St. Vartan Cathedral

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

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, 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


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.


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 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.


The Walls of Kars

Location and hours


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

St. Vartan Cathedral 45th Anniversary Celebrated

PRESS OFFICE Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) 630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016 Tel: (212) 686-0710; Fax: (212) 779-3558 E-mail: Web:

September 20, 2013 ____________________________________________________


By Florence Avakian

It was an inspiring day, historic as well as futuristic, as more than 200 parishioners and friends gathered in Haik and Alice Kavookjian Auditorium on Sunday, September 15 to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the consecration of St. Vartan Cathedral in New York.

The event took place following the celebration of the badarak by the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), Archbishop Kahajag Barsamian on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The names of more than 150 departed St. Vartan godfathers and Cathedral Project committee members were read in a special requiem service during the services.

In his homily, the Primate recounted the spiritual importance and symbolism of the cathedral-not only for the Armenian community, also for Americans who have come to pray and light candles throughout countless occasions. He especially singled out the tragic day of September 11, 2001, when hundreds of people entered the sanctuary to find solace and comfort in the wake of the terrorist attack on New York.

The Primate also expressed great appreciation to the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II for his gift to the Eastern Diocese of the 1500-year-old relic of St. Vartan the Brave, in honor of this 45th anniversary. The precious relic, a piece of stone encrusted with the blood of St. Vartan, is encased in a hand-crafted silver cross, which was sanctified in Etchmiadzin in a special ceremony in late August, and brought to St. Vartan Cathedral. It was unveiled for the first time on Sunday in a procession led by members of the Knights of Vartan.

Opening the luncheon and program in Kavookjian Hall, Archbishop Yeghishe Gizirian gave the invocation after which Commemoration Committee co-chair Paul Zakian offered a toast to "all who sacrificed for this sacred place."

Mistress of Ceremonies Arpine Barseghian, a medical student, speaking in English and Armenian, introduced the keynote speaker: Mark Movsesian, Professor of Law at St. John's University, and an authority on the nexus of law and religion.

Part of the City's Fabric

< ge-to-the-world/> In an inspiring address, Movsesian related that this cathedral which was consecrated by the late Catholicos of All Armenians Vasken I "required vision, skill and courage, and has been part of the fabric of this city." Modeled in part on the ancient St. Hripsime Church in Armenia, it is not only a "monument to antiquity, but a living spiritual and cultural center."

He recounted many milestones that have taken place in the cathedral, including the liturgical celebrations, events for young people, families, and the elderly, musical performances, art exhibitions, spiritual and educational workshops and ecumenical gatherings.

Dedicated to Vartan the Brave whom, in preserving Christianity for Armenia, achieved a "moral victory," the history of St. Vartan "resonates with the concept of religious liberty that is so fundamental to American culture-the arguments of waves of immigrants who came here," he continued. "Many of these immigrants came so that they could worship God free from state compulsion."

Sacrifice, Martyrdom, Survival, Rebirth

The story of Avarayr is one of "blood and sacrifice, of martyrdom and survival, emblematic of our history as a Christian people from the beginning." The Genocide survivors were the founders of this cathedral, Prof. Movsesian noted, and "associated this new American cathedral with the message of survival and rebirth." Many have since come having survived persecution in Azerbaijan in the 1980s; and even the Copts who also have suffered persecution, conduct services here, he related.

The name of St. Vartan is a reminder that in other parts of the world, especially in Syria today, Armenians "continue to pay a price for their faith," Movsesian declared. "We must do what we can to help our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their religion - our religion-and welcome them as our ancestors did. May the cathedral be a symbol of hope for them."

To the delight of the audience, St. Vartan Armenian School students Erik Assatryan, Valentina Assatryan, Marar Makarian, Ariana Pamoukian and Jano Tokatiyan recited several beloved Armenian poems in clear and proud voices.

Violinist Sami Mardinian and pianist Riko Higuma offered selections from Komitas, Khachaturian and Edgar Baghdasarian.

A video presentation was shown outlining the cathedral building's history and consecration, produced by Artur Petrosyan and narrated by the Diocesan Communications director Chris Zakian.

Armenia's Ambassador to the United Nations Garen Nazarian stated that for Armenians who live outside of Armenia, the cathedral is "a piece of the homeland. It is not only a peaceful sanctuary, but also embodies the strength of our faith, our spiritual and cultural heritage, and symbolizes the memory of our history and our reconstructed identity." He recalled how during the late '80s and early '90s, with Armenia struggling after the devastating earthquake, war, blockades, and a depressed economy, St. Vartan Cathedral and the Diocese served as a launching point for many of the relief efforts to support the "vital programs" in Armenia and Karabagh.

The mission of the church today, the ambassador continued, is "revival and renewal of our religion and social lives. The Armenian Apostolic Church has always been, is, and will be our solid pillar of faith and love towards each other, and towards the homeland."

The Dream Became Reality

Closing the memorable evening, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian recalled the powerful "I Have a Dream" speech of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. "This dream became a reality for us in this country of equality and opportunity. The dream of the Armenian immigrants-60, 70, 80 years ago-became a reality. Here, we welcomed the first ambassador of a free Armenia, and here we now see the young people reciting in Armenian."

That was the dream of those who built this cathedral, and "we express our deep appreciation to them. The dream now is to see that the younger generation feels proud of their identity," the Primate stated. "It's our mission to keep the dream alive now and in the future." Expressing appreciation to the members of the Commemoration Committee, and to Ambassador Nazarian who "represents for us the strength of our country," the Primate declared, "May the ties between Armenia and the diaspora always and forever grow stronger."

The closing prayer by Archbishop Yeghishe Gizirian, and the singing of the Hayr Mer by all present closed a memorable day of reflection and gratitude.

The Commemoration Committee was under the auspices of the Primate, and under the direction of the Cathedral Dean, Very Rev. Fr. Mamigon Kiledjian. Committee members included Paul and Berta Zakian, co-chairs; Araks Yeramyan Andrews, Talene Baroyan, Sona Haratunian, Dr. Kevork Niksarli, Shoghik Oganesyan, Avedis Ohannessian and Vartges Saroyan.



Diocesan Primate Abp. Khajag Barsamian presents the Relic of St. Vartan to the congregation, during the Divine Liturgy honoring the 45th anniversary of New York's St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, on September 15, 2013.


Members of the Mid-Atlantic Knights of Vartan escort the Relic of St. Vartan into St. Vartan Cathedral, on September 15, 2013.


The faithful express their devotion to the Relic of St. Vartan, during the 45th anniversary Divine Liturgy at New York's St. Vartan Cathedral.


Prof. Mark Movsesian of St. John's School of Law, keynote speaker at the St. Vartan Cathedral 45th anniversary luncheon, on September 15, 2013.


Mistress of Ceremonies Arpine Barseghian, a medical student, at the cathedral 45th anniversary luncheon.


Abp. Yeghishe Gizirian speaks with Cathedral 45th anniversary committee co-chair Paul Zakian (left) and keynote speaker Mark Movsesian (right).

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