Christianity appeared in Armenia when Jesus has still been alive. The legend of the correspondence between Armenian king Abgar V and Jesus is quite known. Besides, Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew preached Christianity in Armenia long before Trdat I acceded to the throne.
The short reign of this monarch was characterized not only by prosecutions of Christians but also the spread of Christianity among aristocratic families, including the members of the royal dynasty.
Thaddeus has been repeatedly arrested and imprisoned, but he has been freed each time with “God’s help”. Most probably, the fact that Trdat’s successor Sanatruk had converted to Christianity played a major role in Thaddeus’ liberation. Sanatruk acceded to the throne 37 years after the crucifixion of Jesus.
At the time, Christians gathered in hard-to-reach catacombs. Members of noble families adhering to Christianity used similar remote locations as shrines. The multitude of niches connected with each other through secret passageways provided Christians with reliable shelter. In the gorge of River Arpa nearby the Noravank Monastic Complex, one of those catacombs is located.
At the beginning of the 3rd century (traditionally, in 301 AD), Armenian King Trdat III declared Christianity a state religion, making Armenia the first Christian state in the world.