A small Asian country with a population of only 3 million, Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity in 301 AD.
According to the legend, Gregory – the son of the nobleman named Anag introduced Christianity in Armenia and died spreading the word of the Bible. Anag was executed for assassinating Armenia’s King Khosrov II and Gregory managed to flee to Cappadocia, where a Bishop named St. Firmilian raised him.
After reaching adulthood, Gregory returned to his homeland with an aim to convert the Armenian King and his people to Christianity. But before he could reach his destination, King Tiridates III, son of the murdered King Khosrov II and got Gregory imprisoned.
The king insisted Gregory renounced Christianity but was being refused every time. After 13 years of imprisonment, Gregory managed to convert King himself into the religion. And therefore, in 301 AD, Christianity was declared Armenia’s state religion.
And Gregory the Illuminator became the first head of Armenian Apostolic Church.
There are many spots in Armenia that are considered sacred due to the events in history.
The dungeon: Khor Virap is a monastery located in the Ararat Plain in southeast Armenia, where Tiridates III imprisoned Gregory upon his arrival. The monastery was built over the dungeon to honor the saint. It is one of the most visited sites in Armenia and a popular spot for marriages and baptisms.
The Monastery of Geghard in Northeast of Garni is UNESCO World Heritage Site and was founded by Gregory the Illuminator himself in the 4th century. Formerly it was called Airivank, or ‘cave monastery.’ According to the legend, The spear that was allegedly pierced Jesus Christ on the cross was brought to the site. It is said to have been kept here for 500 years before being taken to Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Vagharshapat.
The others are St. Gayane Church in Vagharshapat, Zorats Church in Yeghegis and Karahunj in Syunik Province.
Today, around 95% of Armenians are Christian, and the country’s pious history can be traced back through some of its ancient sites and monuments.