The world’s first Christian country

Source: BBC

By Amanda Proença Santos & Rodolfo Contreras


Pious history

Armenia is a small country in south-west Asia with a population of only 3 million people. But it has a sizable place in spiritual history: most historians believe that in 301 AD, it became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity.

Today, around 95% of Armenians are Christian, and the country’s pious history can be traced back through some of its ancient sites and monuments. (Credit: Rodolfo Contreras)

According to legend, the first head of the Armenian Apostolic Church was Gregory the Illuminator, son of the nobleman named Anag who assassinated Armenia’s King Khosrov II. Gregory’s father was executed for his crime, but Gregory managed to flee to Cappadocia, where he was raised by bishop St. Firmilian.

As an adult, Gregory returned to his homeland in hopes of converting the Armenian king ‒ and, by extension, the Armenian people ‒ to Christianity. When he learned of Gregory’s homecoming, King Tiridates III, son of the murdered King Khosrov II, had Gregory imprisoned. The king insisted that his prisoner renounce Christianity, but Gregory refused to. After around thirteen years of imprisonment, Gregory had managed to convince Tiridates of the power of faith, converting the king himself into the religion. And so in 301 AD, Tiridates III declared Christianity the state religion of Armenia.

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