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, or Echmiadzin
town (1994 est. pop. 64,400), SW Armenia, in the Aras (Araks) River valley. It has winemaking and plastics industries. Known since the 6th cent. B.C.
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(until 1945, Vagarshapat), a city under republic jurisdiction and administrative center of Echmiadzin Raion, Armenian SSR; located on the Ararat Plain, 15 km from the Echmiadzin railroad station and 20 km from Yerevan. Population, 37,000 (1974). Enterprises in Echmiadzin include factories producing plastics and cooking utensils, a branch of the Elektron Armenian Production Association, and a branch of the Armsuvenir Association. Food-processing enterprises include a wine combine and a cannery. Building materials are also produced. Schools in the city include a technicum specializing in the training of staff for clubs and libraries. Echmiadzin’s places of note include a museum of local lore, a branch of the Armenian State Picture Gallery, the house of the poet I. M. Ioannisian (now a museum), and a museum devoted to the work of the composer S. G. Komimas.
Echmiadzin, the historic center of the Armenian Apostolic Church, has a monastery that includes the residence of the catholicos, as well as a cathedral. The ancient settlement of Vardesvan became the site of the modern Echmiadzin in the second century A.D. The city of Vagarshapat was founded by King Vagarsh I (117–140) in the first half of the second century A.D. From the latter half of the second century until the fourth century it was the capital of Armenia.
The city has an unplanned network of narrow, winding streets. The cathedral (303, rebuilt fifth and seventh centuries) incorporates a later bell tower (1653–58) and sacristy (1869). It has notable frescoes executed in the late 17th to early 18th centuries by Ovnatan Nagash and in the late 18th century by O. Ovnatanian. The monastery complex includes a refectory (first half of the 17th century), a hostel (mid-18th century), the residence of the catholicos (1738–41), a school (1813), and a stone reservoir (1846). Many houses and public buildings have been built in modern times.
Other interesting structures include the Ripsime Church (618), the domed basifican Church of St. Gaiane (630, restored 1652) with its triple-vaulted gavil, and the Church of Shokagat (1694). The cathedral has a museum (established 1955) with a rich collection of medieval decorative and applied art. Not far from the city are the ruins of the church of Zvartnots (641–661).