The Saints (701-1000 AD)

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.

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.

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.

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.

Gregory of Narek (947-1003 AD)

One
of the greatest Saints of the Armenian Church, Gregory of Nareg, was a theologian,
a poet and musician at the same time. He embraced early the monastic life but he
followed closely the religious issues of his time. At the end of his life, circa 1003,
Gregory of Narek wrote his masterpiece, the “Book of Prayers”, which will forever remain one
of the most appreciated books of prayer of the Armenian people, and
considered universally as an exceptional devotional work of religious literature
for the deepness of its thought and its poetic inspiration. It has been partially and totally
translated in several languages.

 

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