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Good evening, brothers and sisters, and welcome.

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As some of you know, I recently returned from two and a half weeks in Armenia. I spent most of the time working on the animals bones from the Early Bronze Age settlement of Shengavit in Yerevan, but I did get a chance to visit some of the wonderful early medieval churches in and around Echmiadzin. Armenia was the first kingdom in the ancient world to adopt Christianity as its state religion. St. Gregory the Illuminator convinced the king of Armenia to adopt Christianity in 301. The catholicos or mother cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church was established in Echmiadzin in the 4th century.

Here you can see the cathedral as it looks today:

The cathedral suffered earthquake damage in early modern times, and the belfry was rebuilt in early modern times. The interior was re-designed by an Iranian architect who used bright colors that are not typical of Armenia church architecture:

And here is another view of the mother church:

Here is a view of the church dedicated to St. Hripsime. She was one of the most beautiful women in the world but she refused to marry the Roman Emperor Diocletian and the king of Armenia because they were pagans. She was martyred by stoning:

Here is the beautiful garden outside the church:

Here is the 7th-century church dedicated to St. Gayane. She was a nun who tried to save St. Hripsime by leading her out of the Roman Empire after she refused to marry Diocletian. She and 34 nuns in her convent were also martyred:

Here is the altar in the interior of the church:

Finally here are the ruins of a lovely 7th-century church at Zvartnots. it was destroyed in an earthquake in the 10th century:

Here is an eagle on one of the capitals:

All four churches in and around Echmiadzen have been designated as a world heritage site since 2000.

In closing, let me offer a prayer of remembrance for the victims of the 1915 Armenian genocide. Not only were 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children lost in this terrible event, but it served as a model for the many atrocities that were to follow in the 20th century, including the Great Holocaust or Shoah during the Second World War.

Peace and remembrance.

Originally posted to blue jersey mom on Sun Aug 12, 2012 at 05:01 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets , Headwaters, J Town, and Pink Clubhouse.

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