First Christian Nation – Armenia
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Armenia was the first Christian Nation in the world in the year 301AD. The king Trtad (Tiridates) established Christianity as a sole religion of Armenia. Some modern researchers unsubstantially pretend the event took place in 314, and not in 301. The fact remains that the Edict of Milan decreed by Constantine the Great in 313 simply mandated tolerance of the Christians in the Roman Empire, while Tiridates the Great proclaimed Christianity as a sole religion throughout all Armenian lands. Thus, Armenia became the first Christian State in the history of the world.
St. Gregory the Illluminator
- VATICAN CITY, JAN. 19, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II blessed a statue of St. Gregory the Illuminator which now stands in one of the exterior niches of St. Peter’s Basilica.
- It is the first time that a statue of an Eastern-rite saint — in this case, the apostle of Armenia — has been placed among the founding saints that surround the exterior of St. Peter’s, according to the basilica’s archpriest, Cardinal Francesco Marchisano.
- The ceremony, which took place today as the Pope was on his way to Paul VI Hall for the general audience, was attended by Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX of Cilicia of the Armenians, whose see is in Lebanon.
The first Patriarch of the Armenian Church, converted Tiridates and his court. Before his conversion Tiridates, famous for his tyranny, persecuted Christians. After many horrible tortures, he threw Gregory into an underground pit full of serpents and dead bodies, where Gregory spent 13 long years.
Agathangeghos, historian of 4th century, states that during Gregory’s imprisonment a group of Christian virgins under the guidance of Gayane Abbess arrived in the city of Vagharshapat. The King Tiridates fell in love with Hripsime, one of the virgins. As Hripsime rejected his love, he put the whole group of virgins to the sword. As a result of this evil deed, Tiridates was stricken with an incurable illness. Then Khosroviducht, his Christian sister, urged him to free Gregory. The King did so, and was miraculously healed.
During the following years, Tiridates and Gregory implanted the new religion with fire and sword. The sanctuaries and heathen temples were destroyed throughout the country. The only pagan temple remained intact to this day is Garni.
The first Christian churches appeared in Vagharshapat (Echmiadzin), in Nakhijevan, in Artsakh. According to different accounts presented in ancient legends and in the History of Moses Khorenatzi, the first cathedral of St.Echmiadzin (now the official center of the Armenian Church) was built between 301 and 303. The exact design and place came to St.Gregory in a divine vision: Christ himself descended to the Ararat valley and struck with a golden hammer to indicate the future location of the cathedral.
(These are excerpts from the internet)