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Mysteries of Armenia

The Faith Baton

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The European pilgrims that visited Medieval Armenia paid special attention to separate mountain recesses enclosed with stone-work that contained apparent Christian symbolism. The grottos were located near the monastery centers, often forming a single entity together. The pilgrims did not see any point in building such structures, especially next to classical examples of church architecture. They did not know that those were the caves where Armenians kept the first Christians’ relics. The followers of the new teaching suffered relentless persecution especially at the end of the 1st century. Above all, the involvement of some representatives of the ruling dynasty in Christianity irritated the kings. Even Princess Sandukht was among the noblemen who had adopted the new religion and patronized the missionaries. This circumstance forced her father, King Sanatruk, to execute his own daughter together with Apostle Thaddeus. Yet, the number of Christian associates continued growing. People kept valuable relics in their cave settlements, in particular the spear-head with which the Roman legionary had stabbed the crucified Christ. The relic was long kept in the catacombs of the Azat River Gorge and was passed from generation to generation as a baton of faith. The cave complex of Geghard is situated 30 km east from Yerevan. Its name traces back to the ancient Jewish interpretation of the spear. The legendary relic was kept in these canonized recesses enclosed with stone-work. At present it is exhibited at the Echmiadzin Museum.

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