Armenia and the coming of Christianity

By Harry Hagopian
August 26, 2010

Having yesterday introduced Armenians as a distinct global people - including roughly 14,000 living in the UK - mostly in London and Manchester, I would like to consider Armenia and Christianity.

Christianity began to spread in Armenia soon after the Resurrection due to the efforts of two of Jesus’ apostles, Sts Thaddeus and Bartholomew, who preached the word of God and later became martyrs. In fact, Armenia became the first nation-state to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301 AD - over 1700 years ago.

This conversion from paganism to Christianity in the 4th century occurred during the reign of King Trdat the Great, through the efforts of St Gregory the Illuminator, the first patron saint and patriarch of the Armenian Church. It is said that St Gregory spent thirteen years in a pit full of serpents and dead bodies until he was released from captivity by the king as a reward for healing him from an incurable illness.

Subsequently, the first Armenian cathedral of St Etchmiadzin was built between 301 and 303 AD: a divine vision had been revealed to St Gregory in which Christ struck with a golden hammer to indicate the future location of this cathedral in the Ararat Valley. Once built, it became the primary spiritual home of the Armenian Orthodox Church - followed by those in Lebanon, Jerusalem and Istanbul.

As Christians, our faith is in our hearts, but it also resonates in our history, architecture, culture and tradition.

Listen to the broadcast version podcast of this talk here:


© Harry Hagopian is an International lawyer and EU political consultant. He also acts as Middle East advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and as Middle East consultant to ACEP (Christians in Politics) in Paris and is a regular Ekklesia contributor ( Formerly, he was Executive Secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee and Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches. He is a member of, and adviser to, the Armenian Orthodox Church. Dr Hagopian’s own website is

This is the first in a series of reflections ( to mark the 20th anniversary of Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Armenia. These are being broadcast daily on Premier Christian Radio ( and will be archived as podcasts on Ekklesia, with thanks to PCR.

See also: 'Being Armenian yesterday and today' -

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.