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Chapter 35
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
A History of Armenia

by Vahan M. Kurkjian

published by the
Armenian General Benevolent Union of America
1958

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 37

p329 Chapter XXXVI
The Armenian Church — Early History

Origin

The Armenian Church acknowledges the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew as the First Illuminators of the Nation. According to tradition, the ancient churches of Artaz (Maku) and of Aghpak (Bashkalé), in southeastern Armenia, contain their graves. The mission of Thaddeus is said to have extended through the years 35 to 43, and that of Bartholomew from 44 to 60. Critics however, hold that these accounts are borrowed from Greek (or Syriac) sources of a later date. To the see of Artaz tradition also had ascribed an early line of seven bishops, covering a period of 127 years. Their names are given as Zementos, Zacharia, Atrnerseh, Moushé, Shahen, Shavarsh and Leontius. Tradition also gives to the see of Sewniq a series of eight bishops — Kumsi, Babylas, Moushé (later on transferred to Artaz), Movses, Sahak, Zrvandat, Stepanos, and Hovhannes. It is generally maintained that Christianity reached Armenia first through Antioch, then from Edessa and Nisibin.

The historian Eusebius mentions a letter dated 254 A.D. from the Patriarch Dionysius of Alexandria to Bishop Mehrouzhan (Mitrozanes) of the brethren in Armenia. The Armenian records of martyrology contain many names of converts of both sexes, some of them of princely blood, who gave their lives for their faith in the time of St. Bartholomew and at the beginning of the second century. The Latin Church venerates the memory of St. Acacius, martyred with ten thousand converts near Mount Ararat during the reign of Hadrian.

According to Tertullian (155‑222), the earliest of the ancient ecclesiastical writers and the creator of Christian Latin literature, Armenia p330was one of the countries whose languages were heard on the day of Pentecost. The text of the Acts the Apostles in the ordinary Bible mentions Judea as situated between Mesopotamia and Cappadocia; "And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia. . . ." (Acts ii.8.9). The name Judea,º erroneously inserted by some copyist, undoubtedly should be Armenia. Judea was not a foreign country; it was the country in which they were situated at the time, and to hear its language spoken would be naturally expected. Tertullian's own words were:

"Upon whom else have the nations of the universe believed but upon the Christ who is already come? For whom have the nations believed — Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and they who inhabit Mesopotamia, Armenia, Phrygia, Cappadocia, and they who dwell in the Pontus and Asia and Pamphylia, sojourners in Egypt and inhabitants of the reign of Africa which is beyond Cyrene, Romans and wayfarers, yes, and in Jerusalem, Jews and all other nations . . . ?"

("Answer to the Jews," Chap. VIII)

Augustine, the greatest of the ancient Church fathers, confirms the correct reading of Tertullian. This evidence and the persecutions carried on by three consecutive kings of Armenia — Artashes, Khosrov and Trdat himself — indicate that a considerable number of persons had been converted, even before the preaching of Grigor Loussavoritch.

Official conversion of Armenia

Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion. The conversion and baptism of King Trdat, the royal family, the nakharars and the army, together with thousands of the people, took place in the year 301.1 The conversion of the Emperor Constantine was much later; modern authors place his baptism in the year 337. Eusebius says that in 311 Maximin Daia, one of the four participants in Roman Imperial authority — the others being Constantine, Licinius and Maxentius — and a bitter enemy of Christianity, declared war against the Armenians because they had renounced paganism.

p331 Grigor Partev (Gregory the Parthian), through whose preaching this tremendous change was accomplished, is said to have been related to the Arshakouni (Arsacid) kings of Armenia. His father, Prince Anak, an Arsacid prince, had in conspiracy with Artashir, the Sassanid, assassinated Trdat's father, King Khosrov of Armenia, as related in a previous chapter. Anak was slain while trying to escape, and the child Grigor was carried to Roman territory for safety from reprisal. Trdat, the legitimate heir, was also taken to Caesarea for similar reasons, and twenty-three years later recovered his father's throne, aided by the Emperor Diocletian. Grigor was brought up in the Christian faith and educated in Caesarea; he, too, returned to Armenia after the reestablishment of the national kingdom.

The causes which prompted Trdat to declare Christianity as the national religion are matters of conjecture, but we may not be wrong in assuming that he had followed the general trend in the Roman world. However this might be, the fact is that to Grigor Loussavoritch's untiring efforts is mainly due the triumph of the Gospel over the pagan religions in Armenia. He was duly chosen to be the head of the Church of Armenia and sent to Caesarea, the Cappadocia metropolis in 302, for special consecration at the hands of the Archbishop Leontius. Grigor established his residence at Hashtishat (Taron), where he built a church and a palace.

Grigor's long ascendancy

Grigor organized and controlled the church for a quarter of a century. To him are ascribed canons, homilies and liturgical services. Twelve episcopal sees, with priests converted from paganism as titulars, and four hundred urban and rural dioceses were created by him, and preachers sent to neighboring countries — Georgia, Caspio-Albania and Atropatene. He died in 325, the year of the Council of Nicaea. His younger son, Aristakes, unmarried, succeeded him, took part in the Council of Nicaea (modern Isnik) and was one of the signatories of the Acts.2 At Aristakes' death in 333, his elder brother, Verthanes, of that Council, took over the post and held it p332until 341. His successor was his son Houssik (341‑347). Because of the refusal of the sons of Houssik to enter holy orders, the patriarchal see devolved upon Parén, a kinsman of Grigor's family. Later on, by the election of Nerses, Houssik's grandson (353‑373), the line of succession reverted to the family of the Illuminator.

Royal Opposition to the Church

A party supported by princely houses had been opposing the newly organized Church, which King Trdat had enriched by territorial grants. Acts of violence are recorded, during this period, and probably as a consequence of this, the Church control passed to the house of Albianus, which had formerly supplied priests for the pagan religion. The patriarchal authority reverted once more to the family of Grigor when Sahak, son of Nerses and of the Partev or Parthian lineage, was elected Katholikos in 387 and ruled until 439.

Spiritual Awakening

Despite political hindrances, the spiritual awakening was strong enough to assert itself. The Church in the fourth century was well organized, but lacked an element of vital importance — a written language. The Armenian language was not provided yet with an alphabet. The Greek language prevailed in the schools of Caesarea, and the Syriac in Edessa, then a Persian territory. Grigor was obliged to appoint foreign teachers to head the schools which he founded. The Bible and the Church Services were read in the Greek and Syriac languages. It was difficult, under such circumstances, to uproot pagan worship and customs from the mountainous districts on the one hand and from satrapal mansions on the others.

But inasmuch as the people were ignorant of both Greek and Syriac, an oral translation of the Scripture service was made for them in the Church. A class of translators (Targmanich) had to be created to serve during the Church services, to interpret the passages of Scripture which were read aloud by the class of readers (Verdzanogh). These men explained the prayers and the readings used in the Service, and instructed the people in their mother tongue. "If we were to note the differences in translation between the psalms used in the offices and psalms found in the text of the Scriptures, we would find two translations; one dating from the fourth century, for popular use, and the other the fifth century based on the Greek text."3


[image ALT: A woodcut of a large squarish walled compound of buildings, a small core of which is capped by towers with steeply sloping roofs; it lies at the foot of a tall mountain. It is a view of the Monastery of Varakhvank near Van in Armenia.]
Monastery of St. Varag at Vana

p333 Beginning of Armenian Literature

Mesrop-Mashtots, a disciple of the Patriarch Nerses and formerly a secretary at the Royal court, conceived the idea of an effective missionary movement for the diffusion of Christianity in Armenia. But lacking an alphabet, the task could not be carried out. With the backing of the Patriarch Sahak, Mesrop submitted his suggestion for a written language to the King, Vramshapouh. The monarch cordially endorsed the plan and contributed liberally towards its accomplishment. Mesrop made several trips to neighboring centers of learning for consultation with scholars, and finally, in 404, he succeeded in creating an alphabet which with thirty-six characters reproduced the sounds of the spoken Armenian.

The next work, to be taken in hand immediately, was the translation of the Bible into the new written language. A group of scholars from among the Translators was selected by Sahak and Mesrop. The translation of the Old Testament was made using both the Greek text of the Septuagint and the Syriac version, the latter being followed to a lesser extent. Almost thirty years were required to complete the work, before the end of which, in 433, Sahak had made a final revisionº of the translation, comparing it with a Greek copy p334sent to him by the Patriarch of Constantinople. Next, they devoted their time and energy to the translation of the books of the liturgy, such as the Divine Liturgy, the rituals of baptism, confirmation, marriage, funerals, the daily offices and the calendar.

While following closely the liturgy of Caesarea, Grigor had borrowed liberally from the national customs and pagan rites, giving them a Christian character.

The Armenian Church in the Fifth Century

Sahak was deposed in 428, and an anti-patriarch named Sourmak was nominated by Bahram V, the Persian King. Two others, Birkisho and Shimuel respectively, succeeded him. Then once more, in 437, Sourmak returned to the post. Sahak had been permitted in 432 to return home from Ctesiphon, and was welcomed by the nation as its spiritual head, although divested of his civil and juridical functions. The Council of Ephesus, held in 431, had condemned Nestorius, and the Christian world was agitated by dogmatic controversies. Armenia could not hold aloof from the wrangling. The books of Theodore of Mopsuest (Missis), the precursor of Nestorius, were secretly circulating in the country. Sahak received from the Patriarch of Constantinople the decisions of the Council of Ephesus. He summoned a council at Artashat in 435, and sent a letter to Proclus of Constantinople, refuting Theodore's errors. Sahak died in 439, and Mesrop, who had charge of the spiritual leadership of the nation, followed him to the grave six months later.

In previous chapters we have depicted the vital part played by these two pre-eminent leaders, through whose inspiration and achievements Armenia was able to struggle against the mighty Persian Empire. We now turn to the other strife which the Armenian Church was called upon to wage for centuries against the great Christian power of the West, Byzantium; a strife that was dogmatic or doctrinal in theory, although to a large extent it was fundamentally political.

Claims of Supremacy

According to the Greeks, the see of Armenia was under the jurisdiction of Caesarea because of the episcopal consecration of St. Grigor at the hands of Leontius, Archbishop of Cappadocia. The Armenians dispute this claim, pointing to the Apostolic origin of the Armenian Church. Only two provinces in the Roman Empire, known p335as First Armenia (Sebast) and Second Armenia (Melitene), had recognized the authority of the Archbishop of Caesarea, or of the Exarch of Pontus. Greater Armenia, under Persian suzerainty, had always maintained independence in ecclesiastical matters. The sons and immediate successors of St. Grigor — Aristakes and Verthanes — had gone to Caesarea for consecration. Subsequent incumbents probably did the same. However, the practice ceased in 374, when Sahak became Patriarch, he having been consecrated by local bishops.

The ill-feeling caused by this secession (or insubordination, as the Greeks would regard it) assumed inordinate proportions by reason of the negative attitude taken by the Armenians towards the Fourth General Council of the Church, which was held in 451 in Chalcedon, the modern Kadikeuy, a suburb of Constantinople.

Council of Chalcedon (451)

The zeal displayed by the Archimandrite Eutyches of Byzantium in opposing Nestorius gave rise to heated disputes regarding the nature of Christ, and stirred up strife between the sees of Constantinople, Alexandria and Antioch. Emperor Marcianus held the Fourth Council for the purpose of arresting the ascendency of the monophysite (one-nature) doctrine promulgated in 449 through the influence of Dioscorus, Patriarch of Alexandria at the Synod of Ephesus.4 That council had adopted the formula of St. Cyril, one nature of the Incarnate Word God. Nestorius of Antioch, Patriarch of Constantinople (428‑440), who believed in a purely moral unity between the two natures, had been condemned by the council. A special synod, held upon the initiative of the Patriarch Flavianus at Constantinople in 448, also condemned Eutyches, who had "carried the union so far as to make it a blend and a confusion of the two natures, . . . and the giving of a heavenly origin to the body of Christ." At another special synod held at Ephesus in 449, the followers of Flavianus and Nestorius were condemned. In the following year, Pope Leo I called a synod in Rome to condemn both Eutyches and Dioscorus, and succeeded, moreover, in inducing the Emperor Marcianus to summon the Council of Chalcedon (451), where about 600 bishops gathered. Most of the western bishops could not attend, as Europe was then in turmoil because of Attila's p336invasion. The council reaffirmed the Nicene and Constantinopolitan creeds and the Ephesian formula of 431, and accepted the Christological statement contained in the Epistola Dogmatica of Leo I. The council also rejected both Nestorianism and Eutychianism, and stood upon the doctrine that Christ had two natures, each perfect in itself, and each distinct from the other, yet perfectly united in one person, who was at once God and man. The first session of the Council was tumultuous, and abusive epithets were exchanged. It was presided over by the Legate of the Pope; Imperial commissioners directed the order of business, opened the meetings, laid before the council the matters to be discussed, demanded the votes and closed the sessions. It continued for three weeks, and the final record was formally subscribed to in the presence of the Emperor.

Discipline, Parish Organization

In addition to the creed, the council promulgated thirty canons against clerical abuses and in favor of social improvements of practical import. One of the canons conceded to the see of Constantinople second rank among the Patriarchates. Others had the safe guarding of the interests of the Patriarchs as their aim. The Patriarch of the New Rome — Constantinople — was seeking predominance over the older see of the Church. The Patriarch of Alexandria, jealously proud of the eminent part played by his predecessors in oecumenical councils, could not tolerate the ambitious designs of his new rival. He claimed that the works accomplished in Nicaea by Athanasius and at Ephesus by Cyril could not be undone by the Bishops of Constantinople and Rome, who were in alliance against Alexandria, supported by the armed forces of Marcianus, the Emperor-general. Leo himself was naturally apprehensive of the pretensions of Flavianus, and did not subscribe to those canons of the council which defined the various jurisdictions or threatened the precedence of Rome.

The Council of Chalcedon was technically a success, and did in fact accomplish some tangible results, but its work was not sufficiently complete to obviate further controversy. Rebellions in Palestine and Egypt were the immediate consequences of the decrees of the council against Dioscorus and the Monophysites. The episcopate of the Graeco-Roman world was divided into two camps, and their flocks indulged in violent recriminations. The subtle distinctions p337laid down as between the unity and duality of natures did not suffice to calm men's minds.

At a new council held at Antioch in 476, the doctrine of Chalcedon was declared doubtful, and the Emperor Zeno forbade the giving of support to the decrees of the Fourth Council. In 482 he issued the Henoticon (edict of unification or reconciliation), wherein he denied all authority to the council. Finally, the Emperor Anastasius, by a decree dated 491, reversed the decisions of the Council. Through these executive measures the Emperors sought to combat Nestorianism, which enjoyed full liberty within the confines of the Persian dominions, where a prosperous Syrian element resided.

Armenia shaken by disaster

Armenia remained unconcerned with these quarrels until the beginning of the sixth century. The country was in mourning for the death, exile and dispersion of hundreds of her prominent leaders, lay and clerical, as a result of the desirous Battle of Avarair in 451, which was fought just eighteen weeks before the opening of the Council of Chalcedon. When the sorrow and agitation had subsided, the Armenian Patriarchs had neither the time nor the disposition to give serious thought to matters outside their own jurisdictions. The first occurrence which brought the Council of Chalcedon to the attentionº of the Armenians took place during the incumbency of the Katholikos Babken (490‑515). Those Syrians living in Persian Mesopotamia who had remained loyal to the orthodox doctrine of the Council of Ephesus, were being harassed by Nestorian zealots. They asked for guidance from the Armenians, who had remained in strict adherence to the anti-Nestorian preaching of St. Sahak. The Nestorians were hostile to the Church of Alexandria, whereas the Armenians had maintained their attachment to the Church. The Emperor Marcianus, whose handiwork was seen in the Council of Chalcedon, had refused the aid against the Persians solicited by an Armenian deputation. Furthermore, the council had later been disavowed by the two successors of Marcianus, Zeno and Anastasius.

A synod of Armenian, Georgian and Albanian bishops, held in Douin in 506 under the presidency of Babken, reaffirmed the profession of faith of the Council of Ephesus and rejected everything that savored of Nestorianism, including the acts of the Council of Chalcedon. The Synod at the same time condemned Arius, Eutyches p338and Macedonius. Later, the Greek and Latin churches recognized the Council of Chalcedon as the Fourth Oecumenical Council, but the Armenian Church stedfastly upheld its original conservative declaration of 506 in Douin.

Political Element

When speaking of theological or dogmatic subjects, which periodically disturbed Armenia, one should not overlook the political element usually underlying or influencing them. The country passed successively under Persian, Greek and Arab rulers, for whom religious professions of dominated peoples were of great importance. The Armenians insisted upon loyalty to their established principles, yet avoided, as much as possible, any position or action calculated to offend the ruling power and thereby compromise their own safety.

From 428 to 633, the larger part of Armenia was governed by Persian marzbans. Thereafter, for a short period — from 633 to 693 — the marzbans were replaced by Greek curopalates. Then came the period of Arab domination for more than a century and a half (693‑862). The Greek Emperors, even after abandoning Greater Armenia, strove to exert pressure on her people to accept the Chalcedonian profession. The Persians and the Arabs, desirous of winning the Armenians away from the Greeks, held out alluring promises to them. The Armenians would not and could not accede to the Greek demands; and the idea of collaboration with non-Christians was repugnant to them.

The excitement occasioned by the Council of Chalcedon had not yet subsided when Justinian mounted the throne in 527. He endeavored to please the orthodox followers of the Ephesian doctrine, and at the same time restrain the tendencies of the Chalcedonian party. The new Council of Constantinople, summoned by Justinian in 553, finally settled the Chalcedonian question, reaffirming the idea of the two natures in Christ, yet defining it as it was defined at the Council of Ephesus. The Armenians did not feel the need of new definitions, and the Synod of Douin, which assembled in the following year (554) under Katholikos Nerses II, proclaimed once more the Ephesian doctrine, as in opposition to Nestorian errors and Chalcedonian claims.

The negative attitude of the Armenians towards the Chalcedonian p339profession was resented by the Greeks, at whose instigation the Georgians, led by Bishop Kurion, seceded from the jurisdiction of the Armenian Katholikosate, to join the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This event had unfavorable repercussions upon the Georgian church centuries later, when the Russians came to dominate the Caucasus. Her separate existence had no longer any raison d'être, because of the identity of doctrines which justified the absorption of the Georgian church by the Russian. On the other hand, Greek attempts at installing anti-patriarchs for the Byzantine portion of Armenia invariably failed, because of the inflexible opposition of the Armenians to the Chalcedonian formula.

Revival of Chalcedonian Activities

Official pressure to effect a union of the Greek and Armenian churches was revived by the Emperor Heraclius, who had succeeded in defeating and sweeping away the once-victoriousº Persians and recovering the relic of the Holy Cross, which they had carried away from Jerusalem. On his second visit to Karin, Armenia, in 632, Heraclius held a conference with the Katholikos Ezr (Esdras) and his bishops. As a result of these negotiations the Armenians accepted a formula which was in keeping with their own faith, save that it passed over in silence the Council of Chalcedon. The event was solemnized by the celebration of a mass, at which Greeks (including the Emperor), and Armenians took the communion together. Despite this demonstration of harmony, the Katholikos had excited popular indignation by his submission to the Emperor, to such an extent that until a very recent date his name appeared in the list of patriarchs with the initial letter inverted. This stigma, however, was unjust. Neither the Katholikos nor the Emperor favored the Chalcedonian doctrine in its extreme form. The Emperor was a defender of the monothelite doctrine which held that Christ had but one will.

Arab invasion begins

Political surprises were soon to bring about new changes in the situation. The Katholikos Nerses III, surnamed Shinogh (Builder) ascended the throne just as the Arabs began to invade Armenia in 641. The national leaders were perplexed, unable to decide upon a course to be followed. Nerses himself was for Greek rule, but the p340military commander, Sembat Bagratuni, and Theodore Reshtuni, considering the Greeks to be weak and unreliable, were inclined to favor submission to the Arabs. The Emperor Constantine IV, in retaliation, marched into Armenia at the head of an army, having as his first objective the imposition of his religious authority. The Katholikos succeeded in appeasing the wrathful monarch, but a new Synod, assembled at Douin in 645, after the withdrawal of the Greek forces, resolved again to reject all but the first three councils. Nerses had to modify his vacillation and maintain a passive attitude with regard to the more realistic anti-Greek policy of Theodore Reshtuni.

This confused condition of affairs continued after the death of both leaders, Nerses and Theodore. During the patriarchate of Sahak III (677‑703), the Arabs had become firmly established in Armenia, and there was no arena left for Graeco-Armenian disputes. However, the Khalifas would naturally appreciate the adoption by the Armenians of a religious policy in opposition to Greek idea. Sahak III undertook a journey to Damascus to visit the Khalifa, but died on the way, in 703. His endeavor was rewarded, however; the Khalifa granted most of the privileges which he had expected to ask for.

The Katholikos Hovhannes (John) III, of Otzoun, surnamed Imastasser (the Philosopher), wrote against the heresies of the time and introduced disciplinary and liturgical reforms. He is the author of a code of canon-law. He cultivated friendly relations with the Khalifas, and obtained from them concessions for the benefit of the church and nation. The Synod of Manazkert, convened in 726, under the presidency of Hovhannes, and composed of Armenian and Syrian bishops, decided "the great question of the corruptibility of the body of Christ, which had been raised by the orthodox monophysites. It had caused a split between the Syrian and Armenian churches." (Ormanian)

With the creation by the Khalifas of Armenian vassal principalities in 862, Armenia had begun to enjoy administrative autonomy, and the church functioned under peaceful conditions. Utilizing this opportunity, Patriarch Photius of Constantinople attempted once again to resume negotiations with the Armenian Church. His move has by some writers been ascribed to "an intention of winning support against the Roman Church with which he had quarreled." However, his letters to the Katholikos Zakaria (855‑878) and to p341Prince Ashot Bagratuni, inviting them to accept the decrees of Chalcedon, led to no result.5

Armeno-Syrian Synod

The Armeno-Syrian Synod held at Ctesiphon under the eye of Khosrov Parviz of Persia rejected the decisions of Chalcedon (614‑616). But the selfsame decisions were accepted in the Armeno-Greek Synod of Karin in 632, presided over by the Katholikos Ezr, in the presence of the Emperor Heraclius, conqueror of the Persians. The third council of Douin (649), held under the Katholikos Nerses II, on the invitation of the Emperor Constans II and the Greek Patriarch Paul II, declared itself in favor of monophysitism, despite the solid argumentation of David, the Armenian philosopher. This attitude, however, was dictated by the famous nakharar Theodorus Reshtuni, who favored Arab friendship. Consequently, Nerses allied himself with diophysitism as soon as Constans II's return to the offensive sheltered the Katholikos against the wrath of Theodorus (653). But this reconciliation was as little durable as the successes of Greek arms. The same was true of the agreement accepted by Katholikos Sahak III, whom Justinian II had taken to the Constantinople as a hostage in 690. Two years later, in the council of Trullo6 the Greeks passed censure upon the Armenians for their use of unmixed p342wine in holy communion and for the matagh, or sacrifice of animals.

Under Umayyad Arab Rule

The first conquering Arabs adopted a moderate policy towards the Christians. In consideration of the payment of one dinar, they guaranteed the life, property and freedom of worship of the Christians. By separating from the Greeks, Theodorus Reshtouni even obtained an exemption from tribute for three years. The situation of Christians and Moslems, however, was not the same; the testimony of the former against the latter was not admissible in court. A Moslem was fined only 5,000 souzehs for killing a Christian. Any attempt to revolt was cruelly suppressed; an example is the burning of 1,775 Armenian hostages in the churches of Nakhjavan and Khram. The Ostikan (Arab governor) residing in Douin could keep watch upon the Katholikos and the Armenian sub-governor, who likewise resided in the city. The Katholikos Hovhannes Otznetsi, a subtle politician, in order to win the good will of Khalifa Hesham (724‑743), called upon the potentate with his beard sprinkled with gold powder, but letting the hair cloth he was wearing appear under his rich dress. He asked a larger religious liberty for the Armenians, and the exemption of taxes on the clergy; and this being granted, he, in return, drove away from Armenia all the Greek warriors and inspectors.

Patriarchal See Transferred

Etchmiadzin, the original residence of the Katholikos of "all the Armenians" (Amenain Hayots), did not remain identified for long with the capital, Vagharshapat. After the fall of the Arshakuni kingdom, both the Marzban and the Katholikos were installed in 425 at Douin, at the foot of Ararat, not far from Etchmiadzin.

Douin, which was the residence of the Bagratuni kings before they moved to Ani, remained the patriarchal see until it was invaded by the cruel and savage Youssouf, the Arab governor of Atrpatakan, who had rebelled against the Khalifa. Katholikos Hovhannes V, the historian, who had gone to negotiate with him, was detained as a hostage. For a long time after his liberation on payment of a huge ransom, he wandered about the country, because Douin had been destroyed in 893, partly by the enemy and partly by an earthquake. Finally in 927, Hovhannes fixed his domicile at p343Tsorovanq, a monastery near Van, the seat of one of the four Armenian kings whom the Khalifa had crowned, following the adage, "Divide and rule." From there the patriarch followed the king to the island of Aghtamar, in the lake of Van.

After the death of Hovhannes V and the three succeeding patriarchs, the Katholikos Anania (943‑967), a wise and able administrator, left the island and settled in the town of Arkina, near Ani. His successor, Vahan Sewnie (967‑969), was suspected of being a Chalcedonian. A synod assembled at Ani deposed him and elected Stepanos III. Disputes which had arisen between these two, the kings of Ani and Van taking opposite sides, were quieted only after their deaths. Khatchik I, the new incumbent (971‑992), courageously defended those of his flocks living in the Byzantine domains against Greek clerical encroachments, and consecrated bishops for them, in defiance of the impositions of the Greek clergy. Khatchik, after the cathedral and patriarchal palace at Arkina had been built, undertook the construction of a new residence at Ani, but he did not live to enjoy it. It was first occupied by his successor, Sarkis I (992‑1019), whose inaugural ceremonies gave the people of Ani their last opportunity to enjoy a spiritual festivity; for the successor of Sarkis, Petros I (1019‑1054), was finally forced out of the residence when Ani was captured by the Greeks in 1046.

Historians reproach Petros for an alleged unpatriotic act. Hovhannes-Sembat, the weakling son and successor of King Gagik of Ani, concerned only with his own personal security on the throne, agreed to the cession of his kingdom at his death to the Emperor Basil II. Petros is said to have brought about this secret transaction during a visit to Trebizond, in Greek territory. Twice relinquishing the office with changes of residence, he reoccupied his seat at Ani in 1036, despite the opposition of the king. When Hovhannes-Sembat died, leaving no issue, the legal heir was his brother's son, Gagik, who was fifteen years old. But Vest Sarkis, minister of the deceased king, sought the throne for his own son, while Vahram Pahlavuni, the General of the army, defended the right of the young heir. Of course the Emperor Michael IV ("the Paphlagonian") claimed Ani on the strength of Sembat's deed, though his claim was disputed by the Tatars and the King of Gougark. Vahram was able for a time to stave off the greedy claimants, foiling all the intrigues of the Katholikos and Vest Sarkis, but was at length forced to yield the capital to the Emperor's army in 1046. The Katholikos was at first p344treated courteously by the Greeks, but he was presently invited to Constantinople, where he remained for three years in urbane detention. He was then sent to Sebast (Sivas), where he died in 1054.

His nephew and successor, Khatchik II, was also summoned to Constantinople, where he was urged to reveal the hiding place of the treasures of Petros and to bring about the union of the two churches, but he did not yield to pressure on either point. After three years of forced sojourn in the Byzantine capital, he was sent to the town ofº Thavblour, near Derendeh, in Armenia Minor, where he died in 1065.


The Author's Notes:

1 Trdat was baptized on Jan. 6, 303, Christmas Day, according to the Patriarch Maghakia Ormanian.

2 The number of bishops attending the Council at the summons of Constantine seems to have been considerably less than the traditional 318 — really only 221. The great majority of them came from the eastern provinces of the Empire. The outsiders were four or five — one Goth, one Crimean, one Persian, and "Restaces" (Aristakes), the Armenian, the son of Gregory the Illuminator, with perhaps another Armenian bishop." (Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. I)

3 The Church of Armenia, by Ormanian.

4 Pope Leon I had characterized it as the "Latrocinium,"º (Robber Synod).

5 The following comment by the British scholar, F. C. Conybeare, sheds a light on the subject from another angle; "The ties with Greek official Christendom were snapped forever, and in subsequent ages the doctrinal preferences of the Armenians were usually determined more by antagonism to the Greeks than by reflection. If they accepted the Council of Ephesus in 430 and joined in condemnation of the Nestorians, it was rather because the Sassanid Kings of Persia, who thirsted for the reconquest of Armenia, favored Nestorianism, a doctrine current in Persia but rejected in Byzantium. But later on, about 480, and throughout the succeeding centuries, the Armenians rejected the decrees of Chalcedon and held that the assertion of two natures in Christ was a relapse into the heresy of Nestor. From the close of the fifth century, the Armenians have remained monophysite, like the Copts and Abyssinians, and have only occasionally broken their record with occasional short interludes of orthodoxy." (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910, "Armenian Church.")

6 Trullo, a misnomer, pertains to two councils held in the trullus or domed chamber of the imperial palace at Constantinople, in 680 and 691 A.D. The latter, called by Justinian II, established 102 canons for the discipline of the church, allowing the marriage of priests. The first Trullan council, 680, condemned monophysitism. Trullus, in Low Latin, means a dome.

Thayer's Note: For good details, if from a Catholic viewpoint, of the second council in Trullo, see the article Council in Trullo in the Catholic Encyclopedia; the first council in that room is usually not referred to as in trullo, rather as the Third Council of Constantinople, one of the seven great ecumenical councils. (For completeness' sake, as long as we got started on this, for the curious derivation of the word trullus see the article Trua in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.)


Thayer's Note:

a Varagavank monastery, to give it its more usual name, was an impressive complex before the Turkish depredations of 1915. Virtual ANI's page on Varagavank includes over a dozen good photographs, both recent and pre‑1915, accompanied by excellent text.


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Page updated: 17 Sep 11