The adoption of Christianity in 301 AD as the state religion, which made Armenia the first Christian nation, profoundly influenced Armenian cultural values and practices. The imprint of Christianity is most visible through the abundance of churches across historic Armenia built in a unique style and nearly always distinguished by its cylindrical dome. In a country regularly ravaged by violent tremors, the solid construction of these structures also attests to time-tested engineering skills that made them earthquake-proof.
The Christian faith influenced every form of artistic expression in Armenia. From music to painting, metalworking to stone carving, all were imprinted with Christian symbolism. Memorial stones in particular became richly decorated expression of the belief in an afterlife. Jewelers and silversmiths created brilliantly decorated church vessels, while the interior and exterior of church buildings were turned into canvases for frescos and sculpture.
The most refined of the arts in Armenia was the illumination of manuscripts many of which contained sacred texts starting with the Bible. Written in the distinctive Armenian alphabet, manuscripts were prized as religious objects and as works of great cultural importance. In times of trouble, churchmen and common folk committed to the safety of manuscripts as the most valued repositories of their cultural heritage.