The spreading of Christianity among the Armenians dates back to the first century - the period of Apostle’s sermon. The first Artsakh preachers were Dado and Egishe, two of the members of 72 students of Jesus who died as martyrs whilst spreading the light of Christianity.
The Christian religion was adopted in Artsakh as a state religion in the year 301. Many churches were founded, composing the integral whole with the Armenian Church both spiritually and administratively. During the period that Armenia lost its statehood it was necessary that the church brought its ideology more in line with historical reality and it set about the creation of separate Catholicosats. One such was the Catholicosat at Aghvank, which in spiritual relation submitted to St. Echmiadzin’s Cathedral. The placement of Catholicosat was repeatedly changing, however, it finally settled down in Gandzasar’s monastery in the 13th century, in the church of St. Hovanes Mkrtich (John the Baptist). The church was built to commemorate and honor Ovanes Mkrtich whose severed head was delivered here after his martyrdom.
In 1813’s Artsakh was freed from Persian control and taken under the control of Russia. In 1815’s the Russian government reduced the status of catholicosats to the status of metropolitstvo (holy centre).
In 1923’s Artsakh together with two other historical provinces Utik and Gandzak were forced by the Soviet regime to become part of the newly founded state of Azerbijian. The new state set about the systematic removal of the native Armenian population from these regions. They were denied the opportunity to worship as the Soviets set about the closure of all monasteries and churches. The Christian priests were either shot or exiled.
By the 1930’s the church and its priests were no longer functioning.
In 1988 with the beginning of national liberation movement in Artsakh it was possible to set about the rebuilding of Artsakh’s Diocese. Many churches reopened in 1989. Gandzasar became the first church to reopen. At the present time there are 10 priests and 17 restored or newly built and functioning churches. Construction and restoration work continues throughout Artsakh with the aim of providing more churches in which the people may worship.
Gandzasar is the spiritual center of the diocese with its rich historical traditions. Although Gandzasar is the spiritual center the administrative center is located in the town of Shushi with its Cathedral Church of Amenaprkich (Khazanchetsots) (Amenaprkich is the Armenian word for "Omnirescuer").
The theological center "Gandzasar" is now functioning and has produced and published some 50 precious religious-theological books. A religious program "Gandzasar" is broadcast.
The church assists in the function of religious education and aids the activity of Sunday schools and religious lessons in the comprehensive schools of Artsakh. Theological seminars are conducted at Shushi. There is also located there a Christian information center, the Christian culture center, and a children’s Christian Theater.
The archbishop Pargev Martirosian has been the head of the Artsakh Diocese since the restoration of Christianity in 1989.