.
History &
 Hierarchical
structure
 Sacraments
Manners
H. Liturgy
Saints &
Feasts
Chronology
Ch. Events
Holy Sees
& Treasures
Prayers &
Salutation
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Saints & Feasts of The Armenian Church

Abridged & edited by Patriarch Torkom Koushagian 
Translated & edited by The Very Rev. Fr. Haigazoun Melkonian 

Introduction

have endeavored to translate Saints and Feasts as faithfully to the original text as possible. This is, however, an abridged and edited edition and any departure from the original occurs as follows. 

The preface has been edited to reflect the changes in the "Saints" section and for clarity. In the section on the saints I have presented only the saints of the Armenian Church tradition, as descriptions of all the other saints can be found in English language references. In certain instances I have augmented the text with information from other sources listed in my bibliography. Many of the saints' lives have been paraphrased to recount their story with precision and omit extraneous details such as lengthy descriptions of martyrdom or conjecture. 

The feasts have been presented almost exactly as described by the author. In some instances he either diverges from the subject or offers his personal viewpoint. I have deleted these paragraphs and footnoted them accordingly. Whenever possible I have added the appropriate Bible references. 

The majority of the feasts and saints commemorations of the Armenian Church are variable. That basic difference between the feast days of the Armenian Church and those of other churches also makes it impossible to present them in chronological order. It is for this reason that the author has presented them according to the Major or Tabernacle Feasts to which they am related. It should also be pointed out that the church year is nearly divided equally between days of fasting and days of feasting, reminding us that we are of both body and soul and each must be nourished differently. 

In the Armenian Church, Dominical commemorations (feasts) take preeminence over all other celebrations, and the five tabernacle Daghavar feasts are always followed by a day dedicated to the repose of all departed souls (Merelotz). 

The last section of this book, Pious Customs of the Armenian Faithful, has been borrowed from Archbishop Ardag Manooglan's Feasts of the Armenian Church. I did not translate His Grace's words but paraphrased them, adding and subtracting whenever necessary for those English-speaking readers who have grown up in the Canadian and American Armenian Church. 

I have added this section because such customs are an important element of worship in the Armenian Church. Anyone learning about the feasts and saints of the church can only be further helped by an explanation of the meaning and practice of related customs. 

It is my fervent prayer that this work in its abridged and edited translation serve as a reference for those who wish to understand more completely the beauty of the Armenian Church, and that it whet their appetite for even greater knowledge of this fortress of the faith, hope and aspirations of the Armenian people through the ages. 

Very Rev. Haigazoun Melkonian

  Preface

o some it might seem that a collection of saints' lives has been sorely needed for a long time and is very late in coming. These people would not know that at one time, aside from the Bible and a few prayer books, the lives of the saints were the only materials available for general reading and for spiritual elucidation. 

Nations have produced heroes, outstanding men and women who have glorified their nation throughout history. Subsequent generations commemorate these people and their achievements both from gratitude for what they have done and, more importantly, in order to pass along the spirit that emanates from the lives of such exemplary individuals. 

The Church, despite its divine foundation, is also an organization of human beings. It has also had heroes who were fired with faith and virtue and these, in their own way, have had a dramatic impact on the history of mankind. And so the Church, rightfully and with just pride, commemorates those who have lived as children of the Mother Church, who have maintained the principles of the Holy Gospels; those who declared through martyrdom that Christianity is the true faith; those who have unshakably championed orthodoxy in the face of cults and heretics even from within; and finally, those who have given over their talents and gifts, their pen and prose, their lives and work for the glory and edification of the Holy Mother Church and her mission to save souls. The Church for eternal commemoration alone has deemed them worthy. And we have compiled the lives of the saints within to acquaint the faithful with these exemplary individuals. 

The traditional saints' lives have customarily been published for the spiritual need of the faithful so that they might imitate the lives of the saints and become worthy of their heavenly crowns by example. 

This book differs from the traditional saints' lives in its language and style; all previous works were in classical Armenian (krapar) and previous authors employed great rhetoric, embellishing in detail the life of each and every saint. This merely reflected the style of the time. This book, on the other hand, is presented relatively simply, despite the author's flowery style. 

Another difference is that earlier accounts of the saints would include many accounts of miracles, as there hardly exist a saint to whom one or more miracles have not been attributed. Those accounts have been reduced to a bare minimum in this book. We are not questioning the authenticity of any of these miracles nor their historical accuracy. In fact, miracles, which have been historically recorded and attested to by, church authorities, become established fact in the church. So the saints - the supreme example of virtuousness and the elect of the Church - might surely have experienced or witnessed miracles. There should be nothing surprising here; the entire universe, all life therein and all wonderful things were brought into being out of nothing by God through a miracle (in other words, by means not comprehensible to us). It is that same Heavenly Power whom, in the same mysterious way, moves through the life of the Church. This direct divine intention is commonly called a miracle. 

A few words, on the present work. As the name implies and the reader will soon see this book comprise two sections, the saints and the feasts. The saintís section is limited to a great extent as is obvious by the omission of some of the Church's greatest saints. This of course is intentional and not due to oversight. These saints are for the most part from Holy Scriptures where the reader can find an accurate and detailed account of their lives. 

Although abridged and limited, this book does accomplish its purpose--to familiarize the reader with the saints and feasts as commemorated by the Armenian Church. 

October 5, 1939 Jerusalem

 The Saints or the most part, the Armenian Church recognizes the martyrs and Holy Fathers of the early church among the saints, as well as the saints of her own tradition. The canonization of saints in the Armenian Church generally ceased circa the fifteenth century. Saints can be categorized according to the ancient church with which they are associated. Here, we shall present only the saints of the Armenian Church tradition since saints of the ancient churches are canonized and remembered throughout the church year and are either very well known or hardly known at all. We feel that a discussion of them would be outside the realm of this book. Some names, however, may help the reader form a general idea as to which the Armenian Church recognizes early saints. The ancient churches referred to are: the Holy Churches of Antioch, Cilicia, Mesopotamia, Jerusalem, Cyprus, Alexandria, Ethiopia, Caesarea, Sebastia, Laconia, Pontus, Ephesus, Constantinople, Chaldaea, Byzantium, Rome, Africa, and Persia. There are over two hundred saints in this category, some of the most popular being Melitus of Antioch, St. James of Nisibis, Maroukeh the Hermit of Mesopotamia, Yeprem Khouri, Patriarch Cyril of Jerusalem, Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria, the saintly monks of the Egyptian desert, the Kharityan witnesses of Ethiopia, Patriarch Basil of Caesarea, Patriarch Krikor (Gregory) the Miracle Worker of Sebastia, the Forty Young Men of Sebastia, Patriarch Nicholas the Wonderful of Ephesus, Gregory Nazianzen the Theologian, Emperor Constantine the Great, Queen Helena, John Chrysostom, Varvareh (Barbara) the Virgin, Bishop Theobomba of Byzantium, Patriarch Stephan of Rome, Sarkis (Sergius) the Captain of Persia, and many, many others. 
We have presented here the saints of the Armenian Church in alphabetical rather than chronological order to aid those who wish to use this section for reference; Armenian names are transliterated without using any formal linguistic rules. In cases where there are English names, we have tried to incorporate them into the text. To aid pronunciation, the reader may keep in mind that 'gh' has been used for the Armenian ~ which is similar to the French írí, and 'kh' for the Armenian/~ which is usually represented by the Greek 'x' in linguistic texts. 
In total, the Armenian Church celebrates the memory of 325 saints of which 104 are Armenian and the remainders belong to the previously mentioned ancient churches. 
Very Rev. Haigazoun Melkonian

 Adovmyan Generals and Their Armies (c. 451 and 853) 

The Armenian Church remembers two groups of martyrs bearing the name of Adovmyan. One group belongs to the period Just prior to the Battle of Avarayr; the second group was martyred in 853 during the reign of Pougha Vostigan. 
The Adovmyans of the fifth century were two armies of Armenian soldiers led by Adovm Knooni and Manajihr Rshdooni. The leaders had been commissioned by their Persian commanders to leave Armenia and proceed to one of the most distant outposts of the empire. The reason was to keep the Armenian soldiers far away from Armenia and thus prevent them from helping the Armenians in case of a revolt. The commanders recognized the Persian plot, turned their backs on their assignment, and returned to Armenia with their armies. Having been divided into two sections, the Armenian soldiers were pursued, captured and martyred by the Persian forces. 
The second group, also known as the new Adovmyans, was a special group of young men who were selected for their physical beauty, stature, and ability by Poogha Vostigan and presented as a gift for the Khalif of Baghdad during the 9th century. Poogha thought that they would readily change their faith for such a special 'privilege.' The young men, however, encouraged by one of their number, Adovmn, remained steadfast in their faith. They were martyred one by one In the hope that a few of these men might change their faith since the tortures grew progressively more horrible. In the end, all of the young men, more than 150 souls, were martyred. 


 Andon and Gronites (c. 330)

These two monks were very well known in Caesarea for their pious works. St. Gregory the Illuminator took the monks with him to Armenia and commissioned them to a holy place in the province of Daron named after St. John the Baptist, where they organized and sewed in the newly established monastery. St. Gregory visited them often. After long lives of service to the Lord, they peacefully fell asleep in Him.


 Apkar King (1st century)

There are many traditions connected with King Apkar, both popular and as recorded by church historians. At the time of Christ, there was a great Immigration of Armenians to Edessa; therefore, the possibility of King Apkar being an Armenian, as the tradition states, is a strong one. 
According to tradition, the king was suffering from a very serious skin ailment whereupon he wrote a letter to Christ requesting His aid. Our Lord replied that He would send one of His Apostles and on this occasion sent a cloth with His portrait. After Christ's ascension, St. Thaddeus was sent to King Apkar whom he cured. After his miraculous recovery the king and his family accepted Christianity. He then wrote a number of letters to his cousin King Sanadrook of Armenia and to other kings telling them of his cure and calling upon them to accept Christianity. He died three years after having been converted and baptized. 


 Aristages, Catholicos (333 AD)

St. Aristages, the younger of St. Gregory's two sons, entered the service of the church at an early age and remained celibate. He was ordained bishop by his father in 318 AD and became his aide. In 325, he was sent to Nicaea as the representative of the Armenian Church at the Ecumenical Council and his name is recorded with other great Church Fathers as a representative of Greater Armenia. 
St. Aristages was not only his father's aide but served as his representative when St. Gregory was absent. As related in the Armenian histories of both Movses Khorenatzi and Pavstos Puzant, the saint was martyred, most likely in 3,33 AD by a prince whom he reproached for impious activities. 


 Asdvadzadoor/Makhoj (553 AD)

Makhoj was the chief priest of the monks (pagan priests) assigned to Armenia and was himself the son of a monk and from a priestly family in Tvin. He witnessed the martyrdom of Krikoris Rajig and slowly became drawn towards Christianity. After witnessing a miracle when a conflagration was extinguished by a blessing with a cross, he converted to Christianity. Shortly afterwards, he was imprisoned along with two Armenian priests. During this period he was baptized and received the Holy Orders; he was renamed Asdvadzadoor which means 'gift of God.' Later, during an examination of the prisoners, the two Armenian priests were released; but Makhoj, being a Persian and former high priest, was ordered to return to his old religion. As a result of his firm refusal, he was crucified and shot with an arrow while on the cross. Nerses Catholicos had his body placed near the Cathedral of Tvin and marked his grave with a carved martyrium.


 Atteh (36 AD)

According to holy tradition, St. Atteh was a royal robe maker by trade and the maker of miters to the Edessan court. When the Apostle Thaddeus was preparing to leave the country, he consecrated Atteh a bishop and appointed him as Locum tenens until his return. During the Apostle Thaddeus' absence, King Apkar's son, who ascended to the throne after his father's death, and who reestablished paganism, demanded that the saint make him a mitre. The saint refused, saying that he could not do so for a pagan. Thus, shortly after the refusal and during instruction of the holy faith and before his pupils, Atteh was martyred.


 Daniel, Bishop (348 A.D,)

Bishop Daniel was elevated to the Catholical Throne after the martyrdom of Catholicos Hoosig. Although he was an Assyrian by birth, Daniel had spent many years in Armenia, first as a student of St. Gregory and later helping in the conversion of pagans. When he became Catholicos, he condemned Prince Diran for the martyrdom of his predecessor and for his desire to remove the line of Gregory from the Catholicate. Prince Diran had him strangled in 348 AD only one year after Catholicos Hoosig's martyrdom.


 King Drtad, Queen Ashkhen and Princess Khosrovitookht (c. 330 AD)

King Drtad was sent to Caesarea and then Rome after the assassination of his father and other members of the royal family as described in the entry under St. Gregory the Illuminator. After condemning St. Gregory to the pit and because of his responsibility for the martyrdom of the Hripsimeyan nuns, the King lost his sanity. His wife, Queen Ashkhen - daughter of the King of the Alans, and his sister, Princess Khosrovitookht, had most probably already accepted Christianity through the efforts of the Hripsimeyan nuns and others in the Christian underground in Armenia. It was the Princess who suggested that Gregory be brought out of the pit to cure the king. Upon King Drtad's recovery, he, his wife, and his sister all helped to lay the foundations of the Hripsimeyan martyria. When St. Gregory returned from Caesarea where he was ordained a bishop, the king, his family, and his entire court and army met St. Gregory en route and was baptized in the Euphrates River. 

During the construction of Holy Etchmladzin, the king aided physically, spiritually, and financially. He encouraged St. Gregory in spreading the Gospel throughout Armenia. Queen Ashkhen and the Princess went together to the fortress of Garni to live the remainder of their lives in dedication to the Lord. The King did likewise, retiring to St. Gregory's place of retreat, Mt. Sebouh, where hostile princes who wished to reestablish paganism martyred him. 


 Hoosig, Catholicos (347 AD)

Hoosig was St. Vertanes' younger son who was married (to King Diran's daughter) and ordained Catholicos at a very early age. He had two sons, Bab and Atanakineh. St. Hoosig was valiant in his attacks against royal intervention in ecclesiastical affairs as well as demanding of the royalty in their Christian duties and activities. According to Khorenatzi, a serious dispute arose between King Diran and Hoosig when the former wished to install a picture of Julian the Apostate in the church. Hoosig vehemently objected. He was martyred in 347, most probably by one of the princes whose activities he had publicly condemned.


 Hovhan Otznetzi, Catholicos (John of Otzoon) (c. 728 AD)

Catholicos between 717 and 728 AD, Otznetzi is remembered as one of the most outstanding of the Armenian Church Fathers. Born in the province of Dashratz in the village of Otzoon, he studied with Teotoros Krtenavoree, who was the most celebrated theologian of the time. He received the title of philosopher and was educated in the Hellenic school of thought. He, however, did not bend to Hellenistic politics and during Arab rule in Armenia, endeared himself to the Arab overlords and ushered in a period of tolerance and cooperation. By means of his farsightedness, statesmanship, and piety, he secured some basic and important rights for Armenian Christians such as general religious freedom, the right to worship freely, and exemption from taxes for the church and clergy. He was also able to put a stop to the forced conversion of Christians to Islam. During his second year as Catholicos, he called a Council of Bishops in the city of Tvin where he established thirty-seven canons and organized a collection of the canons of the Armenian Church. These canons were the first such book and it was in time added to and finalized, 
St. John of Otzoon is also remembered for his literary and official battles against the numerous sects, which plagued the church at this time. As a writer, he is remembered for his contributions in the Book of Sharagans as well as his many epistles and essays. Respected for his personality, for being righteous, pious, brave, and humble, in addition to being a great statesman and writer, St. Hovhan Otznetzi was greatly loved by the Armenian people. During his latter years, he retired to a mountain monastery, living under severe conditions, as a monk. Armenian Church writers and historians remember his name and he is revered as a saint by all. 


 Hovhannes Vorodnetzi (John of Vorodn) (1315-1388 AD)

St. Hovhannes was born in the village of Vaghantan within the county of Vorodn during that period of Armenian history when the Unitors were trying strenuously to Latinize the Armenian Church and thereby undermine her national and theological identity. St. John of Vorodn gathered many clergy and encouraged theological study as well as a proper education of the masses in order to safeguard the Armenian Church. He was a member of the monastery of Kailitzor where he served as an instructor and was very beloved of his students. Later, he moved to the monastery of Datev where he continued his teaching and educational pursuits. During this period, he was offered the Archepiscopal See of the Siunik Province but refused in order to continue his work. Extant among his many works are commentaries on the Gospel of John and the Pauline letters; he was also one of the leaders of the Armenian Church in defending her autonomy and the purity of her theology. Most of his life was dedicated to the battle against the Unitors and the preservation of the orthodox faith. He was loved and respected by his many students and followers,


 Hripsimeh, Kayaneh, and Their Companions (c. 265 AD)

Thirty-three nuns under the leadership of Kayaneh escaped to Armenia hoping to find refuge from the Roman Emperor who desired to wed one of them, Hripsimeh, because of her unusual beauty. The Armenian King Drtad, being in contact with Rome, heard of their entry into Armenia and likewise desired Hripsimeh. After many efforts to convince her, the king saw that it was useless and that she would not consent to his desires, nor would she leave her companions, nor the worship of Christ. The king became enraged and had Hripsimeh's tongue cut out first, then her body burned with great torches. Her womb was torn from her body. After all this, she was dismembered. The following day, Gayaneh and her companions were tied to stakes where they were skinned alive. After that, their Intestines were torn from their bodies and finally they were decapitated. 
Upon his delivery from the pit, St. Gregory built chapels over the relics of the holy nuns. Later, during the time of St. Sahag Barter (4th c), these chapels were rebuilt and, during the Catholicate of Gomidas (7th c), two beautiful cathedrals were erected --the Cathedral of St. Hripsimeh being a monument of Armenian architecture. The Catholicos also wrote a beautiful sharagan in their memory, "Antzink Nviryalk." 


 Koharinyank (1156 AD)

The non-Christian overlords of Armenia took Prince David of Sebastia and his eldest son captive. During their captivity, both father and son were forced to convert to Islam, but Prince David's wife and four younger sons, Koharinos, Radigos, Dzamitos, and Doukigos, who had remained behind, practiced their faith openly. When the four young men came of age, they entered military service and soon it was discovered that they were Christians. They were called before their commander and because their father was a follower of Islam, they too were expected to be so. Through the mediation of their older brother, they were spared and returned to their position. Afraid that they had given the impression of changing their faith because of their freedom and safe return, they made no effort to hide their Christianity. Radigos entered the Soorp Nishan monastery. The others worshipped openly in the presence of their children, hoping it would inspire their conversion. Once again they were arrested. This time, however, they were severely tortured and finally beheaded in 1156 AD Koharinos' son, Teotoros, the monk, was very upset about his father's and uncles' martyrdom and made pubic denunciations of the authorities. He was arrested, tortured, and finally beheaded, joining his father and uncles in martyrdom.


 Krikor Datevatzi (Gregory of Datev) (1346-1410 AD)

St. Krikor was born in 1346 in the province of Vaiotz Tzor. He was one of the famous students of Hovhannes Vorodnetzi and while on a pilgrimage with his mentor to Jerusalem in 1373, received the Holy Orders. Later he was to receive from his teacher the degrees of Doctor of the Church (Vartabed) and finally Supreme Doctor of the Church (Dzayrakooyn Vartabed). Like Vorodnetzi, he was well versed in Latin and had studied all the great Greek philosophers. In that style, he wrote the famous "Kirk Hartzmantz" (Book of Questions), a work of practical theology, and two collections of sermons, the style and depth of which set a new standard for Armenian preaching. Although Krikor spent most of his life in the Monastery of Datev, he did travel to other monasteries where he taught and gathered students. Men marveled at his genius and clarity of thought and wherever he went students and admirers followed him. He increased the number of students and novices in each monastery that he visited. St. Krikor added the granting of the doctoral staff to celibate priests and the prayers for the granting of the Veghar (hood) as well as the degree of Supreme Doctor of the Church to the Book of Ritual (Mashdotz). A great defender of the faith, intellectual, spiritual leader, wonderful preacher, and pious and humble believer, St. Gregory of Datev is often called the "Second Gregory the Illuminator."


 Krikor Loosavorich (Gregory the Illuminator), (326 AD) - Father and Patron Saint of the Armenian Church 

There is a wealth of tradition connected with St. Gregory; however, we shall only present a brief summary of his life and works. 

Krikor was the son of Anak, brother to the Armenian king, who during the Perso-Byzantine struggle for control of Armenia was responsible for the assassination of his brother and the royal family, except for the young prince Drtad and his sister, Khosrovitookht. Anak and his family were killed in return, with the exception of his son Krikor who was secretly taken to Caesarea in Cappadocia (some say the city of Sebastia). 

The young King Drtad was sent to Rome for his formal education where he became very renowned for his extraordinary strength and valor. Passing through Caesarea on his return to Armenia to claim his throne, King Drtad took with him from Caesarea a young scribe named Krikor. When the king later found that Gregory was a Christian and that he had refused to worship the gods and goddesses of the court, Drtad then had Gregory punished and thrown into a deep pit (Khor virab). Later, Gregory's true identity was discovered and he had to spend fourteen years in the pit (his imprisonment and delivery from the pit are celebrated feast days of the Church). According to some church historians, he was sustained through heavenly intervention; according to others, through the aid of the king's sister who was a devout Christian. 

During Gregory's imprisonment, the king martyred the Hripsimeyan nuns, an act so brutal that it caused him to lose his sanity. Through the intervention of the kingís sister, Gregory was called from the pit in order to cure the king whom no one dared approach. With his saintly power, Gregory cured the king and converted him to Christianity. Upon. The king's recovery, the whole of the royal court was baptized and Christianity was declared the national religion in the year 301 AD; thus Armenia was the first Christian nation (according to some historians, 287 AD). 

After the great conversion, Gregory was ordained bishop and then Catholicos, becoming the first Catholicos of the Armenian Church. He called from hiding the bishops and priests of the Armenian Church who had suffered much persecution. He started to preach throughout Armenia, putting aside paganism and spreading the holy light of Christianity. He built churches over the relics of the Hripsimeyan nuns and while in the province of Vaspouragan, had a vision that the Only Begotten (Etchmiadzin) had descended with a golden hammer, showing him where to build His great cathedral. In the year 303 AD, St. Gregory built Holy Etchmladzin which is the Mother Cathedral of the Armenian Church to this day. He established the first canon laws and wrote many prayers and put order to many of the church services. 

His two sons, Aristakes and Vertanes, were also ordained bishops and in his ripe old age, St. Krikor retired for his final years to the mountains where he died. Shepherds found his mortal remains and he was then buried with great ceremony as the father of the Armenian Church, its greatest saint and patron. 

It is believed that the great Illuminator was born in 256 AD, ordained 302 AD and died 326 AD Aside from the aforementioned feasts, the Church also celebrates the discovery of his relics. 


 Krikor Naregatzi Vartabed (Gregory of Nareg) (950-1010 AD)

Born in the city of Nareg, he received his education under the guidance of his father, Bishop Khosrov (Antzevatzi, author of the earliest commentary on the Divine Liturgy) and from Anania Vartabed, Abbot of Nareg Monastery. At an early age, he and his two brothers entered the monastic life. Naregatzi launched his writings with a commentary on the Song of Songs, which was commissioned by an Armenian prince. Krikor felt he was too young for this assignment, yet he wrote this commentary which is famous for its clarity of thought and language as well as excellence of theological presentation. He wrote a number of famous letters, sharagans, treasures, odes, melodies and a wealth of church writings but his masterpiece is his Book of Lamentations called Nareg in which his universal genius is displayed. (Nareg has been translated into at least thirty languages.) St. Krikor Naregatzi is considered the greatest poet of the Armenian nation and the first and greatest. Mystic. His style and command of the Armenian language cannot be excelled and his saintly person has been an inspiration to the Armenian faithful for centuries. Numerous miracles and traditions have been attributed to the saint and perhaps that is why he is referred to as "the watchful angel in human form."


 Krikoris, Bishop (Gregoris) (c. 345 AD)

Bishop Krikoris, the eldest son of St. Vertanes, was responsible for spreading Christianity to Armenia's two sister countries in the Caucasus: Georgia and Caucasian Albania, where he was also martyred. St. Gregoris Church was built over his remains in 489.


 Krikoris Rajig (Gregoris Rajig) (549 AD)

A Persian by birth from the Rajig family, Krikoris was originally named Manjihr. At a very young age, he moved to Armenia and adopted the Christian faith and his new name. Krikoris entered a monastery near Tvin and was so renowned for his piety and strong faith that the monastery was eventually named Rajig Manjihr. When the Persian Marspan Tenshabouh started his reign over Armenia,' he spent much time and effort spreading the Persian religion and was particularly concerned with Krikoris. Finally, he ordered Krikoris to return to Persia. Krikoris refused whereupon he was tortured and finally beheaded.


 The Levontian Fathers: 

Catholicos Hovsep; Bishops Sahag and Tatig; Priests Levontlus (Ghevont), Mousheh, Arshen, Manuel, Abraham, Khoren; Deacons Kachach and Abraham (454 AD) 

After the Vartanantz Battle, the above saints were abducted by the Persian King and placed in custody. During a later battle, the Persians suffered a great loss and under the evil influence of the pagan priests, their losses were attributed to the fact that the Armenian priests had not been punished. Some were taken separately and the remainder in-groups, tortured mercilessly and then martyred. Historians have recorded the martyrdom of each of the saints. St. Ghevont (Levontius) the Elder serves as a particular inspiration as he was influential in the battle of Vartanantz. These saints are especially loved and honored by the Armenian people in that they were martyred for their strength of faith and love for their nation. 


 Mesrob the Vartabed (known as Mashdotz) (438 AD)

St. Mesrob was born in the village of Hatzegatz in the province of Daron. In his early years, he learned both Greek and Persian and served in the Armenian Royal Court. Later, he decided to enter the ranks of the clergy and with some other young men, he went to preach in the province of Koghtn around 395 AD During this period he felt the great need of the Armenian people for an alphabet of their own so he petitioned the Catholicos Sahag and together they requested the aid of King Vramshabouh. 

After much research and many travels, Mesrob was able to come up with the skeleton of an alphabet. However, it did not meet the needs of the Armenian language. According to tradition, while meditating in a cave near the village of Palu, the saint had a vision in which, "the hand of God wrote the alphabet in letters of fire." Upon his return to the Catholicos and king, the saint was received with great honors and much joy. 

Immediately after the discovery of the alphabet, the Holy Translators worked to translate the Bible and the first words in the Armenian language were from the Book of Proverbs, "To know wisdom and Instruction; to perceive the words of understanding." They also opened schools to teach the newly discovered alphabet, among whose students were the famous translators Yeghisheh, Movses, Tavit and Saint Vartan. 

After the discovery of the alphabet, St. Mesrob spent many years translating and writing literary and ecclesiastical works. He went to many provinces where paganism still existed and preached the word of God in the people's own language, with the light of the Holy Gospels. During this period, he was invited to Georgia and Caucasian Albania where he likewise invented alphabets to suit their languages. His life's works have been recorded by one of his famous students, Goriun, in his book, The Life of Mashdotz. St. Mesrob was buried in Oshagan in the province of Vaspouragan where a beautiful cathedral has been built in his honor and where one may go and pay homage at the saints tomb to the present. 

The book of ritual used in the Armenian Church bears the name 'Mashdotz' and is dedicated to this great saint. Although it had been compiled at a later date, it was based on a sacramental anthology attributed to Mashdotz. 

St. Mesrob gave the Armenian people the most precious of gifts and continues to serve as an inspiration to all generations. Beloved by all, St. Mesrob is a special inspiration to Armenian writers and poets. 


 Nerses the Great, Catholicos (373 A, D.)

St. Hoosig had two sons, Bab and Atanakineh, who did not pursue the clergical life. Nerses was the son of Atanakineh and from a very early age, displayed his love and abilities for religious and national life. After a period of administration by two Catholicoi who were not very distinguished in their works, the nation once again sought its spiritual leader from the line of St. Gregory. At that time, Nerses was still a layman and serving in the court. Because of his humble nature, Nerses had to be persuaded to accept the Holy Orders. According to tradition, at his ordination as bishop by Bishop Basil of Caesarea, "the Holy Spirit descended upon the two in the form of a dove" and later during the first Divine Liturgy, "a pillar of fire appeared 

And his face was illuminated like Moses." One of the greatest of Nerses' accomplishments was the Council of Ashdishad (364-65 AD), where the canons were drawn up concerning the sanctity of family life, Improvement of social conditions, the establishment of Institutions such as hospitals and inns for pilgrims and the like, and the establishment of monasteries and convents. It is for this reason that he is also known as St. Nerses the Builder. Partly because of the Perso-Byzantine struggles, and partly due to his strength of character in criticizing the audacity of the princes, St. Nerses was not a favorite of the court. 

St. Nerses is noted for his many benevolent and spiritual works. He Is remembered as one of the initiators of the national revival and of the new impetus to the religious life, which was to reach fulfillment In the Golden Age of Armenian Literature. A grateful and loving nation surnamed the saint 'Great.' 


 Nerses Shnorhali (Nerses the Graceful), Catholicos (1102-1173)

St. Nerses was born in 1102, his father being Prince Abirad and his grandfather, the great church writer, Krikor Makisdros. He studied under Stepanos Vartabed in Garmir (Red) Monastery and was ordained at 18 years of age by his brother, Catholicos Krikor III Balavouni in the City of Hromgla. By the age of thirty, he was consecrated a bishop. He served as the personal aide and right hand man to his brother, the Catholicos, whom he succeeded in 1166. 

Merely to list all St. Nerses' works would be a tedious task. He is most famous for his 'General Epistle' which was directed to the Armenian people, eloquently guiding them in their faith, for his many letters, orations, poems, such as "Lament for Edessa," a moving masterpiece on the destruction of that city, commentaries and ecclesiastical studies. A great musician as well as writer and poet, St. Nerses enriched the Book of Hours with many songs and the Book of Sharagans with a wealth of sacred hymns, adding almost a third to their number. His book, Jesus, Son is used by devout Armenians and is second only to Nareg. St. Nerses was an ecumenist as well as an astute theologian and beloved leader. The title 'graceful' was previously an educational rank but Nerses added a new dimension to that title and is remembered for his loving nature and paternal care of his flock, the members of the Armenian Church. Along with St. Gregory of Nareg, he is a pillar of Armenian literature, especially of the Silver Age. St. Nerses is perhaps the most beloved of all Armenian saints and is respected not only nationally but also universally. His final resting-place has been a place of pilgrimage for all Christians without distinction who referred to him as "Lord Nerses." The following are a few lines from his most famous church songs. 
Aravod Looso--From the Morning Service, a song written with each stanza following the alphabetical order of the Armenian alphabet and dedicated to the Holy Trinity, a few stanzas must suffice here:

Thou morn of light, 
Sun of Righteousness 
Shine unto my soul, 
Thou from the Father flowing, 
Let flow from my soul 
Words, pleasing to Thee. 
Unity Triune, 
Keeper of all Things, 
Have mercy on me; 
Arise, Lord, and help; 
Rouse me from slumbering, 
With angels to wake. 
Thy name, Christ, is Love; 
Make soft with Thy love 
This my heart of stone; 
By Thine own pity, 
By Thine own mercy, 
Make me live again. 
NorasdeghzyaI--This hymn is dedicated to the Resurrection of our Lord. First and last stanzas:
God the Word from naught created. In the beginning the heaven of heavens, 
And the heavenly hosts incorporeal of angelic beings rational 
The four elements also of sense, each other repelling and attracting 
By which forever is glorified the ineffable Holy Trinity. 
Ye sons of Zion, haste and rise, tidings of light the Bride to bring, 
Saying to her, thy Bridegroom risen hath conquered death with power divine, 
And comes with glory thee to crown, meet thou Him in thine adornments. 
Sing a new song to Him who rose, 
First fruits of life of them that sleep.

 Nooneh and Maneh, Nuns (c. 320 AD)

Both of these saints entered Armenia with Hripsimeh and her companions. Nooneh then proceeded to Georgia where she was successful in converting the Georgian queen and her son and finally King Mihran. She received spiritual guidance and support from St. Gregory who had given her certain ecclesiastical authority until he could send clergy to Georgia. She is noted for her holy works and saintly life. 

Maneh, like Nooneh, came with the Hripsimeyan nuns. She had a vision and retired to a life of prayer, meditation, and solitude in the Armenian Mountains. Many years later, when St, Gregory passed the nun's place of retreat, he called to her; but she requested that he wait three days. After the three days had passed, St. Gregory found that the nun Maneh had passed away. He buried her with prayers and blessings and stayed in that place until his death. 


 Sahag Bartev, Catholicos (437 AD)

St. Sahag was the son of St. Nerses the Great and received his primary and higher education in Caesarea and Byzantium. He married and had one daughter, Sahaganoosh who married into the Mamigonlan family and was the mother of Vartan, Hmayak, and Hamazasbyan. St. Sahag was elevated to the Catholical throne in 387 AD This period was one of the most tragic in Armenian history in that in 390 AD Armenia was divided between Persia and Byzantlum. St. Sahag witnessed the coming and going of many kings and the political situation of Armenia deteriorated into that of being a Persian province. He was not popular with the Armenian princes because he would not aid them in their acts against the monarchy, and blamed them for its fall. Prior to this period, he had worked with the peace-loving and farsighted King Vramshabooh during whose reign the Armenian alphabet was invented. Because of the political situation, St. Sahag was replaced as Catholicos by two Assyrlan bishops successively. Their terms were very short because of the animosities they caused by being pro-Persian and foreign to the Armenian people. Although the Assyrian bishops had the political power, the populace as a spiritual leader respected St. Sahag, 

Aside from his strong leadership in the dark hours of Armenian history, St. Sahag is also remembered for his literary works; he was the guiding force of the Golden Age. It was he who encouraged St. Mesrob in his works. After the discovery of the alphabet, St. Sahag set to work on the first translation of the Holy Bible. He established schools and improved upon those already existing. He formulated the first books of ritual and translated the works of the Holy Fathers into Armenian. He wrote a number of canons, hymns, and prayers and is recognized as one of the founders of Armenian ecclesiastical and national literature. His fruitful life ended in 437 AD at the ripe old age of 89. With the death of St. Sahag, the line of St. Gregory the Illuminator was also ended. St. Sahag is remembered as one of the greatest saints of the Armenian Church. His work, together with St. Mesrob and King Vramshabouh, granted the Armenian nation the key necessary for its survival, the establishment of Armenian literature. He ushered in the Golden Age, and was responsible for Armenia becoming ecclesiastically and nationally autonomous, giving it the strength to withstand centuries of political division and subservience. 


 Sahag and Hamazasp Ardzroonik (786 AD)

During the Arab rule in Armenia, these two brothers with a number of other Armenian nobles were responsible for a minor revolution. When they were finally captured, they were given the choice between changing their religion or death. They refused to convert to Islam so the Arab overlord, in his impassioned anger, had them severely tortured and finally beheaded in 786 AD Then he had their bodies hung and finally burned with the ashes spread into the wind so that no relics would remain from their martyred bodies.


 Sahag and Hovsep Gametzik (808 AD)

Sahag and Hovsep were the sons of a Muslim father and an Armenian mother. Their father not only permitted his wife to remain Christian but also allowed her to raise her children as Christians. Pressured by the Muslim overlords to convert, they resisted and were tortured and martyred in the city of Gadn because of their refusal to accept Islam.


 Santookht, Virgin Princess (1st Century)

Daughter of King Sanadrook, the Princess Santookht was converted to Christianity by the Apostle Thaddeus. When the king heard of her conversion, he tried every means possible that she might forego Christianity and return to paganism. Exhausting all possible means of persuasion, the king finally offered his daughter a choice between the crown and a sword; between martyrdom for Christ and the regal coronet. Remaining steadfast in her faith, she chose the sword, thereby becoming the first saint of the Armenian Church. She is also remembered as the first witness for Christianity in Armenia as well as an apostle In that she, while learning from the Apostle Thaddeus, was Instrumental in the conversion of many others. 

The Apostle Thaddeus, who was martyred by decapitation at the hand of the same king a few days later, had secretly buried her remains. Both the apostle's and the first saint's relics were discovered by means of a divine vision near the field of Shavarshan by a monk name Giregos, at some time in the 4th or early 5th century. 


 The Seven Witnesses Called Vegetarians (604 AD)

These seven young men came together near the end of the sixth century from both the Persian and Greek parts of Armenia to live as hermits in the surroundings of the Monastery of Klag. They retired to a nearby cave and used only wild roots, berries, and other types of plant for nourishment. 

When the Persian troops marched through Armenia in pursuit of the Byzantines, Armenian Christians suffered the same fate as the Christian Greeks. Boghigarbos, the leader of the seven witnesses, suggested to the abbot of the monastery that he and his companions remain to protect the monastery and the monks should go for help and protection. When the Persian troops passed through, all seven of the witnesses were decapitated. Upon the return of the abbot and monks, they found the bodies of the saints and buried them. With Boghigarbos as their leader, the names of the seven are Teovnas, Simeon, Hovhannes, Yebipan, Timarios, and Nargesos. 


 Shooshan (470 AD)

St. Shooshan, whose baptismal name was Varteni, was the daughter of St. Vartan. She received her early education from St. Sahag and her saintly mother, Sahaganoosh. Her father's martyrdom was a powerful impetus to her own piety and grace. When of age, she was married to Vazken, the son of the Georglan King, to whom she bore three sons and one daughter. Before the death of her father-in-law, Shooshan lived a very happy and peaceful life; but upon his death, events took a drastic change. Vazken became power-hungry and, after being called to Persia, returned to Georgia, having renounced his faith and brought with him another wife. Shooshan was appalled by what he had done and sought sanctuary in the church. Vazken was determined that she also changes her faith and proceeded to persecute her mercilessly. He insulted her father's memory and had her chained in prison where she was subjected for more than seven years to all kinds of torture, especially at the hands of wizards who tried devious methods to have her renounce her faith; he forced her children to apostatize, which was perhaps the most heinous blow. Even after her death, It took the pleas of the high-ranking clergy as well as the king's brother and other relatives to have her buried properly. The king's wish was to have her dismembered and her memory erased for all time.


 The Sookiasians (130 AD)

The Sookiasians were members of the Royal Court converted and baptized by the Vosgeyan priests, after whose deaths they retired to the mountains as hermits. 

After a number of years, the Caucasian Albanian king called them back to could but they refused. The king, having been angered by their refusal to return to court and worship the pagan gods had the Sookiasians impaled and burned to death. Two of the younger saints were not apprehended but died later in their mountains retreat and were buried by shepherds. The date of the martyrdom of the Sookiasian saints is about 130 AD 


 Stepanos Oolnetzi (Steven of Oolnia) and His Companions (c. 450 AD)

During a period of severe persecution in Armenia Minor, Stepanos, his parents, a group of nuns, and other companions escaped to the mountains; Stepanos' father died on the way. Here they remained successfully hidden for three months until one of the local shepherds betrayed them. They were called before the judge and professed their faith and willingness to die rather than give up their Christian faith. Stepanos and his companions were subjected to horrible tortures, while his mother was stabbed through the heart, and the nuns were beheaded. After the saints were tortured beyond endurance, they were beheaded. Hundreds of pagans who witnessed their martyrdom were Inspired to convert to Christianity; their executioners converted as well. The converts gathered up the relics of the saints and took them to the city of Oolnia.


 Tatool, Varos, and Toomas (5th Century)

Tatool and Varos were brothers who decided to retreat to the mountains of Armenia to live as hermits in order to strengthen their faith. They had been witnesses of the deportation of the Armenian clergy and exile of the Armenian nobility during the Vartanantz Battle. Being students of Saints Sahag and Mesrob, they also worked during and after the Vartanantz Battle to reject the monks of Persia and fire worship in general. After remaining in the mountains together for a number of years where they lived a more severe life and ate wild berries and roots for nourishment, they parted to live separately. Tatool became famous with the mountain people .for his piety and, before long, many students gathered around him. He established a monastery in which Toomas became his most outstanding pupil, endeared to all because of his piety, Intelligence, and good nature. As Tatool preferred the life of a hermit to that of abbot of a monastery, he turned his monastery over to Toomas and returned to the mountains. All three saints lived to an old age and monasteries were constructed over their places of rest. 


 Tavit Tvinetzi (David of Tvin) (701 AD)

Born Sourban of a Persian father and a Christian mother, he entered military service of the Arab overlords at a very young age and was assigned to Armenia, where he served side by side with the Armenian prince Krikor Mamigonian. He accepted the Christian faith and was baptized by Catholicos Nerses the Builder and renamed Tavit. He lived many years in peace and made his home near the Armenian capital, Tvin. When Abdulla Vostigan became overlord of Armenia, he started a series of persecutions against the Christians. Tavit, a former follower of Islam, was among the first to be arrested. When he refused to change his religion, he was crucified and speared upon the cross, when he was sixty years of age. His body was buried near the Mother Chumh of Tvin and the cross and spear used to martyr him were kept in the church.


 Vahan Koghtnatzi (Vahan of Koghtn) (737 AD)

As a young child, Vahan was taken into custody with many other children of Armenian nobility who had been killed. He was moved to Damascus where he received his education and, like the other children, Islamic training. He was well liked by the Arab leaders and attained a high position in the court. While sewing in court, the Arab overlords granted the captured Armenian children, who had grown to adulthood, the right to return home. Vahan promised his overlord he'd come back but after returning to Armenia, his overlord died and Vahan felt he was released from his promise. 
Vahan married and established himself over the lands of his father who was killed prior to his captivity. The Arab overlords, however, demanded Vahan's return and started to pursue him. He fled from one place to another over a number of years, leaving his family and home. At each place he went, the populace became endangered because of his presence so he finally decided to surrender himself, explain his desire to remain in Armenia and practice his own religion. The Vostigan governing Armenia had him immediately thrown into prison and after many different kinds of torture, he was finally beheaded. His life and martyrdom were recorded and according to some traditions, his sister wrote the melody and lyric of the sharagan dedicated to this saint. 


 Vartanank: St. Vartan and 1036 Martyrs (451 AD)

In 451 AD the Persians waged war against the Armenian princes after a series of attempts to force the Armenians to follow Mazdaism. For a number of decades, this confrontation had been looming and with the refusal of the Armenian princes to conceal, it was brought to a peak. Under the leadership of St. Vartan Mamigonian, the princes fought with their armies against the might of the Persian Empire. Armenia's terrain was to the advantage of her brave sons but the vast numbers of the Persians brought victory to their side (60,000 Armenians against 200,000 Persians excluding the armored elephant brigade). 

This battle, known as the Battle of Avarayr (the field where it was fought) is the first recorded battle in defense of Christianity. As the historian Yeghisheh states, the Armenians fought "for the freedom of religion and for the Fatherland." The battle became a spiritual victory for the Armenian nation in that the Persian kings henceforth recognized the Armenian claims for freedom of worship. St. Vartan and the 1036 martyrs are held in special respect by the Armenian people who have continued for centuries to hold fast to their Christian faith and to their national identity. 

The following is pad of the response of the Armenian princes to the Persian King, which has served as an Inspiration to Armenians for centuries. 

"From this faith, no one can shake us, neither angels nor men; neither sword, nor fire, nor water, nor any, nor all other horrid tortures. All our goods and possessions are in your hands, our bodies are before you; dispose of them, as you will. If you leave us to our belief, we will, here on earth, choose no other master in your place, and in heaven choose no other God in place of Jesus Christ, for there is no other God. But should you require anything beyond this great testimony, here we are; our bodies are in your hands; do with them as you please. Tortures from you, submission from us; the sword is yours, the neck ours. We are no better than our forefathers who, for the sake of this faith, surrendered their goods, their possessions, and their bodies. Were we even immortal, it would become us to die for the love of Christ; for He Himself was immortal and so loved us that He took death on Himself that we, by His death, might be freed from eternal death. And since He did not spare His immortality, we, who became mortal of our own will, will die for His love willingly, so that He may make us participants in His immortality. We shall die as mortals that He accepts our death as that of immortals. Do not therefore interrogate us further concerning all this because our bond of faith is not with men to be deceived like children but with God to whom we are indissolubly bound and from whom nothing can detach and separate us, neither now, nor later, nor forever, nor forever and ever." 

The historian Yeghisheh then adds: 

"The entire multitude, from the highest to the lowest, assented to this declaration of faith. They bound themselves by an inviolable vow to remain true to their confession in life and in death." 

This confession has served as a supreme example of the faith, which has sustained the Armenian nation for more than fifteen hundred years through persecution, massacre, and finally attempted genocide. Until today, you may hear Armenian children In every part of the world reciting a treasured poem: "I am Armenian, Armenian; I am the grandchild of Brave Vartan." 


 Vertanes, Catholicos (341 AD)

St. Vertanes was the eider of St. Gregory's sons and followed his brother to the Catholical Throne in 333 AD St. Vedanes had two sons, Krikoris and Hoosig. He is noted for his works in spreading Christianity to those provinces where paganism still prevailed, particularly in the province of Daron. He is also known as the founder of the idea of a national church.


 The Vosgeyan Priests (107 AD)

According to tradition, the Armenian King Sanadrook sent these five leaders to Rome as ambassadors. On their way they met the Apostle Thaddeus who converted and baptized them. Their leader, Vosgi, whose name they bear, led them to the mountains in one of the eastern provinces; there they lived as hermits for over forty years whereupon they started to preach to the Royal Court. There, they converted Queen Satenig's relatives who were Caucasian Albanians and called the Sookiasians. The Vosgeyan priests were martyred by Prince Ardavast in 107 AD


 Yeghisheh, Movses, and Tavit The Holy Translators (5th century)

Yeghisheh was one of the most renowned of the students of St. Sahag and St. Mesrob and, according to tradition, served as secretary to St. Vartan. He wrote the great history of the Battle of Vartanantz in which he also included a section about the Council of Ardashad. He was author of many books and wrote commentaries on some of the books of the Old Testament. After the Battle of Vartanantz, he retired to the mountains. After returning for a time to civilization, he once again retreated to the mountains of the province of Mogk where he lived a virtuous life. Later when the local peasants learned of his saintly ways, he moved to the mountains of the Rushdouni province, where he passed away.

Movses of Khoren, known as the father of Armenian history, was also one of the more important students of St. Sahag and St. Mesrob. He is noted for his abilities in philosophy as well as being a great spiritual leader and pious in nature. He possessed a genius, which was soon realized, and he was commissioned to write a history of Armenia. Later he also wrote a number of very important works among which are histories, poems, hymns, orations, and chants. He was ordained bishop but in a later period, he met opposition as a student of the great translators and was martyred.
 

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. Tavit the Invincible, was a student of Movses and received his higher education in centers outside Armenia, particularly in Athens where he received the title of Invincible because of his genius in philosophy. He translated the works of Plato and Aristotle and is also noted for a number of commentaries and ecclesiastical writings. Like Movses, he was subject to persecution. Tavit, like Movses and Yeghisheh, is remembered as one of the Great Translators and intellectuals of the late 5th century who, with pure faith and genius crowned the Golden Age of Armenian literature and church history. 

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