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Religion in Armenia

Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity in 301 AD, and since then, religion has played a significant role in shaping the country's culture and history. This article aims to provide brief information about religion in Armenia for those who want to get quick insights!

Religion in Armenia: A Brief Overview

Armenia has a rich history, culture, and identity, with religion being a crucial aspect. Let's explore the main features of religion in Armenia, its history, and its role in society.

 

The majority of Armenians, around 97%, are Christians belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church—one of the world's oldest Christian churches, founded in the 1st century AD by apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus, who preached Christianity to Armenia in the 1st century AD.

It is part of the Oriental Orthodox communion, which means it does not accept the Council of Chalcedon (451) that defined the doctrine of two natures in one person in Christ. Instead, it holds to a belief called miaphysitism, which affirms that Christ has one divine and one human nature.



Christ depicted in a fresco at Kobayr Monastery


Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as its official state religion in 301 AD, when King Tiridates III converted to Christianity under the influence of St. Gregory the Illuminator. The Armenian Apostolic Church has its spiritual center at Etchmiadzin Cathedral, where the Catholicos (the supreme leader) resides. The current Catholicos is Garegin II.




Etchmiadzin Cathedral


The Armenian Apostolic Church has a rich and diverse liturgy, culture, and history. It uses an ancient alphabet invented by Mesrop Mashtots in the 5th century AD. It also has many translations of the scriptures into Armenian from various languages.

The Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates a vibrant calendar of festivals and holidays throughout the year, reflecting its rich history, traditions, and deep faith.


Here are some highlights:

Christmas (January 6): Celebrated with Nativity liturgies, candlelit processions, and family gatherings.

Easter (Variable Date): A joyous celebration with church services, traditional meals, and festive egg painting.

Transfiguration of Jesus (Variable Date): Celebrated with the Vardavar Water Festival, involving joyful water-splashing and community gatherings.

Assumption of the Holy Mother of God (August 15): Marked with grape blessing ceremonies and special feasts.

Sts. Sargis and Vardan (February 14): Celebrated as Lovers' Day, with romantic traditions and special church services.

Trndez (February 21): A bonfire festival symbolizing purification, with young people jumping over flames.

Feast of St. Gregory the Illuminator (September 30): Honors the founder of the Armenian Church, with special liturgies and festivities.

Feast of the Holy Translators (October 1): Celebrates the translators of the Bible into Armenian, with church services and cultural events.

 



Khor Virap Monastic Complex


Religious Diversity in Armenia

While most Armenians are Apostolic Christians, there are also other Christian denominations in the country, such as Eastern Orthodox, Catholic (both Armenian and Latin), Protestant, Jehovah’s Witness, Assyrian Church of the East (Nestorian), and more. These groups have their own churches and communities.

The largest non-Christian group is the Yazidis, constituting about 1% of Armenia's population. Primarily residing in the western part of the country, many Yazidis arrived in Armenia during the 19th and early 20th centuries to escape religious persecution. Yazidis and Armenians share strong relations, and the world's largest Yazidi temple is located in the small village of Aknalich.

 


The world's largest Yazidi temple in Aknalich village


Religion's Influence on Armenian Life

Religion has played a vital role in shaping Armenia's national identity, culture, politics, and society. It has inspired various artistic expressions, including literature, music, painting, architecture, and festivals.

Much like elsewhere, religion in Armenia acts as a connective thread for human interaction. Places of worship aren't just for spiritual devotion but also serve as communal hubs where people gather to celebrate, mourn, and support each other. The church, especially, acts as a unifying force, emphasizing shared values and a collective sense of identity.



 The entrance to Genocide Museum


Challenges and Resilience

Armenian religious life has faced challenges, including the Armenian Genocide and political upheavals. However, the resilience of the Armenian people is evident in their ability to adapt, preserve, and draw strength from their religious heritage.

In conclusion, religion in Armenia is not just a set of beliefs; it's a dynamic force that weaves through the fabric of daily life, connecting people, shaping traditions, and contributing to the nation's enduring spirit.

 Gallery

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