sacred ancient relics protects the lance (geghard in Armenian). It is said that this lance has pierced Christ’s side. Etchmiadzin Cathedral together with the other churches in the territory is inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.