Noah’s Ark, and other Just So Stories

Ejmiatsin Travel Blog

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Etchmiadzin Cathedral

The Etchmiadzin Cathedral lays claim to being the state-established oldest church in the world, being built by Saint Gregory the Illuminator in 301-303, when Armenia became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as the state religion. It still remains the most holy site in the Armenian Church and is the seat of the Catholicos, the head of the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church.

 

Among the holy collection of relics within Etchmiadzin Cathedral are a fragment of the “true cross”, the right arm of John the Baptist, and the spear head of the “holy lance”.

The Holy Lance, claimed to be less fake than the other five
Our guide informed us that while five other churches may claim to have the spear head of the “holy lance”, they are all fakes and only the Armenian version has been “scientifically proven” to be the actual holy lance (funny how religion tries to co-opt the credibility of science, when it isn’t busy trying to destroy it). She claimed that the spear had been brought to Armenia straight from the crucifixion in the first century, actually, a crusader, Peter Bartholomew, had a “vision” in 1098 that told him the spear head was buried in St Peter’s Cathedral in Antioch, when he then dug up and pawned to the Armenian Church.

 

My favourite, however, was the piece “Noah’s Ark” which they claimed to be preserved in the church.

Wood from "Noah's Ark"
Incidentally, one of the myths of the name Yerevan comes from the Noah myth, with Noah landing on Mount Ararat and exclaiming “Yerevats!” (“it appeared!”, of course the Armenians know that Noah spoke Armenian). How can a slow corruption of the Urartian military fortress called Erebuni, founded in 782 BCE, compare to that story? The Noah’s Ark myth is such a wonderful illustration of the veracity of the Bible. Beyond claiming that Mount Ararat is the highest point of land on the globe (it is almost as if the writer was a stone-age chieftain using local knowledge and mores, poaching an older myth from the Epic of Gilgamesh, rather than receiving divine inspiration), the absurdities in the claims of the two-by-two animals on the ark are delightful. My favourite must be the design of the ark as described by Hippolytus, with three stories – the lowest for wild beasts, the middle for domestic animals and the top for humans. Best of all, Noah built a fence of sharp stakes down the middle of the ark to separate the male animals from the female animals – apparently, the ark meant to preserve all animals was not a place for mating!

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Etchmiadzin Cathedral
Etchmiadzin Cathedral
The Holy Lance, claimed to be less…
The Holy Lance, claimed to be les…
Wood from Noahs Ark
Wood from "Noah's Ark"
A fragment from the True Cross
A fragment from the "True Cross"
Ejmiatsin
photo by: Adrian_Liston