A Glimpse of Armenia’s Many Monasteries
Included within Travel Program for
Policy and Conflict in the Post-Soviet Space
for Spring, 2017
A little known fact (at least, in America, where most things about Armenia are unknown) is that Armenia despite its many Muslim neighbors, was actually the world’s first Christian nation, officially adopting it in the early 4th century. What I learned after only a week in Armenia is that this is not simply some travel guide fact, used to entice tourists. As Armenians will tell you, they are deeply proud of being the worlds first Christian nation, which is unsurprising when you learn that about 92% of people belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church. If you’re like me, and had no idea what that was before talking to a priest from a monastery near Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, then don’t feel bad. Father Garegin, the aforementioned priest, explained to us that the religion is, for the most part, a religion that has a lot in common with Orthodoxy.
With such a high percentages of believers, it’s not surprising that Armenians consider their faith to be a central part of their identity. This is precisely why the Policies and Conflicts in the Post-Soviet Space program (or PCON) through SRAS and NovaMova made sure to cram as many monastery visits as was feasible into the week we spent in Armenia. My impression after visiting several of these sites is that, while the churches themselves are actually rather plain in comparison with famously ornate Orthodox cathedrals (Father Garegin explained that they believe that too much flash can be a distraction when trying to worship), the places they are built in are often times breathtaking. As always, photos will do more than I ever could to explain, and so, let me show you what I saw through my camera lens during my week in Armenia.