“Zvartnots” historical-cultural museum-reservation is located in Zvartnots district of Echmiadzin, on the left side of the Yerevan-Echmiadzin highway, 15 km west of Yerevan and covers an area of 14.1 hectares. It operates from June of 2003 as a branch of the “Service for the protection of historical environment and cultural museum-reservations” SNCO at the Ministry of Culture of RA.
The complex consists of the temple and secular structures (the Palace of Catholicos, household rooms, bathhouse, wine-press, well). In the southeastern part of the temple complex the remains of one-nave church of V century AD is also preserved (the altar, baptistery, etc.).
The construction of the temple was organized by the Armenian Catholicos Nerses III Tayetsi during 643-652. The first information about the construction of the temple is presented by the historians of VII century. The first information was presented by VII century historian Sebeos; he is the only one who calls the temple Zvartnots, the other historians mentioned the temple with the name of St. Grigor. Due to Sebeos the temple was built in the honor of “Zvartuns” (cheerful spirits) for the multitude of heavenly soldiers who appeared in St. Grigor’s vision.
XIII century historian Kirakos Gandzaketsi, historian Vardan Bardzraberdzi and historian Mkhitar Ayrivanetsi expressed conviction that St. Grigor (Zvartnots) was destroyed by the Tajiks (Arabs). However, some scholars believe that the reason for the destruction of the temple was an earthquake. After its fall, the temple was covered with the soil within the centuries and turned into a hill; only at the beginning of the 20th century it was cleared from the centuries-old layers of soil.
There was highly developed economy and culture in the teritory of Zvartnots in 3-2 millenniums BC. This area became one of the most important economic and strategic centers of the Kingdom of Van (Urartu) in 7th century BC. During the excavations, a cuneiform inscription containing 47 lines left by King Rusa II of the Ararat Kingdom was unearthed, which mentions his economic, construction works, construction of the canal from the Ildaruni (Hrazdan) river, and the cultivation of dry lands.
In the territory of the monument and its neigborhood during the excavations of last years the burial goods were unearthed dated to the Middle Bronze (XV-XV centuries BC) and Late Bronze (XV-XII centuries BC) Ages, the remains of the material culture of the antique period (VI-III centuries BC), as well as medieval (IV-XIV centuries AD) pottery, remains of mosaics, Greek and Armenian inscriptions, household and ritual pots, items of good, etc came to light.
Restoration works were carried out in Zvartnots temple in 1945, 1958, 1962, 1966-1967. Within the project of architect L. Sadoyan the columns of the altars, eagle-shaped capitals, the lower part of the first stairs’ walls of the temple have been reconstructed during 1980-1990s. In 2000-2003 the southern arch and the western front entrance have been reconstructed according to the project of the architect M. Danielyan.
In 1937 on the southern side of the temple, near its ruins, a museum was established, which had a small exhibition summed up in one hall till the beginning of 90s of the 20th century. A new exhibition was displayed at the museum in 2012. The permanent exhibition organized in four showrooms covers an area of 230 square meters, containing archeological, historical and architectural departments.
The open air exhibition displayes the remains of partially conservated and resconstructed walls of Zvartnots Temple, anchors of the pillars, lodges, basket-shaped and eagle-shaped capitals, arches, lintel’s cornices, large masses of limestone of the arched cellings, baptismal pool, well, sculptured ornaments from the temple, the palace of Catholicos in the southwestern part of the temple, the monks’ cells, the bathhouse, the remains of a basilica church of the 4-5th centuries, a wine-press as well as a round press slab (with four different holes and gorges) dated back to 2-1 millennia BC, a pre-Christian cult worship phallic monument, a cuneiform inscription of Urartian King Rusa II (685-645 BC) have been found during the excavations from the area of the complex.
By the decision of the UNESCO World Heritage Center, Zvartnots, alongside with the Echmiadzin Cathedral and other churches of Vagharshapat, has been listed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 2000.
Appropriate conditions for the people with limited abilities and optical problems have been created in the temple complex. With the support of VivaCell MTS, information panels (in five languages) and a Braille system panels for the blind people were installed in the temple area. In 2012 night-lights and sound systems have been installed in the area of the monument.