Catholicos St Sahak Bartev (Partev) and Archimandrite St Mesrop (Vardapet) Mashtots are the founders of Armenian literature and ecclesiastical bibliography.
St Sahak Partev was the elder son of Catholicos St Nersess the Great. He was the last Catholicos of the Armenian Church who descended from the lineage of St Gregory the Illuminator. He became Catholicos of All Armenians in 387 A.D, and reigned for an astounding 52 years. Being a talented musician and educated in the rhetorical arts, philosophy and linguistics, St Sahak greatly contributed to the development of the Armenian national culture. He was the strongest advocate for the creation of an Armenian Alphabet and became its chief patron.
St Mesrop Mashtots was born in 360 A.D. and studied the Greek and Persian languages from childhood. He initially served as a scribe in the royal court. Leaving secular life behind, he became a monk and lived an ascetic life. During his preaching of the Gospel, St Mesrop felt the necessity to create a distinct Armenian Alphabet and to have the Holy Bible translated into Armenian. During those years, the Bible was only available in Greek and Syriac. In Armenia, they used to use ciphers, or symbols, which were used by the former pagan priests. Following the Great Conversion of the Armenian nation to Christianity, the symbols fell into disuse, and the only remaining copy was in Mesopotamia with a bishop named Daniel the Syrian. Upon the order of King Vramshapouh, the symbols were brought to Armenia. However, as Mashtots taught his new students with these symbols, he soon found them to be lacking, as they were imperfect and defective. Together with his students, he departed for Mesopotamia and visited the cities of Antioch, Edessa and Samosata, to conduct further research.
In 404-405 A.D, St Mesrop created the Armenian Alphabet through Divine Grace. According to Koryun, one day, Mesrop received a vision from God, who instructed and aided the saint in the modification of the ancient letters, thus creating the 36 letters of the Armenian alphabet. For the first time in the history of the nation, the Armenian people had a specific and distinctive alphabet.
Following the creation of the Armenian Alphabet, St Sahak and St Mesrop opened a school for translators in the city of Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin). There they began the translation of the Holy Bible into Armenian and did it so perfectly, that centuries hence, the Armenian Translation is called the “Queen Translation of the Breath of God”.
The first sentence translated from the Holy Bible is the opening verse of the Book of Proverbs: “To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding”.
St Mesrop Mashtots passed away in Vagharshapat, and was buried in his home village of Oshakan. According to tradition, during the entire journey of transferring the remains of St Mesrop to Oshakan, a canopy of light fell upon the pilgrims and accompanied them until they reached the tomb. The Church of St Mesrop Mashtots, which exists to this day, was built over his grave.