Let me tell you the story of “Saint Gregory the Illuminator” from Armenia. According to the legend, Gregory was born in a very well-off Armenian family. His father killed the Armenian king but also lost his life after that. Gregory’s biographer Agathangelos wrote that after his father’s death, Gregory-still a child-was transferred to, and raised in Christian Cappadocia.
Later in his life, when Gregory discovered the murder committed by his father, he decided to go to King Tiritades, son of the killed king, and offer him his services. Tiritates accepted Gregory, but soon a conflict broke out between him and the king, as Gregory-already a Christian-refused to bow to goddess Anahit (pagan Armenian goddess), according to the latter’s wish. Agathangelos wrote that King Tiritates tortured Gregory in every possible way, but he refused to worship Anahit. Eventually, King Tiritates discovered Gregory’s origins, as well as his father’s murder and decided to throw him into the “bottommost pit” (in Armenian “Khor Virap”-today a monastery outside Yerevan). The place was filled with dead bodies. So, Tiritates ordered his not being provided with food until he cannibalizes or starves to death.
The legend goes, that an old widow once saw a dream: Jesus Christ came to her and asked her to throw a little piece of bread into the pit every day and so she did, without telling anyone. Gregory stayed in the pit for 13 years. During that time Kings Tiritates’s kingdom and court was in chaos. Tiritates was in insanity. His sister asked that Gregory be approached, but everyone around was sure that he was already dead. The pit was finally checked and to everyone’s astonishment Gregory was still alive after so many years of starvation.
According to the legend Gregory agreed to visit the king, who was in madness already. They say he was eating not with humans but with swine. Gregory prayed and cured the king of his madness. King Tiritates asked Gregory to baptize him as a Christian and spread Christianity in Armenia. In 301 King Tiritates adopted Christianity as a state religion. And from that time on Armenians converted to Christianity. Gregory became the first Armenian Catholicos, and was called “St Gregory the Illuminator” ever since. So the Saint Gregory Armenian Church was named after him.
Armenia was the first country to officially embrace Christianity as a State Religion and that was in 301 A.D. Armenians are of course Christians by 94,5%, belonging to the Christian Apostolic Church. The truth is that one cannot consider this country without its religious character, its monasteries and chapels, many of which date back to the 7th and 8th century. Whether religious or not, the visitor can´t miss them. Reaching the Khor Virap monastery is not only worth it for the monastery´s historic background, but also the stunning landscape; a huge valley expanse takes the eye to the foothills of the biblical Mount Ararat, and weather permitting, one might be rewarded with the full view of it. We also managed to reach the churches of Echmiadzin (St. Hipsin and St. Shogakat) but there’s numerous Cathedrals in Yerevan too.
Yerevan is definitely a very interesting city; safe, clean and welcoming, with its discrete and kind citizens-with a kindness of their own. There’s booming artistic activity in the city, beautifully lit streets and squares (especially for Christmas) as well as an impressive variety of cafes and restaurants. Understanding the Caucasians might not be an easy task, I feel. You see, one cannot easily define the Armenians as Europeans neither can they claim that they are purely Asian; some western air once again seems to coexist and other times be in conflict with the not-so-long-ago oriental past (I purposefully avoid the term “eastern” here) but one thing is certain; this side of the map has definitely a story to speak of…