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Katoghike Tsiranavor Church of Avan

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Title: Katoghike Tsiranavor Church of Avan  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Yerevan, Avan District, Saint Gregory the Illuminator Church, Yerevan, Gethsemane Chapel, Surp Zoravor Astvatsatsin Church
Collection: 590S Architecture, 7Th-Century Churches, Armenian Churches in Yerevan
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Katoghike Tsiranavor Church of Avan

Holy Mother of God Katoghike Church of Avan
Ավանի Սուրբ Աստվածածին Կաթողիկե Եկեղեցի
Katoghike Tsiranavor Church of Avan
Katoghike Tsiranavor Church of Avan is located in Armenia
Katoghike Tsiranavor Church of Avan
Shown within Armenia
Basic information
Location Avan district, Yerevan,  Armenia
Geographic coordinates
Affiliation Armenian Apostolic Church
Architectural description
Architectural type Radiating (Hripsime); Inner octagon with cylindrical niches
Architectural style Armenian
Completed 6th century
Dome(s) Thought to have had 5 (a single larger dome in the center, and 4 cupolas at each corner).

Holy Mother of God Katoghike Church of Avan (Armenian: Ավանի Սուրբ Աստվածածին Կաթողիկե Եկեղեցի (Avani Surb Astvatsatsin Kat'oghike Yekeghets'i); also Katoghike Tsiranavor church, later renamed Surp Hovhannes) is located in Avan district within the limits of Yerevan city; the capital of Armenia. It is the city's oldest surviving church.


  • History 1
  • Architecture 2
  • Gallery 3
  • References 4
    • Bibliography 4.1
  • External links 5


The church of Katoghike was built in the late 6th century between the years 591, 595-602 by the pro-Byzantine Catholicos Hovhannes Bagavanetsi to be his headquarters. He was installed as prelate of Byzantine Armenia by the Byzantine emperor Mauricius. His rival, the pro-Persian Catholicos' headquarters were located in the ancient city of Dvin. Located adjacent to the church on the north side are the foundations of the palatial residence of Catholicos Hovhannes thought to have been constructed before the church around the years 581-582. According to the 7th-century Armenian historian Sebeos, both structures were built under the Catholicos' supervision. The church is believed to have been dedicated to the apostles. In the year 602 the Persian King Khosrov II seized Avan, and having eliminated the Avanian Catholicos, transformed it into a monastery.


Katoghike Church which would later be renamed Surp Hovhannes, was constructed upon what was the site of previous structures. Numerous ornamented stones found during excavations predominantly on the western side of the building confirm this notion. The remains of the structure sit on a two-stepped platform, while the church's vaults, domes, and roof are missing as well as portions of the upper walls. The historian of Armenian architectureToros Toramanian believes that the current roofless church once had five domes; a single larger dome in the center and four smaller cupolas in each corner of the church resting above the semi-circular corner chambers. If so, Avan would be the first such example of a church with five cupolas. What is known is that the church is quatrefoil in plan, and had an octagonal central bay with a dome above. There are four semi-circular apses, and four three-quarter circle diagonal niches leading to four circular chambers in the corners of the church. The shape of the side-chapels gives the church its own unique character since they are round.

The front (west) façade has lengthy inscriptions on either side of the entry upon the top third of the building, and also on the lintel above the front door there is a short inscription. The name 'Yohan' can be found written within one of the inscriptions, possibly as an earlier style of the name of Hovhannes, but thought not to be of any reference to the Catholicos. A low arched doorway leads into the church from the western wall and is surrounded by an ornamented casing, three-quartered pillars, topped with capitals and lunettes. A vishap stone was used in the interior as the lintel above the main portal. At the north wall is another doorway thought to have been constructed at a later time after the church was built to lead to the palace of the Catholicos. Aside from the reasons previously mentioned, the church of S. Hovhannes is important architecturally because it is thought to have been a prototype of Saint Hripsime Church completed later in the year 618. Restoration work has been done to the church in 1940-1941, and again in 1956-1966, and 1968.




  • Brady Kiesling, Rediscovering Armenia, p. 12; original archived at, and current version online on

External links

  • Armenian Architectural Studies: Avan Church
  • Avan Church
  • Avan Cathedral
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