The Armenian Church belongs to the group of three “ancient Eastern” Christian churches, descending from the Armenian, Alexandrian and Syrian traditions, whose rites express specific ethnic and national characteristics.
The Armenian people, the first to embrace Christianity as a national religion, have been present in Jerusalem since the 5th century, when they established their first communities and developed an entire quarter around the Cathedral of St. James, a quarter that still occupies today a sixth of the entire Old City.
Along with the Latins and the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox are one of the three religious communities subject to the Status Quo at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the sanctuary which in Armenian is called “Surp Harutyun”.
The myriad of small crosses (khachkar) carved in stone that accompany the pilgrim in the Armenian Chapel of St. Helena are a clear sign of that nation’s devotion to the cross.
It is not unusual to arrive at the Tomb and see young Armenian seminarians dressed in their blue cassocks, in the midst of their rituals and chanted liturgies in the ancient Armenian language.
The Armenian presence in the church is also recognizable by their characteristic cross without the figure of Christ, in which floral motifs branch out from the four arms, signifying the origin of life and salvation in the Crucified One.