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Saint Hripsime Church

Saint Hripsime Church is a seventh century Armenian Apostolic church in the city of Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin), Armenia. It is one of the oldest surviving churches in the country. The church was erected by Catholicos Komitas to replace the original mausoleum built by Catholicos Sahak the Great in 395 AD that contained the remains of the martyred Saint Hripsime to whom the church is dedicated. The current structure was completed in 618 AD. It is known for its fine Armenian-style architecture of the classical period, which has influenced many other Armenian churches since. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other nearby churches, including Etchmiadzin Cathedral, Armenia's mother church, in 2000.
A Hellenistic temple, similar to the Temple of Garni and dedicated to a pagan goddess, stood in the place of the church prior to the fourth century. During excavations in 1958 the foundation of a monumental stone building with Hellenistic ornaments was found under the supporting column.
Hripsime, along with the abbess Gayane and 38 unnamed nuns, are traditionally considered the first Christian martyrs in Armenia's history. They were persecuted, tortured, and eventually killed by king Tiridates III of Armenia. According to the chronicler Agathangelos, after conversion to Christianity in 301, Tiridates and Gregory the Illuminator built a martyrium dedicated to Hripsime at the location of her martyrdom, which was half buried underground. Excavations around the church have uncovered remains of several tortured women buried in early Christian manner, which, according to Agop Jack Hacikyan et al., "seem to support the story of Agathangelos." In 395 Patriarch Sahak Partev (Isaac the Parthian) rebuilt or built a new martyrium, which had been destroyed by Shapur II of the Sasanian Empire in the 360s.
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