People have lived in the area of Ejmiatsin since ancient times. This is evidenced by many monuments (the Hill Shresh, Mokhrablour, Aknashen, Teghut and so on) found in Ejmiatsin and nearby with many archaeological layers of centuries of stone, bronze and iron, during the excavation and construction of which various materials were found.
The oldest written record about Ejmiatsin belongs to Rusa II (approximately 685-645 BC). According to cuneiform inscription of Zvartnots the area of Ejmiatsin was called Quarlini where Rusa II put a canal from the river Ildaruni (Hrazdan).
A century later during the reign of Armenian king Yervand Sakavakyats (570-560 BC) his brother-in-law Vardges Manoug established a big settlement on that same area, near the Hill Shresh and the city of Artimed, on the bank of Kasagh river. The settlement was called Vardgesavan after Vardges Manoug’s name.
During the reign of Tigran the Great (95-55 BC) the settlement became a commercial town.
King Vagharsh I Arshakouni (117-140) walled, improved and renamed the city Vagharshapat in Aragatsotn province of Ayrarat state of Greater Armenia. After some constructions the king made the city the second royal residence.
In 163 the Romans renamed it Cainepolis (New City) and proclaimed it as a capital city instead of occupied and destroyed Artashat. They made a number of constructions in Vagharshapat, the most important of which is the strengthening of its protection system.
This is evidenced by the two records in Latin found around the territory of Ejmiatsin-Zvartnots.
After deporting the Romans and reconstructing Artashat the official capital remained Artashat and Vagharshapat took on the role of the royal residence replacing the capital until the fall of the Arshakuni dynasty (428). It had a citadel, royal palaces, military barracks, a prison, strong walls with towers and several gates (especially the great Eastern gate “Door of Areg” was prominent). The city was protected in the south by a deep trench filled with waters of Kasagh and called Parken trench, by a large swamp in the south west, which was also a scaffold for death penalties.
The importance of the city increased especially after the adoption of Christianity as a state religion in Armenia (301). Aghatangeghos notifies that Gregory the Illuminator had a vision of Jesus Christ descending from heaven (from here came the name Ejmiatsin, meaning “the Descent of the Only-Begotten”) to Vagharshapat and striking the earth with the golden hammer in his hand pointed the place where a “house for prayer” should be built in memory of martyrdom of Virgins of Saint Hripsime. Abiding by “divine” instructions Gregory the Illuminator destroys the mehyan (pagan temple) of Sandaramet with the help of Trdat the Great, ministers and believers and established (301-303) the first Christian church in Armenia - Mother Cathedral of Holy Ejmiatsin, the Armenian Pontificate and the Congregation of Saint Ejmiatsin.
Later Vagharshapat (especially from XIII-XV the city was called Ejmiatsin after the name of the Cathedral) became the Armenian spiritual centre and the Cathedral preserved the primary importance of Mother Cathedral irrespective of the relocations of the residence of Catholicos.
Since IV century Ejmiatsin has had spiritual and cultural remarkable life and has been continually enriched with new buildings and institutions. During the reign of Catholicos Gregory the Illuminator (302-325) a new patriarchal residence, a shelter for friars and acolytes were built (since V century known as Surenyans’ dessert), the Martyria of St. Hripsimean Virgins were established, attempts were made to prepare and educate spiritual figures for newly-adopted Christianity.
For this purpose Greek and Assyrian schools were opened. This happened also during the reign of Nerses I the Great (353-373).
Ejmiatsin developed spiritually and culturally especially during V century when Armenian illuminators Sahak I Partev (388-439) and Mesrop Mashtots (361-440) established the first Armenian school with the support of king Vramshapouh.
Shortly afterwards, Ejmiatsin and its spiritual figures became inspiration for Vardanants (450-451) and Vahanants (481-484) wars for liberty.
Though in 484 the residence of Catholicos was moved to Dvin, the spiritual and cultural life in Ejmiatsin continued to prosper. During 484-486 Vahan Mamikonyan entirely renovated the monastery and during 486-491 the trustee of the monastery Ghazar Parpetsi established the first Armenian Matenadaran. After that Ejmiatsin became a remarkable Armenian scriptorium, where numerous manuscripts were written, copied and ornamented.
Spiritual, cultural and structural works were evolved in VII century especially during the reigns of Catholicos Komitas I Aghtsetsi (615-628), Ezr I Parajnakertsi (630-641) and Nerses III Tayetsi (641-661).
In 618 the Mother Cathedral was renovated and the Temple of Hripsime was built, in 630 Gayane Church and the lodging for the priests, in 641-661 Zvartnots were built. A new residence of Catholicos, bathhouse, well and wine presses were built as well.
Since II century Ejmiatsin together with Artashat, Dvin and Ani took part in transit trade. At this time the city had a thick and multilingual population (Armenians, Persians, Greeks, Assyrians).
According to Pavstos Buzand at the last quarter of IV century during the invasions in Armenia Persian King Shapouh II captivated 19 thousand people from Ejmiatsin. This fact, though a little magnified, proves the fact that Ejmiatsin was a populous city. Ejmiatsin had a developed craftsmanship, smithery, and pottery.
It occupied extensive territory (from eastern Zvartnots to the right bank of Kasagh River) which is not only due to the large population of the city, but also due to manorial economy. The population of Ejmiatsin, like that of any other city of Armenia was involved in farming and other agricultural activities.
Though starting from the middle of VII century the development of Ejmiatsin was stopped because of Arab invasions and destructions, in VIII century the economy began to prosper in Ejmiatsin and it lasted during the whole period of reign of Bagratunis’ Kingdom.
When Armenian King Gagik II (1042-1045) visited Ejmiatsin it was a prosperous and developed city. Then the city was deserted and destroyed by foreign conquerors (Seljuks, Mongols, Tartars) so much that Stepanos Orbelyan wrote a special ''Lament''.
Ejmiatsin remained in this unremarkable condition till the middle of the XV century, when due to the efforts of Hovhannes Hermonatsi and Tomas Metsopetsi in 1441 General Assembly was called in Ejmiatsin, which reestablished the Catholicosate in Ejmiatsin. Ejmiatsin became the spiritual and religious centre for all Armenians and the residence of the Armenian Catholicos: a historical status which is preserved till now.
This historical-political big event, as well as the fact that the city is situated not far from Yerevan, the administrative centre of the country, gave rise to the further development of Ejmiatsin.
After the settlement in Ejmiatsin, Armenian Catholicoses got the opportunity to follow the inner life of the city personally, to organize different events together with the Congregation in order to improve the economic and cultural life of the city.
When Gregory X Jalalbekyants (1443-1463) bought Ejmiatsin and made it an estate belonging to the monastery (till 1920) the Catholicosate and the Congregation began to encourage and support the development of agriculture.
Along with the previous occupations (fruit-growing, horticulture, grain processing) the residents of Ejmiatsin get new ones, such as winemaking, cotton production, craftsmanship supporting agriculture, and later sericulture.
This economic activity was suspended for some period at the beginning of the XVII century because of the invasions of Persian King Shah-Abas. After the forced displacement of tens of thousands of Armenians in 1614 he displaced and moved to Spahan 15 walls, candlesticks, the Right Hand of Gregory the Illuminator and other relics with the desire to build there a new “Ejmiatsin” so as to connect the Armenian immigrants with this new country.
During the reign of Movses III Tatevatsi (1620-1655) the city was renovated and new buildings were constructed among them an oven, barn, refectory and storehouse. Besides, the monastery was walled as well.
Pilipos I Aghbaketsi (1632-1655) started extensive constructions.
The construction was headed by Master Grigor, who left an inscription on the Door of Trdat in 1639. For a long time the school of Ejmiatsin was closed and only at the first quarter of XVII century an attempt was made to open it, when Meliksedek Vzhantsi, one of the prominent Vardapets, was invited to Ejmiatsin to teach several pupils. For this purpose in 1635-1637 the school of Hovhanavank was moved to Ejmiatsin. For some period of time the school (since 1640 known by the name “Vardapetaran”) flourished when such scientists and teachers as Voskan Yerevantsi, Simeon Jughayetsi and Stepanos Lehatsi taught at this school.
In 1645 Pilipos Aghbakertsi started the construction of the belfry of the Cathedral. The construction was over in 1658 during the reign of Hakob IV Jughayetsi (1655-1680).
In 1694 Shoghakat Church was built by means of Lord Aghamal Shorotetsi and during the reign of Astvatsatur I Hamadantsi (1715-1725) Naghash Hovnatan painted the murals of the Mother Cathedral.
His sons Hakob and Harutyun Hovnatanyans finished the illustrations during the reign of Abraham III Kretatsi (1734-1737). The latter with his skillful diplomacy was able not only to protect Armenia against the destructions during the Turkish – Persian war, but also managed to build the hotel of Khazarapat (with more than 30 rooms), garden, pool, bathhouse, stables, cattle houses.
During the reign of Simeon I Yerevantsi (1763-1780) in 1768 the walls of the city were completely rebuilt. The rectangle walls had four big vaulted doors on four sides and also six doors on different sides. Pyramids were placed on the four angles of the walls and in some places on all sides; due to this the fortified monastery looked like a castle. The houses close to the walls were destroyed and another church was built a bit far from that place. The former building of the inn was turned into a permanent market.
In 1763 two colleges (for summer and winter) were founded, the teacher of which was appointed Bishop Petros Bertumyants (Aghamalyan). These colleges which in fact were only departments, later became known as “Zharangavorats School of Ejmiatsin”
In 1771 Simeon Yerevantsi established also the first printing house in Armenia (where in 1772 the first book was published in Armenia: “Book of Prayer called Zbosaran Hogevor (Spiritual Walking)”. In 1776 the first paper factory was established.
Hovnatan Hovnatanyan was invited to Ejmiatsin and in 1769 he started the new illustration of the Mother Cathedral finishing it during the reign of Ghukas Karnetsi (1780-1799). The latter finished the final construction of the Cathedral. Further works were of partial form and didn’t spoil the preliminary form and appearance of the Cathedral.
During XVIII-XVIII economic and commercial life became more active. Tavriz-Yerevan-Karin a caravan road passed through Ejmiatsin. The merchants of Ejmiatsin exported cotton, wine, etc.
At the beginning of XIX century Ejmiatsin was on the frontline of Russian-Persian war (1804-1813). In 1804 Persian heir Abas-Mirza set his army near Ejmiatsin and when a disease was spread among the soldiers of Russian army, who besieged Yerevan, General Tsitsianov left the siege, went to Ejmiatsin and taking the sick people, some of the friars of the monastery and some valuable things and church supplies moved to Tiflis (a part of what he had taken was given back after the war).
In September of 1806 the Russian army again occupied Ejmiatsin. But in 1813 Russia had to give it back to Persians under the Agreement of Gyulistan.
In 1828 Ejmiatsin was finally joined to Russia as a part of Eastern Armenia. This event was very important for the further development of Ejmiatsin.
Getting rid of the centuries-old violence of foreign invaders the people of Ejmiatsin got an opportunity to improve their economic, spiritual and cultural life.
Ejmiatsin started to prosper and this lasted during the whole XIX century. Ejmiatsin gradually was involved in the field of Russian governing and cultural-economic life. However, Ejmiatsin remained subordinate to the church and the Russian Government like previous governments recognized the rights of the Congregation over Ejmiatsin.
Though at the middle of XIX century Ejmiatsin became the centre of the region of Ejmiatsin of the state of Yerevan, the city was governed by the Catholicos and the Congregation together with the Synod.
At first half of XIX century huge work was done in Ejmiatsin especially during the reigns of Catholicoses Yeprem I Dzoragekhtsi (1809-1830), Hovhannes VIII Karbetsi (1831-1842) and Nerses V Ashtaraketsi (1843-1857).
In 1833 a monument was set up dedicated to Russian soldiers martyred during the war of Oshakan in 1827. In 1837 the Synod formed in 1808 started to function. In 1847 the construction of Nersisyan fish-breeding lake began. Attempts were made to supply the city with drinkable water, the market was reconstructed. Many trees (mulberry- tree, aspen tree, willow etc.) were planted in Ejmiatsin and nearby.
In 1847 Nerses Ashtaraketsi enlarged the school that he had established. It is notable to mention the college of Gevorg IV Kostandnupolsetsi (1866-1882).
In May of 1868 the first issue of “Ararat” newspaper was published. On May 25, 1869 Gevorkyan Seminary, the first and the only higher spiritual institution in Armenia, was established. Bedrooms, a hospital and other subsidiary buildings were built near the seminary.
In 1869 the museum of Ejmiatsin was established, the printing house was improved, Library-Matenadaran was enlarged and its reading room was opened in 1879. In 1889 the new building of the printing house was build, some renovations and partial changes were made in the church and nearby. And during the reign of Mkrtich I Vanetsi electric lights were installed in the church.
At the end of XIX century Ejmiatsin became one of the important centres of the Armenian culture. Many figures of culture and science were invited to Ejmiatsin to teach in Gevorkyan Seminary or to work at Matenadaran and “Ararat” newspaper editorial office.
People like Komitas, H. Hovhannisyan, H. Acharyan, M. Abegyan, Ye. Tadevosyan, G. Ter-Mkrtchyan, G. Hovsepyan and others lived and worked in Ejmiatsin.
Together with the rise of the cultural life, the population of the city also increased (in 1909 Ejmiatsin had a population of 3422 people). Political life became more active too.
But the development of Ejmiatsin was stopped because of the Armenian-Turkish fights. Ejmiatsin became a gathering place for those Armenian migrants who had suffered from the calamities of war.
For centuries Ejmiatsin had been a national and political centre for the Armenians deprived of statehood and spread all over the world. Ejmiatsin repeatedly was the centre of liberation movements. It attracted many figures of liberation movement (Emin Hovsep, Movses Baghramyan, Yegor Khubov), and during the attack of Turkey in 1918 many intellectuals, militiamen and clergymen from Ejmiatsin took part in the battle.
After the establishment of Soviet power in Armenia (1920) Ejmiatsin continued to develop in a planned and organized manner. It involved all the fields of economy and culture.
From the first days of Soviet authority Ejmiatsin ceased to belong to the monastery and became the centre of province of Vagharshapat. Ejmiatsin started to live a new life.
Attempts were made to improve the condition of thousands of emigrants settled in Ejmiatsin. Some of them decided to stay permanently in Ejmiatsin.
Constructive, economic, educational and cultural lives became more active. Houses and workshops were built, schools and clubs were opened, Matenadaran turned into an Institute of Material Culture (1921) and it began to serve the scientific society.
In 1944 “Ejmiatsin” journal of Pontifical Seat was published, in 1945 the Theological Seminary of Ejmiatsin was opened. During 1950-1960 along with new architectural buildings attention was paid to the improvement of the old ones as well, St. Hripsime Cathedral and Gayane Church were renovated; the territory around Zvartnots was improved. With the initiative of Catholicos Vazgen I Baljian extensive construction work was conducted in the Cathedral of Ejmiatsin. A new Pontifical Residence was built, the monument of the victims of the Armenian Genocide was set up, the murals of Mother Cathedral were renovated.
After the centuries-long constructions and reconstructions, at the end of 1960’s the complex of the Monastery of Ejmiatsin was finally completed. And now it is not only one of the main complexes of the Ejmiatsin Cathedral but also one of the jewels in the crown of the Armenian Architecture. Due to the fact of being the main centre of Christianity in Armenia, for centuries Ejmiatsin had a huge spiritual and cultural importance for the country. The first school, matenadaran and seminary were founded here. Mesrop Mashtots and Sahak Partev founded the first Armenian-language school here. The first printing house (1771), paper mill (1776), periodical (1868), museum (1869) of Armenia were founded in Ejmiatsin. Such masterpieces of the Armenian Architecture as Saint Hripsime Monastery (618), Saint Gayane Monastery (630), Saint Shoghakat Church (1694), Church of the Holy Mother of God (1767), Zvartnots Cathedral (641-661) are located in Ejmiatsin.
The designing activities of today’s Ejmiatsin began in 1925. The works were controlled by Alexander Tamanyan.
During 1939-1943 the general site plan of the city was drawn up, where such factors were taken into account as the peculiarities of the terrain formed during ages, the existence of historical and architectural monuments and the natural conditions. The main architectural buildings were oriented toward Ararat, sometimes toward the Mountain Arargats. The further development of the city and the requirements for continually developing tourism were also taken into consideration.
The construction of the city centre began from the Square after Komitas together with the administrative building of the Municipality and the Complex of the Monastery.
Today’s Ejmiatsin is one of the cities with beautiful and unique architecture in the Republic. It has become one of the most interesting places for the visitors and tourists of the Republic due to the Mother See of Holy Ejmiatsin. The city now occupies a territory of 4424 ha and has a population of about 60000.
The healthcare system of the city includes hospitals, polyclinics, dental clinics, a maternity hospital, ambulance service and hygienic anti-epidemic state institutions.
Previously the city was considered a large industrial centre having within its territory such factories as “Rastr”, “Rezistr”, “Electron” and “Sarkashinakan”, which were equipped with modern technologies and equipment. These factories worked within the military-industrial complex of the Soviet Union and produced high precision equipment.
Nowadays these factories work with non-complete power, but have preserved their potential and have serious perspectives of restart. “Plasmasa”, “Granit”, “Haykar”, “Combine of Construction Materials and Items” and “Karin” factories manufacture various household goods.
The city has a great opportunity for the development of the production of agricultural products. Nearly 2000 ha territory is used for this purpose. Viticulture, cultivation of fruits, vegetables and crops is also developed.
There are also wine and cognac factories in the city.
The two canneries which carry out processing of agricultural products also have serious opportunities.
The existence of numerous artificial lakes near the city and favorable climate conditions create an opportunity for the development of fish breeding, especially trout (ishkhan) which has great demand in CIS and Europe markets. There are also many bakeries. A big transportation company also functions in the city.
There are 13 schools, 8 kindergartens, 2 sports schools, where such sport styles are taught as football, weightlifting, wrestling, chess, gymnastics, basketball and volleyball, the teams of which take part in different championships of RA.
The city has 2 music schools, a fine arts school, 5 museums, a culture house, 7 libraries, a state college and “Gregory the Illuminator” University. There is also Gevorkian Seminary adjacent to the Mother See of Ejmiatsin.
The Cultural and Historical Institute of Armenia, which is one of the first scientific and research institutions in the Republic, was opened in Ejmiatsin, which later was moved to Yerevan.
During its long history Ejmiatsin became a birthplace for many figures of Armenian culture, prominent political and public figures such as Komitas, Hovh. Hovhanissyan, H. Acharyan, M. Abeghyan, Ye. Tadevosyan, M. Yekmalyan, S. Melikyan, R. Melikyan, V. Kostanyan and others.
Many cultural events take place in the city every day.
There are different non-governmental organizations in the city such as “Yerkrapah Volunteers' Union”, “Mer Doon” NGO, “Rossia” NGO, “Cross of Armenian Unity” Charitable Cultural NGO.
The authorities of the city of Ejmiatsin do their best to represent our ancient city to Armenian and foreign tourists in a proper way.
The streets are renovated and lightened, green areas are added, parks and yards are improved, new architectural monuments are added to the old ones, such as the bust of Makar Yekmalyan, the monument devoted to the memory of Artsakh Liberation War in the square close to the Municipality, the statue of Charents in the homonymous district.
Ejmiatsin actively cooperates with different international organizations and cities.
The city has friendly relations with the cities of Issy-Les-Moulineaux, Charvieu-Chavagneux (France), Fresno (USA), Petrozavodsk, Sergiev-Posad (RF), Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria), Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi (Ukraine), Mtskheta (Georgia), Daugavpils (Latvia), Martakert and Hadrut (Republic of Artsakh).
Ejmiatsin is also a member of the Organization of World Heritage Cities of UNESCO.
So, since V century Ejmiatsin has been not only a remarkable pilgrimage for the Armenian people, but also attracted the attention of many foreign scientists, writers, poets, state and political figures and architects with its old and new cultural monuments.
It is the desire of every Armenian to see one of the ancient Armenian cities, the spiritual centre of all Armenians Ejmiatsin more beautiful, attractive and worthy to its name and glorious history.
The citizens of Ejmiatsin are devoted to their city and are truly proud with its glorious history of more than 2700 years. But, at the same time, they are profoundly sure that they are inseparable from that history. Moreover, they are the creators of that history, so they are obliged to do the utmost to make the future of the spiritual centre of All Armenians, ancient and forever young Ejmiatsin more beautiful and brighter.