Etchmiadzin Cathedral is the main and the most ancient Christian temple of Armenia and one of the oldest temples in the whole Christian world. The cathedral was built in 301 by Gregory the Illuminator - the founder of the Armenian - Gregorian church and the first Armenian Catholicos, during the reign of king Trdat III (287 – 330).
According to legend, Christ appeared to Gregory the Illuminator and told him to build a temple in that place (Etchmiadzin -"place of descent of the only begotten"). As Etchmiadzin is the residence of the Catholicos, it's periodically endowed with rich relics and gifts, and to store them in 1869 on the east side of the cathedral were built three additions, which now house the museum of the monastery.
There are three cross-stones (khachkars) in the territory of the monastery deserving special attention. First one is the Holy Saviour dated from 1279, the second one is the 17th century cross-stone from the old cemetery of Jugha covered with complex ornamentations, images of different scenes with human figures, saints, animals and birds. The last one is a modern monument devoted to all Armenian victims of the Genocide in 1915.
St. Gayane church
According to the Xth century Armenian historian and Catholicos Hovhannes Draskhanakerttsi, St. Gayane church was erected by the Catholicos Ezr in 630-641 at the site where the Abbess Gayane was martyred by the order of pagan Armenian King Trdat III. Church of Saint Gayane is one of the earliest examples of basilica-type church built in Armenia. The general interior of the church consists of 4 tall pillars which support the central dome and create the shape of a cross.
In 2000 the Church of St. Gayane was included in UNESCO World Heritage List.