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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
24 October 2011
Erin Edwards

A young girl prays at St. Gayane Church in Etchmiadzin, Armenia. (photo: Armineh Johannes)

Photojournalist Armineh Johannes has documented the rich history and traditions of Christian life in Armenia for CNEWA for over 15 years. The seventh century church St. Gayane, featured in the photo above, is located in Etchmiadzin, the religious center of Armenia. In this story from our May 2008 issue of the magazine Paul Rimple explored Armenia’s “spiritual core”:

“Etchmiadzin is the spirit and soul of Armenians,” said Father Mkrtich Proshian, dean of the Vaskenian Theological Seminary, which overlooks the shore of Armenia’s Lake Sevan.

“It keeps the diaspora spiritually alive and is the heart of the nation.”

At once referring to the world’s oldest cathedral and a complex of structures — ancient, medieval and modern — Etchmiadzin echoes sanctity and stability. The complex houses the administrative offices of the Armenian Apostolic Church and functions as the repository of its cultural and spiritual heritage. Located west of Yerevan, Armenia’s capital city, Etchmiadzin enjoys renewed celebrity in post-Soviet Armenia. Yet, it faces daunting challenges as the church struggles to redefine itself in this resource poor and geopolitically fragile country.

“The fact that it was built with stone from Mount Ararat is very symbolic,” continued the priest. Armenians have revered the region’s highest peak for more than three millennia, once believing Ararat to be the home of their pantheon of gods. Here, Noah’s ark rested after the great flood and here God offered his covenant to Noah. Though Ararat remains a national symbol, the mountain lies across the country’s border, in what is now Turkey — a fact that inspires great sorrow among Armenians.

For more from this story see, Where God Descended by Paul Rimple with photographs by Armineh Johannes.

Tags: Children Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church