Officially Armenian Religion is Christianity. Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as an official state religion in 301 AD.
The majority of Armenians (about 94 percent) consider themselves to be Christians.
The Christian faith has shaped Armenian culture so deeply that it permeates the very landscape at virtually every corner of the country.
If you want to find out how important Christianity is for Armenians, the words of Saint Vardan Mamikonyan commander will definitely make you understand.
"The enemy thinks that Christianity is only clothes for us, but he will see that it is the color of our skin, which is impossible to change."
He said these words during the days of the struggle of Armenians with the Sasanian Iran.
Armenian Religion: History
Christianity was first introduced in Armenia much earlier, during the first century (60-68 AD). by two of Christ’s disciples Bartholomew and Thaddeus. They came to Armenia from Asorestan and Cappadocia. They are also the first “Illuminators of the Armenian World”.
At this time, though, paganism was very widespread. Even the kings of Armenia practiced it. There is one temple from that era. It is a Greek-style temple in the village of Garni. In addition, Armenians restored the temple in the 1960s. It stands until now.
Pagan practices did not prevent to spread the word of God to Armenians. Among the preachers was Gregory, the son of Partev Anak.
He was the great apostle of Armenia. Gregory lived in Cappadocia. There he started to form and strengthen his Christian faith. About 261, he returned to Armenia.
During the II-III centuries, because of preaching Christianity, King Tiridates (Trdat) III detained Gregory the Illuminator in a prison at the foot of Mount Ararat. Gregory stayed there for 13 years. He survived by the grace of a kind woman who secretly brought him food and water.
Through those years, St. Gregory prayed a lot. The Lord heard his prayers.
King Trdat fell in love with a Christian nun named Hripsime. She, however, refused the king’s proposal of marriage. Consequently, the king had her and her entire order put to death. Because of that, the king soon almost went insane. St. Gregory then offered his help and said he would cure him.
Gregory baptized King Trdat. Then, the king converted his entire kingdom to Christianity in 301 AD. This afterward led Armenia to become the first nation ever to accept Christianity as its state religion.
Gregory came to be known as the Illuminator
He was the first Catholicos. Also, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church – the supreme spiritual head of all the Armenians.
He is one of the most important saints in the Christian world. People believe that the Christ Himself came to St. Gregory and pointed to the place where the Cathedral of the Armenian Church should have been built.
According to the chronicler Agathangeghos, St. Gregory had a vision of the Son of God. He appeared as a heroic figure of light. He was also surrounded by a mighty angelic host. Christ struck the ground with a golden hammer, indicating the place where the Mother Cathedral of the new Christian nation was to be established.
St. Gregory the Illuminator built the mother cathedral of the Armenian church. The place was then called Echmiadzin. The name Echmiadzin translates to “where the Only Begotten descended.”
The Mother See of Holy Ejmiadzin
It consists of:
- The Mother Cathedral of the entire Armenian Church.
- a monastery and monastic brotherhood.
- the residence of the Catholicos of All Armenians.
- various religious and cultural institutions, such as the Kevorkian Theological Seminary and a museum.
For over 1,700 years, Echmiadzin continually remains the center of the Armenian Church. Here are the Mother See and the residence of the Catholicos of All Armenians. Over the dungeon in which St. Gregory prayed, you can find one of the most beautiful monasteries in Armenia, Khor Virap.
The Armenian Church has not recognized the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon of 451. Thus, it has a doctrine. It is somewhat different from the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
Traditionally, the Armenian Church recognizes the Catholicos of All Armenians as its leader. He resides in Holy Echmiadzin.
A National Ecclesiastical Assembly consisting of lay and clergy representatives of Armenian communities around the world elects the Catholicos.
There are four hierarchical Sees in the Armenian Church.
- The Catholicate of All Armenians in Ejmiatzin.
- The Catholicate of the Great House of Cilicia.
- The Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
- The Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The Church entered its most recent era of leadership on October 27, 1999. That’s when Armenian Christians chose His Holiness Garegin II as leader of their worldwide church.
The Armenian Apostolic Church
It is the national church of Armenians. Its spiritual and clerical center is the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin. The Armenian Apostolic Church is a religious unity with the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians at its head.
material from welcome Armenia
At present, the Catholicos of All Armenians is His Holiness Garegin II.
Armenia is an open-air museum of Christianity. There are thousands of Christian monuments such as monasteries, churches, chapels etc. The Armenian churches and monasteries are built throughout Armenia. One can find them in secluded gorges, on the peaks of towering mountains, hidden in forests and nestled in valleys.
More than spiritual centers, these churches have also served as medieval educational and research institutions. Each reveals impressive and unique architectural features. Each also has its own enlightening stories and secretive spirit. Many of these monuments host thousands of pilgrims every year.
The first book written in the Armenian alphabet was the Holy Bible. Translated from Armenian, it is “The Breath of God.”
Armenian monks have copied The Holy Bible and Gospels numerous times. As a result, nearly 20% of over 14,000 Armenian manuscripts in Matenadaran are Gospels or Bibles.
Nearly all illuminated Armenian manuscripts up to the 12th century were Gospels. Not to mention that Christianity and the Christian mindset of being loving and kind, plays a major role in the Armenian daily life of this nation.
Together with preserving the Christian ancient traditions, the Armenians treat as a commandment the first sentence written in the Armenian alphabet by the creator of the alphabet, Mesrop Mashtots:
“Know wisdom and instruction; perceive the words of understanding”
Today the Armenian Church is represented all over the world. Armenian Catholic Church owns one of the largest and oldest religious and cultural centers of the Armenians in Europe. It is the monastery of the Order of Mkhitarian Island of San Lazzaro in Venice, which has a rich library.
Because of the absence of statehood for long times, Armenian Church and Armenian religion have always been the main unifying force for Armenians. Not to mention that the Churches and monasteries were the main centers of culture, education, and writing.
Armenians believe in saints but do not believe in the purgatory. In addition, the main prayer accepted by Armenian Church is Khair Mer (Our Father). It is read in ancient Armenian.
Our father who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth, as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation;
But deliver us from evil
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever, Amen.