There are three main things that make the Armenian culture distinct and unique: the incredible charm of its mountainous scenery, the ancient Christian heritage (Armenia was among the first countries to adopt Christianity as a state religion) and the country’s unusual national culture- the main treasure of Armenia which was preserved through the challenges of time.
Convenient location of the country between the East and the West served as a battlefield for the great empires during the ancient times. However, they destroyed the cities and interrupted the cultural development of the country leaving behind only ruins. Nevertheless, the local people managed to withstand powerful invaders and keep the culture alive. As a result the national culture of Armenia acquired some features from the both eastern and western civilizations. Rich ethnicity of the most ancient inhabitants of Armenian highlands formed everyday life and the spiritual culture of the country. Until 301 AD the national culture of Armenia was influenced by the western (Hellenism) and eastern (Parthia) cultures. Christianity, as one of the mighty sources of the world’s culture, created new trends in architecture, fine arts, literature and music. Christianity‘s institution as Armenia’s official religion in 301 allowed new developments in Armenian architecture, which nevertheless preserved older traditions. In fact it would be almost impossible to find any religion that rose completely on its own without borrowing some traditions from the past. Exploring Armenian churches is critical to our understanding of Medieval Armenia. Beyond that, Armenian churches describe us the general landscape of the Christian East at a time when eyewitness accounts were exceedingly rare. In their messages of authenticity and legitimacy, the churches shaped and preserved public memory, negotiating among diverse linguistic, religious, political, and ethnic groups.
The first Armenian churches were built by the orders of St. Gregory the Illuminator– the first Catholics of all Armenians and were often built on top of pagan temples, and imitated some aspects of Armenian pre-Christian architecture.