Along with the Armenian alphabet and Mt. Ararat, the Armenian Church is one of the pillars of Armenian culture. Mt. Ararat, the traditional resting place of Noah’s Ark, is located in eastern Turkey near the Armenian and Iranian borders. Mt. Ararat, standing 5,165 meters (16,946 feet) above sea level, is a dormant volcano whose last eruption was in 1840.
Echmiadzin or Ejmiatsin, about 20 km west of Yerevan, is the holiest city in Armenia and the seat of the katholikos, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church. When we were there, it was the only seminary in Armenia. Echmiadzin Cathedral was originally built by Saint Gregory the Illuminator as a vaulted basilica in 301-303. The complex at Echmiadzin contains a seminary, the palace of the Catholicos, and Mayr Tachar, The Mother Church of Armenia.
The reconstructed pagan temple of Garni is located about 26 km west of Yerevan. This region has been settled since Neolithic times and archaeologists have found Urartian inscriptions dating back to the 8th century BC. Dedicated to Helios, the Roman god of the sun, the Garni temple was built by the Armenian King Trdates I in the 1st century AD (with funding from the Roman Emperor Nero in exchange for military support against the Parthian empire). After Christianity was adopted in Armenia in the early 4th century, most pagan monuments were destroyed or abandoned. Garni, however, was preserved at the request of the sister of King Trdates II and used as a summer residence for Armenian royalty. In 1679 an earthquake completely destroyed the temple and it lay in ruins until its reconstruction between 1965 and 1975.
Geghard is an ancient Armenian monastery partly carved out of a mountain. Though the monastery has been around since before the 4th century, the main cathedral was built in 1215.
The oldest building in the Kecharis Monastery complex is a single-nave basilica of the fifth century. In the 11th century the settlement was a possession of the Princes Pakhlavuni who founded a monastery there, the construction of which continued till the middle of the 13th century. In the 121h—13th centuries Kecharis was a major religious center of Armenia.
Hayravank monastery, which lies on the shores of Lake Sevan, consists of a late 9th century church, a 12th century gavit, and khachkars. The area has very ancient ruins including cyclopean fortress with megalithic tombs.
The last picture is one I took from the airport because I saw Mt. Ararat. If you look very carefully, it is visible just to the left of the wing of the plane. Very beautiful it was too! But you are not allowed to take pictures of airplanes in the Soviet Union! It took all of my persuasive powers to keep the film that was in my camera!
Apparently, in 1979 the Soviet Union didn't have a central reservation system because almost every time it became time to leave a city, we were unable to get flights. So in Armenia, we were unable to leave for day after day. Our wonderful hosts kept plying us with food and brandy and taking us to see the sights, but we had visas expiring and had to leave for the rest of our trip. Gil threatened them that he was going to get on a train. Finally they said we could go. We got to the airport and they separated us from Tanya because we were foreigners. We began to get worried, especially because we had no idea where we were going! So we ran off to try to find Tanya. Yes, Tanya was not going to be allowed to leave. So we grabbed Tanya and said we could not go without Tanya. So the three of us finally got on the plane and there outside were three Armenians on the tarmak shaking their fists at our plane.