St Hripsime Church
St Hripsime was one of the refugee nuns from Rome in the late 3rd century who were persecuted under the rule of King Trdat III and the king himself tried to rape her. This 7th-century church dedicated to her is unquestionably one of Armenia's architectural gems. Built by order of Katholikos Komitas in 618 it now unfortunately finds itself surrounded by undistinguished buildings between the main road in from Yerevan and the bypass. The present church is built over the mausoleum of the saint, which was constructed in 395. The church has proved more resistant to earthquake damage than many more modern buildings and its appearance has remained almost unchanged apart from the addition of a small portico on the west side and a cross on the roof in the 17th century. The separate bell tower was built in 1790. Standing on a raised paved area above the road and with the old fortified wall on the west side, the very pale pink tuff church is essentially a cross-dome church, with a 16-sided tambour, although it is more square than most. It has four apses with a corner room between each apse. Each corner room is, unusually for Armenia, separated from the central part of the church by a circular chamber. As so often, the cruciform shape of the church itself is not obvious from the exterior. It is also unusual in that the northeast corner room is reached by going down steps and that there is a mosaic depicting the Virgin and Child behind the altar. A souvenir shop is to the left of the steps going up to the paved area which is likely to be open whenever there is the chance of a visitor buying something.
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