Charms & contradictions of Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia
CHRISTIANITY IN THE ARMENIAN CAUCASUS
Posted on 09/01/2020 by Bertie Adam
From the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia to the breadth of the USA’s bible belt, the tendrils of Christianity can be seen in all four corners of the globe. But where was the very first place it was adopted? As it turns out, it was in an unassuming country nestled comfortably in the crags of the Caucasus: Armenia. Regarded as the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion in around 300AD, the Armenian Apostolic Church has claimed to be in existence since the days of the apostles, which–if true–would make it one of the oldest denominations of Christianity in the world. Despite this grand claim, most of us won’t have heard of it, and we’re probably even less likely to be able to place it on a map.
The neighbouring country of Georgia is the second nation to have adopted Christianity. It’s almost like there has been a long running competitive streak, or a pattern of reciprocity between these two proud nations that has churned out churches and cathedrals left, right and centre. In my opinion the apostolic churches to be found in this part of the world are real gifts of architectural beauty. That being said, it is admittedly quite easy to get cultural fatigue from so much ecclesiastical activity, so it is important to make sure you make the right choices in which sites you end up visiting.
The beauty of Armenia and its churches is evident, but what makes it (and them) special? After all, coming from the UK we have plenty of our own churches scattered all over, from the tiniest hamlets to the largest cities. After having spent a little time asking myself the same question whilst crossing the Caucasus, I think it has something to do with the fact that this tiny country has always had a culture that marches to the beat of its own drum. The language’s alphabet that was originally invented in 405 AD is still used today, and remains one of the strongest reasons as to why Armenian identity has remained constant over millennia, and to be the first country to adopt the most dominant religion sounds like a fact that most would know, but we don’t.
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