Armenia is а piece of the ancient world hidden among the majestic gray mountains, the bearer of a centuries-old culture, a living proof of the spiritual power of the people who managed to defend their sacred right of existence, and, like the mythical Phoenix reborn from the ashes, rose over and over from the ruins, continuing the path of life. A path which unfortunately was not strewn with silk: in the chronicles of ancient historians our country is mentioned among other greatest countries, but centuries and millenniums walked by, the world has witnessed the most severe wars, the fall of powerful empires, the formation of new nations, and, of course, Armenia could not remain aloof more than once getting to the epicenter of events. So which is the secret of such vitality? How were we able to maintain our national identity and cultural uniqueness despite the small territory? The answer, apparently, lies in the infinite faith, religion – ascended power that united the people struggling against the conqueror and assimilation. From the early days of Christianity (Armenia is the first country in the world that adopted Christianity as a state religion, 301 AD) till nowadays the Armenians differ with their courage demonstrated during the wars for preserving religion on their motherland stretched out on the slopes of the biblical Mount Ararat.
“The nation, whose Christian faith is so old, the nation who did not turn away from Christ even after strongest storms and cruelest persecutions, the nation whose history is almost a ceaseless suffering, certainly deserves not only our compassion but also our love.”
Naturally such an attitude to religion was accompanied by the creation of numerous monuments belonging to the Christian architecture, such as Cathedral and churches of Echmiatsin, monasteries in Haghpat, Sanahin, Geghard, Khor Virap, Noravanq, Goshavank, Sevanavank, Archaeological Site of Zvartnots, and cemetery of khachkars in Noraduz, etc. (some of the above listed monuments are included in UNESCO's World Heritage List). Many of them have long been overgrown with various myths and legends, a fact, which, however, makes them be more attractive to the researcher, adding special color.
The Мonastery of Geghard (meaning spear), originally named Ayrivank (the Monastery of the Cave) is a unique architectural construction founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator at the site of a sacred spring inside a cave. It is listed as a World Heritage Site. The name of the monastery complex comes from the spear which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, called here Thaddeus, and stored amongst many other relics. Today it is displayed in the Echmiadzin treasury.
The Khor Virap Monastery is one of the sanctuaries of the Armenian Apostolic Church and a pilgrimage site. According to the legend, this was the place for the king's dungeon, in the form of a deep pit filled with poisonous snakes and scorpions, where prisoners were thrown. By the order of King Tiridates III, one of the king's associates, Grigor (Gregory) was imprisoned and spent 13 years here as being guilty of preaching Christianity. The legend says that when by the order of the king three virgins Gayane, Hripsime and Shoghakat were executed, he fell seriously ill. The king’s sister Khosrovidukht had a vision where an angel told her about the prisoner Gregory who could heal her brother. Gregory cured the king and brought him back to his senses. Soon afterwards King Tiridates III proclaimed Christianity as the state religion of Armenia in 301 AD; Gregory became the first Armenian Catholicos, Gregory the Illuminator.
In 642 Catholicos Nerses III built a chapel around the famous pit, which was later destroyed by the earthquake. In 1662 the current St. Astvatsatsin church was built in its place.
The Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin was founded in the 4th century, soon after the proclamation of Christianity as the state religion of Armenia. It is one of the oldest state-built churches in the world. Etchmiadzin Cathedral is listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. According to the legends, the first Armenian Catholicos, St. Gregory the Illuminator had a vision of Christ descending from heaven and striking the earth with a golden hammer to show where the cathedral should be built. Hence, the patriarch gave the church and the city the new name of Echmiadzin, which may be translated as "the place where the Only Begotten descended".
1. Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Complex and the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute
“The obelisk must embody the life of creative Armenian nation that has been full of struggle, its inexhaustible vitality to survive, the progress it has made as well as representing its present and the bright future while eternalizing the memory of millions of victims of the Genocide of 1915.”
The Genocide Monument is designed to memorialize the 1.5 million innocent victims of the first Genocide of the 20th century. Completed in 1967, the Genocide Monument has since become a pilgrimage site and an integral part of Yerevan’s architecture. The complex occupies 4500 square meters of territory and consists of three main buildings: the Memorial Wall, the Sanctuary of Eternity (Memorial Hall & Eternal Flame) and the Memorial Column “The Reborn Armenia”. In 1995, the Museum and Institute was built near Tsitsernakaberd to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The Genocide Museum’s mission statement is rooted in the fact that understanding the Armenian Genocide is an important step in prevention of similar future tragedies, and those, who forget the past, are condemned to repeat it.
2. The Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, Matenadaran
Matenadaran was founded in 405, in the royal settlement of Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin). The collection of manuscripts of Matenadaran is one of the most ancient and biggest in the world. The depository contains over 17300 manuscripts, 450 thousand archive documents, and 3000 ancient books, covering almost all spheres of life of the ancient and medieval Armenia - history, geography, philosophy, law, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, music and more. In 1939 Matenadaran was replaced to Yerevan.
3. The History Museum and the National Gallery of Armenia
The National History Museum of Armenia in Yerevan which was founded in 1921 and the National Gallery of Armenia share the building of the museum complex, which is located at the Republic Square. The National History Museum occupies the bottom two floors of the complex. The exposition of the museum is divided into several sections: archaeological, ethnographic, numismatic department, the department of historic architecture, and the Department of Modern and Contemporary History of Armenia. The museum displays artifacts discovered on the territory of Armenia and related to periods from the Stone Age to the end of the XIX century.
The National Gallery of Armenia is the country’s major art gallery. Its fund holds more than 20,000 works of art, the fond of Western European division has more than 350 paintings and drawings. The museum has the most complete collection of paintings by Aivazovsky. There are also stored paintings of well-known Western European masters as Chagall, Rubens, Courbet, Kandinsky, the famous Russian artists - Repin, Bryullov, Surikov, Petrov.
4. Sergei Parajanov house-museum
Sergei Parajanov is one of the greatest figures of 20th century world cinema. His visionary films, such as “The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” (1964), “Sayat-Nova” or “The Color of Pomegranates” (1969), “The Legend of Suram Fortress” (1985), and “Ashugh Gharib” (1989) have earned him international acclaim. His works are unlimited, unique; they differ in richness of imagination and artistry. Comprising some 1,400 exhibits, the museum’s collection includes drawings, installations, collages, assemblages, dolls and hats, created by Parajanov, the furnishings and his personal belongings from his childhood house in Georgia. The exposition of the museum features over 250 works, documents and photos.
5. Yerevan Ararat Brandy Factory
Yerevan Ararat Brandy Factory was built in 1887 on the site of the former fortress of Yerevan.
Today ARARAT brandy is the Legend by itself, enclosing the spirit of Armenia, its cultural and historical heritage and the craftsmanship of the Armenian people.
Visiting the factory, one will get acquainted with the history of brandy making in Armenia, learn the 120 years old history of Armenian brandy production, see the oldest Armenian barrels and the medals which decorate the ARARAT legend, see how the brandy spirits are preserved, enjoy the delicate aroma of the cellar, tasting the delicious brandies.
6. The Cascade and the Cafesjian Center for the Arts
In the very centre of Yerevan Cascade is located, which is the most favorable place of citizens. The idea of the complex originally belongs to the architect Alexander Tamanyan (1878–1936), who desired to connect the northern and central parts of the city—the historic residential and cultural centers of the city—with a vast green area of waterfalls and gardens, cascading down one of the city’s highest promontories.
Today this former Soviet monument, located in the centre of the city, has become the centre of modern art, where curious visitor can discover the unique pieces of modern art. The Cafesjian Center for the Arts (CCA) is dedicated to bringing the best of contemporary art to Armenia and presenting the best of Armenian culture to the world. Having celebrated its grand opening in November 2009, CCA continues to exhibit unique works of modern art and offers a diverse program of visiting lecturers, films, concerts, and numerous educational initiatives for adults and children.
Visiting Vernisaj, the Bazaar near Republic Square, is an absolute must. On weekends this place turns into an open-air market, where you can find almost everything you can imagine from handmade jewels to various souvenirs with national symbols.
8. “Erebuni” Historical and Archaeological Museum-Reserve
Erebuni Museum of the History of Yerevan City Foundation was established in 1968. The opening of the Museum was timed to coincide with the 2750th anniversary of Yerevan. The Museum stands at the foot of the Arin Berd hill, on top of which the Urartian Fortress Erebuni had been constructed. The City-Fortress was excavated, some parts of the structure were reinforced and restored and the fortress was turned into an outdoor Museum. A cuneiform inscription testifies that the city was built by Argishti I the King of Urartu in 782 B.C. The permanent exhibition presents the visitors the history of Urartu, its developed economy, architecture and fine arts, irrigation systems, construction techniques and other showpieces, which prove, that Urartu used to be a progressive country.
Here the visitor can see 7 of 23 cuneiforms discovered from excavations of the city Erebuni, including the one which is considered to be the birth certificate of Yerevan. For a number of times exclusive exhibits of the museum were temporarily exported and exhibited in the prestigious museums and galleries in the United States, France, and Russia.
9. A. Spendiaryan Opera and Ballet National Academic Theatre
In the heart of Yerevan rises one of the most beautiful buildings in the capital, A.Spendiaryan Opera and Ballet National Academic Theatre, designed by the architect A.Tamanyan. Today the theater is a vital part of the lives of high quality art connoisseurs: here the cultural heritage of our nation is being preserved and doubled, true values are represented and a new generation of music lovers is educated.
10. House-Museum Yervant Kochar
Works of the great artist are represented in many museums, but only here you can make the most complete picture of artist’s creative development: there are exhibited the works of Tiflis, Paris, Yerevan periods - paintings, drawings, sculptures, plates of monuments, layouts.
Only here and in the Centre Pompidou in Paris you can join his miracle of creation, which is called “Spatial painting”.
His painting with cold wax paints is of particular interest. This wax tempera technique brought him fame of a pioneer.
E.Kochar is the author of the monument “David of Sasun”, which became a symbol of Yerevan.