As tradition has it, Armenia was converted to Christianity by the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew. In the year 301, King Drtad, converted by Saint Gregory the Illuminator, proclaimed Christianity the state religion. Although it is asserted that parts of the Bible were translated orally at that time, the formation of an original liturgy began with the invention of the Armenian alphabet by Saint Mesrob Mashdots at the beginning of the 5th c. The creation of the first sharagan songs, which have since been highly developed as a genre and used to replace parts of the psalmody, is also attributed to Saint Mesrob Mashdots and the Catholicos Saint Sahag Barthev.
The Armenian liturgy has developed over the centuries with the creation and insertion of numerous chants of diverse genres and forms into the rituals. Armenian liturgical chant enjoyed an especially fruitful period during the Cilician Kingdom (11th-14th c.), due in great part to the contributions and compositions of the Catholicos Saint Nerses the Gracious (12th c.). In the 15th century, the musical aspect of the liturgical calendar reached completion and songs created after this period are either optional or paracanonical.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to date the composition of most of these songs. Armenian liturgical chant has been transmitted essentially by oral tradition and by a neumatic notation accessible to those within the tradition. The melodies have consequently evolved slowly over the centuries, while keeping intact the oktoechos and the melodic patterns systems.