“Better to Go to Hell with Our Fathers than to Heaven with the Romans” – Confessionalism and Contested Identities in Medieval Armenia


Sergio La Porta (California State University, Fresno)




18:15 Central European Time


Zoom Meeting

Although the process of confessionalization is often considered a western phenomenon intrinsically linked to the Reformation and the process of nation state building in the early modern period, it was not unknown among the Oriental Orthodox Churches of pre-modernity. The emergence of a confessional identity for the Armenian Apostolic Church may provide the best such example as it has led scholars to declare it a “national church” whose boundaries were fixed during the incorporation of Armenia within the Islamic Caliphate. This talk will discuss, and challenge, some of the factors that led to the formation of Armenian Christian confessional identities, and will highlight the role of Armenian interaction with the Roman Catholic Church in the evolving and fluid process of confessionalization. It will further examine the tensions that emerged between confessionalization and state building with the founding of the Kingdom of Cilicia. Finally, it will argue that while “confessional identity” was important particularly among the ecclesiastical hierarchy, that identity was not monolithic or static, nor did it necessarily encompass the majority of “Armenian believers”. Confessional identity, then, is better conceived of in the plural, “confessional identities”, whose definition was contested.

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