RepositoryLambeth Palace Library
Alt Ref NoCFR AOC 1-25
Extent33 files
TitleArmenian Church
DescriptionGeneral reports and correspondence concerning Armenian communities; Anglican visits and relations; the Supreme Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin; the Catholicosate of Cilicia; Patriarchate of Constantinople; Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Church in diaspora.
Historically Greater Armenia embraced a vast area of mountainous terrain stretching from the Caspian Sea to the East to the Black Sea to the West. From the Caucasus Mountains to the North to the Taurus Mountains to the South. It is dominated by Mount Ararat, the mountain of Noah's Ark. Contemporary Armenia is but a vestige of its former self. Much of the ancient homeland now lies within Turkey and Iran and its people are scattered across the globe.

Armenians trace the advent of Christianity to the Apostolic missions of Bartholomew and Thaddeus, 'the first Illuminators of Armenia'. Certainly the Gospel did reach its people at a very early stage. There is evidence of persecutions by the Persian Artaxerxes in A.D. 110. It was, however, St Gregory coming from Caesarea at the end of the third century who was to be the greatest 'Illuminator' of Armenia. He converted King Tiridates who had been a great persecutor of Christians and in 301 Armenia became the first Christian state. The fourth century saw a steady building of the Church not least because Gregory's successors were consecrated by Armenian and not Caesarean bishops. In 404 St Mesrob invented the Armenian alphabet and the scriptures Fathers and Liturgy were translated into the vernacular.

The geographical position of Armenia led to it suffering incursions by many peoples. In the fifth century, for instance, Armenia was divided between the Byzantines and the Zoroastrian Persians who invaded the country in 451. The Armenian Church was thus hardly free to participate in the Council of Chalcedon and did not consider it fully ecumenical. The following centuries saw waves of invaders, both Christian and Muslim. During the Ottoman invasion of 1451 the Church was organized as a semi-autonomous community or Millet preserving Armenian identity and reinforcing the bonds between Church and people.

By the end of the nineteenth century conditions began to deteriorate considerably. During the great years of the nineteenth century conflicts between Armenians and Turks accelerated. During the First World War the systematic extermination and deportation by the Turks claimed up to one and a half million Armenian lives. That is almost one third of all Armenians. This the first genocide of the twentieth century is deeply etched into the Armenian psyche and it is almost impossible to under-estimate its importance both in the formation of the modern Armenian identity and in understanding Armenia's attitude to the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Following the formation of the present Republic in 1921 the Church has rebuilt itself patiently developing a rich and creative interchange between Church and State.

The present Catholicos Vazgen I was elected by the Church's conclave in 1955 and is the 130th Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. He has developed strong links between the Armenian Church and the Church in the Diaspora and at home in Holy Etchmiadzin 'the only begotten has descended', he has developed theological training and restored churches expropriated by the State. Each church with its cupola is distinctive as are the khachkars, the stone crosses, which are found throughout Armenia. The liturgy is derived from Cappadocian but with elements from both East and West with the subtle and creative weaving of distinctively Armenian spirituality and conceptualization. It is from our point of view an Oriental Orthodox Church but it is in a sense sui generis since it does not derive or indeed show great similarities to the Syrian or Coptic families of Oriental Orthodox Churches.

There have always been good relationships between the Anglican Church and the Armenian Church. As early as 1814 Catholicos Nierces attended the sick-beds of many Englishmen in Baghdad. Archbishop Randall Davidson made several representations on behalf of the Armenians at the time of the genocide and American Anglican parishes were amongst the first to welcome refugees. In 1975 and 1977 Archbishop Coggan met Catholicos Vazgen and the question of eucharistic hospitality was briefly raised.

Show related Persons records.

Related name records
NA2299Armenian Apostolic Church; 1st century-1st century-
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