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   Entrance to the monastery is by turning left from the main traffic circle inside the town.  The Mother Temple (Mayr Tachar) was begun in the 4th century, built on the ruins of a pagan cult site, but it has been heavily restored through the centuries, most thoroughly in the 17th c.  Displacing a rival mother church at Ashtishat in Western Armenia, Ejmiatsin has been seat of the Katholikos in the 4th and 5th centuries and again since 1441.  As such, and as the seat of the miraculous relics of the Armenian church-the Lance, the hand of St. Gregory the Illuminator, the hand of the Apostle Thaddeus, a finger of St. Jude, a drop of St. Hripsime's blood, etc.-it came to control vast estates and received rich gifts from around the Armenian world.  The Treasury, which houses some of this largesse, and steps down to sparse remains of the purported Persian fire temple, are reached through the church, right of the altar. English-speaking deacons are available as guides, but contributions are expected. Opposite the entrance to the church and through the is the Palace of the Katholikos, with a smaller treasury not open to the public. There is a newly rebuilt theological school (Chemaran) on the grounds. One famous graduate was Aghasi Khanjian, Armenia's First Secretary from 1930-36. The eminent historian Edward Gibbon, writing Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire from Lausanne at the end of the 18th century, had heard more positive reports:

"...the zeal of the Armenians is fervent and intrepid; they have often preferred the crown of martyrdom to the white turban of Mohammed; they devoutly hate the error and idolatry of the Greeks; and their transient union with the Latins is not less devoid of truth than the thousand bishops whom their patriarch offered at the feet of the Roman pontiff. (Gibbon's footnote:   See  a remarkable fact of the twelfth century in the History of Nicetas Choniates (p. 258). Yet three  hundred years before, Photius (Epistol. ii. p. 49, edit. Montacut.) had gloried in the conversion of  the Armenians.) The catholic, or patriarch, of the Armenians resides in the monastery of Ekmiasin, three leagues from Erivan.  Forty seven archbishops, each of whom may claim the obedience of four or five suffragans, are consecrated by his hand; but the far greater part are only titular prelates, who dignify with their presence and service the simplicity of his court. As soon as they have performed the liturgy, they cultivate the garden; and our bishops will hear with surprise that the austerity of their life increases in just proportion to the elevation of their rank."

The French/Russian scholar Marie-Felicite Berge shivered for the better part of 40 days in Ejmiatsin in January 1848, a prisoner of that winter's extreme cold.  He provided a detailed description of the manuscript collection, drawing from the first catalogue  prepared  at  the  insistence  of  then-Archbishop  Nerses  ofAshtarak. Berge reported that outside the Cathedral, S of the bell tower was an inscription in Greek, Persian and English marking the cenotaph of Lt. Col. Sir John MacDonald, who expired in Tabriz in 1830 as envoy of British India to the Shah of Persia.  MacDonald had earned  a  certain  amount  of  gratitude  for  his

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