Oshakan St. Mashtots Church
Saint Mesrop Mashtots Church (Oshakan Church) is an Armenian Apostolic church in Oshakan that contains the grave of Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet. It is one of Armenia’s better known churches and a pilgrimage site. Pilgrims visit the church on the Feast of the Holy Translators in October.
Mashtots was buried at the site in 440, where a martyrium was built three years later. The current church dates to 1873–79, when an entirely new building was built on the grave of Mashtots, located under the altar. It has been the seat of the Diocese of Aragatsotn since 1996.
According to Movses Khorenatsi, when Mesrop Mashtots died in 440, three options were discussed for his burial place: his native Taron; Goghtn, where he had begun his missionary work; and next to the graves of other saints in Vagharshapat, Armenia’s capital and seat of the Catholicos. His body was eventually taken by Hmayeak Mamikonian, a military commander and the brother of Vardan Mamikonian, and Vahan Amatuni, Armenia’s Persian-appointed hazarapet (chief of finances), to Oshakan, the latter’s native village. This is attested by both Koriun, Mashtots’ biographer, and Ghazar Parpetsi.
The interior of the church was covered with frescoes by Hovhannes Minasian and Henrik Mamian in 1961–64. They created the monumental fresco Glory to Armenian Letters and Literature, which depicts the invention of the Armenian alphabet. Major figures associated with Mashtots are included in it: Mashtots, Catholicos Sahak Partev, King Vramshapuh and prince Vahan Amatuni. Minasian also created the altarpiece, depicting the Virgin and Child, in 1966. The fresco was restored in 2019 restored through funding by Armenia’s President Armen Sarkissian.
A school was established next to the church in 1913. It served as a public school during the Soviet period. The building was renovated in 1996-97 through the financial support of Djivan Koboyan, an Armenian American philanthropist, and was reopened on October 18, 1998. It serves as a dpratun, a scientific and educational center, dedicated to Mashtots and the Armenian alphabet.