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Saint Vartan
Armenian Cathedral
2nd Avenue @ E. 34th Street

by

Celeste Fay
[cfay@murray.fordham.edu]


An Armenian Cathedral in New York

St. Vartan Cathedral is the first cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church to be constructed in North America. It is located in New York City on the corner of Second Avenue and Thirty-forth street. It was built to resemble The Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin [or here for image], the world's first cruciform church, built in the fourth century and still standing in Armenia.

St. Vartan's was consecrated on April 28, 1968 by His Holiness Vasken I, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Americans.

The Architecture

EXTERIOR

The cathedral has an L-shaped composition framing an entrance court of 114 feet long by 72 feet wide. It is elevated five feet above street level. It is sheathed in limestone with one story granite base and exterior staircase.

The main entrance faces a spacious plaza.

The Design above the door to main entrance depicts images of Saint Vartan, the Brave. It is patterned after similar designs found on the exterior of the ancient Armenian Church on the island of Aghtamar in Lake Van. The image on the right depicts St. Vartan, receiving the blessing of His Holiness Catholicos Hovsep. The image on the left depicts his military and peaceful natures. The helmet at the left foot shows the military nature, and the animal on his right represents his peaceful nature.

INTERIOR

The interior of St. Vartan Cathedral is a simple, yet traditional, structure.

It has two distinct features that are found in many ancient Armenian Churches -- the double intersecting arches; and the dome. But many of the other features represent an effort to recall Armenian tradition.

The Arches span the edifice from end to end creating a centralized space that eliminates the need for columns that would otherwise obstruct the view of the altar. The spaciousness and centralized interior is representative to the immediate participation in the worship.

The Dome - The dome in the center of the cathedral is twenty-seven feet high and forty-five feet in diameter and is supported by the crowns of the four arches. Directly in the center of the dome is painted the Armenian letter I which translates "He is" in English. The circles surrounding the dome depict images of Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit. And the eight stained glass windows around the dome depict the events in the story of creation.

The Chandeliers: The chandeliers even though, they appear to be modern are actually reconstructed modes of the seventh century fixtures found in Armenia.

The Altar: The altar faces East, the traditional position for Christian churches. Crosses are hung without the body of Christ on them because Armenians like to emphasize the resurrection and glorified Lord, not suffering and dying.

The Side Altar to the left is dedicated to Saint Gregory the Enlightened and the altar to the right is dedicated to Saint Neresess Shnorhali. The Divine Liturgy (mass) is celebrated on the main altar.

Stained Glass Windows- There are six traditional Armenian Church windows that are high and narrow from the floor to the ceiling crowned with a rounded arch. The windows represent biblical events and memorial events in the history of the Armenian Church.

Stone Crosses - The stone crosses in this cathedral date back to the fifteenth century that were discovered in the ruins of a church in Armenia. Sixteen stones represent the twelve apostles and two evangelists St. Paul and St. Gregory the Illuminator.

The Circle Seal: In Center of the Nave is a marble insert under the dome that is dedicated to God and the people who enter. The inserts states "Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt hath lost His savor, wherewith shall it be salted." (Matthew 5:13) The two dates on the seal represent the date which Christianity was accepted as the state religion in Armenia (301) and the year St. Vartan's was consecrated (1968.)


Armenia

BASIC FACTS

Armenia is located in the Caucus region lying to the east of the Anatolia proper. In the eleventh century a "Lesser Armenia" developed in Cilicia, near the Mediterranan coast.

In the year 301 Christianity was made the state's official religion.

The architecture erected during the height of the Middle Ages in Armenia was influenced by Byzantine architecture but manifested its own development. The Cathedral of St. Vartan in New York City is a reconstruction of Churches in Armenia that were built during the Middle Ages.

ARMENIA LINKS




The Walls of Kars


DETAILS of the Cathedral

St. Vartan Cathedral
630 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10016

(212) 686 0710

Visiting Hours: Weekdays 10-6pm
The Divine Liturgy: Sundays 10:30am


This Page is part of the Medieval New York Web Project, a project of students in the Introduction to Medieval History courses taught by Paul Halsall in the History Department of Fordham University in 1996-1997.

Copyright to the student creator of each page.