Throughout the course of centuries, various religious relics have been brought from different monasteries and Dioceses to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, as it is the spiritual center of the Armenian nation and people. Three of the most important pieces are the Holy Lance (Geghard), the Right Hand of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, and the relic of Noah’sArk.
According to Armenian Church tradition, the lance, or spear, that pierced the side of Christ by the Roman soldier during His crucifixion, was brought to Armenia by the Apostle Thaddeus when he came to evangelize. For this reason, the Apostle is always depicted in Armenian art with the Holy Lance in his hand.
Following the Holy Lance, the greatest reliquary of the Armenian Church is the Right Hand of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, on which, through a masterful example of gold artwork, are depicted the twelve sufferings of the Illuminator.
The Right Hand of the Illuminator has always been kept in the Catholicosate, and wherever the Pontificate of All Armenians has been relocated, the Right Hand has moved with it. It is significant to note, that in the 17th century, when Shah Abas forced mass emigrations of Armenians to Persia, in addition to taking stones from Holy Etchmiadzin, he also took the Right Hand, to entice the Armenians to remain in Persia. As the historian of those times, Archimandrite Arakel Davrizhetsi stated, "To the Right Hand (of the Illuminator) and to Holy Etchmiadzin, the entire Armenian Nation is bound".