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Ejmiatsin is the fourth largest city in Armenia. It is the spiritual centre of Armenia and the seat of the Catholicos of All Armenians, the head of the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church. It is the most populous city in Armavir province, about 20 km west of Yerevan. The 2008 census counted the population of Etchmiadzin as 52,757.
The city originated as Vardkesavan or Vardgesavan in the 4th or 3rd century BC. King Vagharsh (117-140) had the name changed to Vagharshapat, which still persists as the official appellation of the city. Several decades later the city became the capital of Armenia and remained the country's most important city until the 4th century AD.
Historically, the focal point of the city is the Ejmiatsin Cathedral, the oldest church in the world. It was originally built by Saint Georgy the Illuminator as a vaulted basilica in 301-303, when Armenia was the only country in the world the state religion of which was Christianity.
Apart from the Ejmiatsinin cathedral, the city of Ejmiatsin contains three other important Armenian churches: the church of St. Gayane (630 AD), the church of St. Hripsime (618 AD), St. Shoghakat Church (13th c.).
The city itself is the centre of a rich region of orchards and vineyards and manufactures plastics, wine, and canned food.