of the apostles gained the attention of early travelers.|
1700 years Cathedral bells have chimed a message that all sainted roads of the
Christian Faith lead to Echmiadzin.
A celebration of various events over the
next few months will mark the anniversary of tradition's story: the miraculous
apparition of Grigor the Illuminator. According to legend, St. Grigor saw a vision
of Jesus Christ holding a golden hammer and commanding that a church be built
on the place that is now Echmiadzin.
In 303, Echmiadzin (meaning "the
place of the Only Begotten Son of God") became the center of the Armenian
Church, two years after Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity
as the State religion.
These days Echmiadzin is a tourist spot. But traveling
to the Holy See is not a new phenomenon. For centuries, it has been the destination
of pilgrims, a stop-over for tradesmen on the Silk Road, and a source of research
for proselytizing missionaries.
Many of those travelers recorded their impressions
in books and travelogues. And to commemorate Echmiadzin's anniversary, those articles
are being collected by Archbishop Mesrop Ashjian in a book to be called "The
mention a Tibetian bell, but author Archbishop Ashjian says he hasn't found traces
"Visitors have come to Echmiadzin
for thousands of years," the Archbishop says. "William Ruysbrock visited
this place in the 13th century. He tells about Echmiadzin, Ararat and Noah's Ark
in his memoirs."
Gathered from sources in French, English and German,
the chronicles reveal a place were guests were mostly well received, and where
many traditions of contemporary hospitality were also a part of ancient Armenian
life in Echmiadzin.
"For me it was interesting what induced these
people to visit Echmiadzin," the Archbishop says. "What did they see
here? And finally what impressions did they take away after leaving the place?"
The search for travel stories sent Archbishop Ashjian on a journey of his
own, looking for articles in libraries and museums in New York, Paris and Yerevan.
He says he started his work from several French travelers, who were followed
by the Germans in 1400. And he found that the flow of visitors sharply increased
in the 1600s.
"Trade routes passing through Armenia during that historical
period become stronger," the Archbishop says. "Merchants from Aleppo
and Izmir used to visit Yerevan and after that they continued their way to Tavriz,
Ispahan, India and China. On their way to Yerevan they always visited St. Echmiadzin."
the stories took eight months and hold the impressions of 90 foreign guests.
their memoirs foreigners tell about things that are not mentioned by Armenian
authors," says Archbishop Ashjian. "They help to understand and appreciate
your own country and people better."
In their memoirs many visitors
compliment the Armenians for their devout religious faith and for their hospitality.
Some write about meeting various Catholicoi.
Holy See has for centuries been a destination for pilrims and for tourists.|
Archbishop Ashjian says his collection (including an introduction he
is writing) should be of historical and ethnological value. It will be about 800
pages and include 90 color photographs and 100 black-and-white. He plans to have
the book ready by September 15, when official commemorations begin.
Echmiadzin Chronicles" will also present many travelers' opinions and impressions
of Ararat, and the mountain's connection to Echmiadzin.
to tradition, when patriarch Noah went down from Ararat Mountain he built an altar
on the place where Echmiadzin is now, and made the first sacrifice," the
Archbishop says. "I don't think there is a place in the world that can be
as holy as Echmiadzin. Echmiadzin has a symbol. Echmiadzin is mystical."
special tenderness the Archbishop tells about Italian traveler Francesco Careri,
who visited Armenia on May 26, 1694. In his memoirs he writes about the beauty
of one flower, which he saw in Talin. Three hundred years later Archbishop Ashjian
decided to try to find that flower. On May 26 of this year, a long search lead
him to a spot near St. Christopher monastery, where he found that flower, 309
years after the Italian described it.
"The nature of Armenia has been
holding this flower in embrace for more than 300 years," the Archbishop writes.
"The flower is devoted to its land and the land, in its turn, is loyal to
the flower. St. Echmiadzin is also a child of this land like this flower. Let
us be faithful to our Church and let us love Echmiadzin."