On the way back to Yerevan I stopped at Saghmosavank (“Monastery of Psalms”) another Armenian sight close to a spectacular gorge, this time the Kasakh Gorge. The monastery has a large gavit to the west of the Zion church. A gavit serves as a narthex, mausoleum and assembly room for the church, but at Saghmosavank the gavit was built after both the Zion church and the smaller Mother of God Church.
I’d been told two Apostles brought Christianity to Armenia, namely St Bartholomew and St Thaddeus (or Jude). This seemed like a lot of apostles for one small country, and only left 10 for the rest of the known world. However, it may explain why Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity, traditionally in the year 301. The church in Armenia is sometimes referred to as the Armenian Orthodox Church or Gregorian Church. The latter is not preferred by the church itself, as it views the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus as its founders. St. Gregory the Illuminator is regarded as merely the first official governor of the church.
Anyway, at Saghmosavank, a priest from the Armenian Church had just conducted a service and I took the opportunity to ask two questions translated by a guide: The first question was “Why did two apostles travel to Armenia when everywhere else just received one?” When the priest heard the question in Armenian he smiled and gave a short reply, translated as “God willed it.” This was also his answer to my second question, which was “Why was Armenia the first country to adopt Christianity?” I suppose God had willed it that I was able to ask those two questions on this day, but his replies were still not very satisfying.
According to Catholic legend, both Bartholomew and Thaddeus are buried in Rome, and yet there are many local Armenian stories that they are buried in Armenia or places that used to be in Armenia. I’d like to know more about the apostles’ lives and why they were allocated different parts of the world to spread the word of the gospel. I believe that a human being decided where each of the apostles should go – “God willed it” is too convenient an answer.