Armenia is the first country in the world which announced Christianity as a state religion in 301 AD, therefore the first Christian church was built in Armenia, in Etchmiadzin. Once it was one of the biggest cities and the main capital of ancient Greater Armenia founded in the 2nd century BC. Etchmiadzin, situated 20km far from Yerevan city, is often called “Armenian Vatican”, because it is considered to be the country’s “spiritual capital”. According to the old legend, the Saint Gregory the Illuminator, the first Christian of all Armenians, once had a prophetic vision in this place: Jesus Christ descended from heaven and with his golden hammer pointed to the place to erect the church. So, in 301 King Trdat III founded Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, meaning “the Descent of the Only-Begotten” in Armenian. In Etchmiadzin one can find numerous old churches: Saint Hripsime church, St. Gayane Church, Church of St. Shokagat, as well as museums, the residence of the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians and many other Christian facilities. According to some legends, these above mentioned churches were named after some of the first Christians in Armenia, who preached and spread the faith in one God and were martyred. In 2000, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin was included in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List.
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