Armenia was the first state to adopt Christianity as its religion when St. Gregory the Illuminator converted King Tiridates III around 301 A.D.
Gregory, trained in Christianity at Caesarea came back to Armenia to preach in 287, the same time that Tiridates III took the throne. Gregory was a son of Anak, the man who assassinated his father. Therefore Tiridates imprisoned Gregory in an underground pit, called Khor Virap, for 13 years (More on THAT later).
It is told, that in a rage, the King killed a group of visiting Christian virgins (one of them wouldn’t sleep with him). Soon afterward, the story goes, God struck him with an illness that left him crawling around like a beast. The king’s sister, had a dream in which she was told that the persecution of Christians must stop. She told the dream to the King, who released Gregory from prison. Gregory then healed Tiridates and converted him to Christianity. Tiridates immediately declared Armenia to be a Christian nation, becoming the first official Christian state.
Tiridates declares Gregory to be the first Father of the church and sent him to Caesarea to be consecrated. Upon his return, Gregory tore down idol centers, built churches and monasteries, and ordained hundreds of priests and bishops.
While meditating in the old capital city of Vagharshapat, Gregory had a vision of Christ coming down to the earth to strike it with a hammer. From the spot rose a great Christian temple with a huge cross. He was convinced that God wanted him to build the main Armenian church there. With the king’s help, he did so. He renamed the city Etchmiadzin which means “the place of the descent of the only-begotten” or “the place where Jesus came down to earth”.
More to the story:
Christianity was strengthened in Armenia by the translation of the Bible into the Armenian language by the Armenian theologian, monk and scholar St. Mesrob Mashtots. Until the fifth century, Armenia had its own spoken language, but not written. The Bible and liturgy were in Greek. The Catholicos Sahak commissioned Mersob to create an Armenian alphabet, which he completed in 406. Subsequently the Bible and liturgy were translated into Armenian and written down in its new script.
Etchmiadzin a city, but also a beautiful religious compound not far from Yerevan. A comparison would be the Catholic Vatican. We paid for the tour of the main Church and in the displays is where the relics are contained. We saw the spear that pierced Jesus, bone fragments of multiple Religious figures, and a shard of the cross of Jesus. (The Armenian Church believes that the spear in their possession is the authentic spear, but acknowledge there are three other spears which claim the same thing. The Armenian church say that their claim is backed with historical evidence of its journey to Armenia and carbon dating analysis.)
The Relics were displayed in two adjoining rooms. After the first, our tour guide got a little jumpy. So much so that I thought the tour was over and we had to continue to the second room on our own. But after a little talk with another guide, she continued with us. In the middle of explaining an artifact we heard what initially sounded like singing quickly followed by shrill screams coming from an adjacent room. The singing turned into chanting. We looked to our tour guide for an explanation. She was visibly shaken. She told us that the next room over [locked by a iron door, reinforced with a metal bar] was the room where the priests preformed rituals to “remove devil from people.” She actually said it, just like that. They were performing an exorcism right next door… to the museum. Okay.
So she obviously rushed through the history of the Head of the Church’s holy staffs and robes through the years.
Greatest tour EVER!!!
“The Devil bowed his head because he knew that he’d been beat.
And he laid that golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny’s feet.
Johnny said, “Devil, just come on back if you ever wanna try again,
‘Cause I’ve told you once–you son of a bitch–I’m the best there’s ever been.”
Devil Went Down To Georgia, Charlie Daniels Band