Monastery of Marmashen
In Armenia, as elsewhere, literacy was the domain of the nobility, while institutions of higher education were monopolized by the church. The tradition of Mesrob Mashdotz and his students as custodians of the national heritage carried on through the ages. The Vartabeds, a class of celibate priests devoted to the church and to learning, and later when exempted from the original task of spreading the new religion, turned their attention to creative writing, translating, teaching and studying. Interestingly, a quick inventory of homegrown Saints of the Armenian Church reveals a unique attribute common to most.
Section from The Translators (G. Khanian, artist)
From St. Mesrob to St. Nerses Shnorhali to St. Gregory of Nareg, they were all creative writers or scholars. In fact, little is known about the purely religious achievements that merited their beatification.

Although Armenian institutions of higher education were primarily monasteries and religious centers, “earthly” subjects such as natural sciences, medicine, music or astronomy were not excluded from the curriculum. The legendary David the Invincible (6
th-7th) and his works in philosophy and rhetoric were taught throughout the region. In the 7th century, Anania Shiragatsi wrote about nature and mathematics as well as planetary motion and the periodicity of lunar and solar eclipses. Accepting the roundness of the earth, Shiragatsi speculated that the sun illuminates both spheres of the earth and the moon, and the moon has no natural light but reflects the light of the sun.
Gregory of Datev with his disciples (miniature)
In the 11th century, Hovhannes Sargavak, a cleric, pioneered poetry with secular themes and wrote an exceptionally interesting book on mathematics, entitled Polygonal Numbers.

Portrait of Gomidas (G. Khanjian, artist)
Throughout the centuries, one of the most consistent characteristics of the Armenian tradition in the field of learning has been the vigilance of the scholars, who were primarily clerics, to keep pace with the advances and the changes taking place in the world, borrowing unabashedly from sources in other languages. In return, they made their contribution to the enhancement and development in the fields of literature, philosophy, medicine and astronomy. The fragmented documentation that survives today, in spite of the continued destruction and pillage by the Persians, Byzantines, Seljuks, Mongols and particularly the Turks, is a testimony to their contribution.

The Genocide of 1915, perpetrated by the Turks, put an end to this tradition. Perhaps
Gomidas Vartabed (1869-1939), whose immeasurable contributions in the field of Armenian folkloric and secular music is unparalleled, was the last in a long lineage of Vartabeds whose impact on the cultural patrimony of Armenians cannot be emphasized enough.

Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow.
Oliver Wendell Holmes