Basalt rebar used to strengthen one of the oldest cathedrals worldwide

basalt rebar renovation
Image credit: Nina Stössinger -, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The main cathedral of Armenia, the Mother See of Etchmiadzin, is being reinforced with basalt rebar and carbon fiber ropes.

Built in the 4th century, the cathedral is one of the oldest Christian cathedrals worldwide included in the World Heritage Sites protected by UNESCO.

Over the centuries-old history, the cathedral suffered turbulent times, was rebuilt repeatedly, restored and renovated. For the Armenians, it is not only the most important religious building, but also a significant cultural and political object.

The Mother See of Etchmiadzin has accumulated a unique collection of architectural styles, frescoes, stone and wood carvings which originated in different eras.

strengthening with basalt rebar
Image credit Rita Willaert —, CC BY 2.0,

At the present time the cathedral is undergoing large-scale restoration and renovation works aimed at preserving the unique original decorations. The overhauling and the strengthening of the building is also carried out.

The engineers leverage innovative technologies and advanced materials. To strengthen the building, they use carbon fiber ropes and basalt rebar.

Composite rebar that is durable and resistant to temperature extremes and seismic activity will not adversely increase the load on the foundation and soil since it is lightweight compared to metals.

Moreover, metal rebar may increase in diameter due to high temperature or corrosion impact. Corrosion-resistant basalt polymer materials do not change their size and subsequently do not destroy the structures which they are reinforcing.

The long-term static load experiments on steel cables were compared with basalt rebar and proved that these materials have similar mechanical properties. But basalt composites are more resistant to corrosion, climatic and chemical impacts.

According to the experts, the Echmiadzin Cathedral will not need repair over the next 300 years. The renovation is scheduled to complete in 2020, and then the shrine will again be ready to welcome parishioners and tourists.

Translated by Olga Yurchenko


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