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The Armenian Church


The Armenian church, also known as the Armenian Apostolic or Gregorian church, is an independent Christian church embracing the majority of the Armenian people. 

Armenia was the first nation to become Christian. Up to then the Armenians had worshipped the Persian gods. some historians ascribe the first Christian preaching to SS. Thaddeus and Bartholomew, both who had suffered martyrdom. But the main missionary work was carried out by St. Gregory (240 - 332). At the end of the 3d century, the king of Armenia, Tiridates III, was converted to Christianity by Saint Gregory the Illuminator

Some references state that Gregory was an Armenian notable who ran away from Persian oppression and sought asylum in the Roman town of Caesarea (Kayseri) in Cappadocia. Others say that he was the son of Parthian who had assassinated King Khosrov I of Armenia and for safety was taken to Caesarea.
There he had a Christian and Greek education, married and had two sons. He was ordained a priest and consecrated as a bishop by Leontios of Caesarea in 302.
In 313 A.D. the Ediet of Milan announced the toleration of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. So for a time the Armenian church was subservient to Rome. The patriarchate that Gregory had established was hereditary for almost a century and upon his death his son, Aristakes, was appointed Katolikos of the Armenian creed.

St-Gregory preached the new faith in the Armenian language but for nearly a century after their religious conversion, the Armenians had to rely on Greek and Syrian religious texts which were unintelligible to the common man. St. Mesrop, the Teacher, invented the Armenian alphabet at beginning of the 5th century and this helped to strengthen the feeling of national unity. With his principal colleague, St. Isaac, (Surp Sahak), and encouraged by King Vramshpuh (392-414) a school of translators to Armenian.

Following the ecclesiastical controversy concerning the twofold nature of Christ, the Armenian Christians refused to accept the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon (Kadıköy-in Istanbul) and formed a separate church, sometimes referred to as the Gregorian church. In 1439 a union with the Roman Catholic church was accepted by some members of the Armenian church. This was later repudiated, but a group of Armenian Catholics accept papal supremacy and the authority of the Catholic Armenian patriarchate of Sis or Cilicia (in Beirut, Lebanon), which was set up in 1742. They use an Armenian rite.

The remaining larger portion of the Armenian church is headed by its catholicos, who resides at Echmiadzin, a monastery near Yerevan in Armenia. He is nominally in authority over the Armenian patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople (that is, residing in İstanbul, Turkey). The monastery has been the ecclesiastical metropolis of the Armenian nation since the 4th century; it is said to be the oldest monastic foundation in the Christian world.

There are no statues in their churches and unleavened bread and wine are not mixed with water for Holy Communion. During Mass an instrument similar to Egyptian sistrum is jingled.
The altar is not concealed behind a screen but during the more solemn parts of the service, a curtain is drawn. The church music is quite important in Armenian liturgy. The choirs of most of the Armenian churches are quite impressive and well worth listening to. Services are held in the churches on Sundays and holy days.

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