Armenia is a small country in Southwest Asia with a population of only 3 million. But it has a pretty big place in spiritual history: most historians believe that in 301 AD, it became the first nation in the world to accept Christianity.
Today, about 95% of Armenians are Christians, and the country’s moral history can be traced through a number of its ancient monuments and ruins.
According to legend, the first leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church was Gregory the Illuminator, the son of an aristocrat named Anag who assassinated King Khosrov II of Armenia. Gregory’s father was executed for his crimes, but Gregory fled to Cappadocia, where he was bishop of St. Gregory. Firmilian nourish.
As an adult, Gregory returned to his hometown hoping to turn the Armenians – and, by extension, the Armenians – to Christianity. When he learned about Gregory’s return, King Tiridates III, son of King Khosrov II was killed, was arrested by Gregory. The king insisted that his prisoners had renounced Christianity, but Gregory refused. After about thirteen years of imprisonment, Gregory convinced the Tiridates of the power of faith, making themselves religious. And in 301 AD, Tiridates III proclaimed Christianity as the state religion of Armenia.
Fort Garni is located on a cliff near the Garni village of Kotayk province in Armenia. It was built in the 1st century AD by King Tiridates I, the temple in the fortress before the spread of Christianity in Armenia and is said to have been built for a solar god in Armenia myth.
Many Pagan temples were destroyed when King Tiridates III proclaimed Christianity as the official religion of the state, but Garni was one of the few survivors. Today it is a symbol of Armenian anthropology, and receives over 136,000 visitors every year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Armenia.
The chapel of Khor Virap was first built in 642 over the dungeon to honour Gregory, and a larger chapel and monastery were added in 1662. Today, Khor Virap is one of the most visited sites in Armenia. Its chapel is a popular spot for marriages and baptisms.
According to the legend, the monastery was named Geghard (which means ‘spear’ in Armenian) around this time, when the spear that allegedly pierced Jesus Christ on the cross was brought to the site. It is said to have been kept in Geghard for 500 years before being taken to Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Vagharshapat, where it remains on display today.
Noratus Cemetery (pictured) in Gegharkunik Province has the largest existing cluster of khachkars in the country: more than 800 stones, each with a unique design. The khachkars in Noratus are some of the earliest existing examples of the art, with some of them dating back to the 10th Century.
Historians believe Karahunj served as a prehistoric burial ground, as it was common for the dead to be buried in cists and covered with slabs of stone during the Bronze Age. The ring of megaliths has a diameter of up to 45m, with rocks as tall as 2.8m weighing up to 10 tonnes. Around a third of the 223 stones on the site have small, circular holes cutting through the rock, which some scientists believe could have been created for astronomical observation, which would likely make Karahunj the world’s oldest observatory.