The History of the Armenian Church

Who brought Christianity to Armenia?
Christianity was brought to the kingdom of Armenia by two of Jesus' Apostles, Thaddeus and Bartholomew in first century A.D.

When did the Armenian nation become Christian?

Christianity became the national religion in 301 A.D.

Who was responsible for Armenians embracing Christianity?
St. Gregory the Enlightener was imprisoned for years, and upon his release he converted King Tiridates III, by healing the king of an
incurable affliction through the power of God.  After, the king proclaimed Christianity the official religion of Armenia,
making it the first country with a national Christian church, the pair helped spread the religion.

Who were Hripsime and the virgins?
Hripsime was one of a group of nuns who lived in Rome under the direction of their superior, Gayane, around 284-305 A.D. 
When Roman Emperor Diocletian tried to force the beautiful Hripsime to marry him, the nuns fled to Armenia. 
There, the Armenian king, Drtad, fell in love with Hripsime's beauty and decided she should be his wife.  But the nun refused to break her
vows to God by marrying the king.  King Drtad tortured Gayane, trying to get her to permit Hripsime to marry him, but Gayane refused to give in. 
Eventually King Drtad had Gayane, Hripsime, and the 32 nuns tortured and killed because they chose their faith and devotion to God over the wishes of a king.

What was the Battle of Avarayr?
Avarayr is the site in southeastern Armenia where St. Vartan and 1,036 noblemen fell defending the Christian faith against the Persian Empire.


Why is Mt. Ararat important to Armenians?

Mt. Ararat, now in Turkey, but once part of the ancient Armenian kingdom, is traditionally known as the resting place of Noah's Ark.

Why was the Armenian alphabet created?
Until the 5th century, Christian worship in Armenia was conducted in Greek or Syriac, since there was no Armenian alphabet, hence no written language.
In 404 A.D., St. Mesrob (at that time a monk) completed an alphabet of 36 letters.  His objective was to translate the Bible into Armenian,
and the golden age of classical Armenian literature began shortly thereafter.

What is Holy Muron?
Holy Muron is oil from extracts of more than 40 different kinds of plants that is blessed by the Catholicos once every seven years.

Where is the spiritual home of the Armenian Church?
The Armenian Church is headquartered in the Monastery of Holy Etchmiadzin in the Armenian city of Etchmiadzin.

Who is the head of the Armenian Church?
The Catholicos is the leader of the Armenian Church; currently it isHis Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians.  He is the 132nd Catholicos.

How is the Catholicos chosen?
Delegates from each diocese of the Armenian Church gather to chose the Catholicos.  The current Catholicos was elected to a life term on October 27, 1999. 

Why are there two Catholicoi?
The chief bishop of the Armenian Church, called the Catholicos ("universal bishop"), is at the head of the Armenian Church hierarchy,
and resides at Holy Etchmiadzin in Armenia.  The original title of the Catholicos was "chief bishop of Armenia," which was replaced with
"Catholicos of Armenia," presumably in the fifth century.  The emergence of diocese outside Armenia in the 10th and 11th centuries was responsible
for the use of the title "Catholicos of All Armenians."  Since ancient times, the Armenian Church recognized as autonomous administrative jurisdictions
certain areas with Armenian Christian inhabitants living outside the geo-political borders of Armenia proper.  The heads of such churches,
while remaining in very close contact with the center of the Armenian Church, was also called "catholicoi."  A good example of this category of catholicate
is that of Caucasian Albania, whose faith liturgy and traditions and language were one and the same with the Church of Armenia, since the people were Armenians. 
For centuries, from as early as the 5th century, the catholicoi of Albania were ordained by the catholicoi of Armenia.  The tradition of local catholicates
with specific geographic boarders has been maintained until our own time.  The Catholicate of the Great House of Cilicia, originally in Cilicia, was,
after World War II, given the right to establish its jurisdiction over Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus, regions that belonged to the
Catholicate of all Armenians and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

What are the Patriarchates?
There are two patriarchates in the Armenian Church, one in Jerusalem and the other in Istanbul, Turkey.
Archbishop Torkom Manoogian is the Patriarch of Jerusalem and Archbishop Mesrob II Mutafyan is the Patriarch of Constantinople. 

Why is there an Armenian presence in Jerusalem?
Armenia is one of the oldest Christian countries, so for centuries its monks and nuns have played an important part in maintaining many special sites in the Holy Land. 
The Armenian presence in Palestine is attested from as early as the 4th century.  There were also inscriptions, artwork and graffiti in
Armenian from as early as the 5th century.  Over the centuries, the Armenians founded more than 70 monasteries and presently are serving as the guardians of the Holy Sites. 
The Armenian Quarter covers 1/5 of the old city of Jerusalem and the Armenian Patriarchate is in charge of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher with the Greeks and Latins.

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