The Saints (-350AD)

Atteh (36 AD)

According to holy tradition, St. Atteh was a royal robe maker by trade and the maker
of crowns 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 crown. 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.

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 centur

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.

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.

The Sookiasians (130

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 court, 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.

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 became a monument of Armenian architecture.
The Catholicos also wrote a beautiful sharagan in their memory, “Antzink Nviryalk.”

Saint Kevork (George 303 AD)

Kevork or George was a soldier in the army of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, and
one of the Emperors favorite soldiers. Diocletian was a pagan and a bitter enemy
of the Christians. He put to death every Christian he could find. Kevork was a brave
Christian, a real soldier of Christ. Without fear he went to the Emperor and sternly
scolded him for being so cruel. Then he gave up his position in the Roman army.
For this he was tortured in many terrible ways and finally beheaded.

Pictures of St. Kevork usually show him killing a dragon to rescue a lady. The dragon
stands for the devil and the lady stands for Gods holy truth. St. Kevork represents
the martyr who defeats the devil.

Saint Sarkis
and his son Mardiros 304

Sarkis and Mardiros were born in Cappadocia. When Emperor Diocletian
began persecuting the Christians throughout his empire, Sarkis and Mardiros escaped
to Armenia. From there they passed into Persia where Sarkis became a commander in
the Persian army. Sarkis, as a good Christian, began proclaiming the Christian faith.
The Persian king wanted to put Sarkis fidelity to the test. He invited Sarkis and
his son Mardiros to the palace. The king invited Sarkis to adore the god of the
Persians, the sun. Sarkis sharply refused the invitation and proclaimed that he
was a Christian. The furious Persians immediately put Mardiros to death and conducted
Sarkis outside the city where he was beheaded.

In the 5th century St. Mesrob Mashtotz brought some relics of St Sarkis
to Armenia. St. Sarkis is a very popular saint in the Armenian Church. Pictures
of St. Sarkis usually show him killing a dragon. The dragon stands for evil.

Saint Blasius
( Sourp VLAS) 316

Saint Blasius was Bishop of Sebaste in Armenia and most of the
accounts place his martyrdom in the reign of Licinius (about 316). According to
the legend Blasius was a physician at Sebaste before he was raised to the Episcopal
see. At the time of the persecution under Licinius he was taken prisoner at the
command of the governor, Agricolaus. The hunters of the governor found him in a
cave to which he had retired and while in prison he performed a wonderful cure of
a boy who had a fishbone in his throat and who was in danger of choking to death.
After suffering various forms of torture St. Blasius was beheaded.

The veneration of the Armenian saint was brought at an early date into Europe. So that Blasius became one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages. The actual
reason for the unusual veneration has not yet been made clear. Most probably one
ground was that according to the legend he was a physician and wonderful cures were
ascribed to him; for this reason the faithful sought his help and intercession when
ill. Numberless churches and altars were dedicated to him (an Armenian church in
Via Giulia in Rome, St. Blasius is the patron saint of Dubrovnic, Croatia,
there are churches dedicated to the saint in Taranto, in Ragusa, and the Abbey of
St. Blasius in the Black forest etc).

In many places on the day of this feast the blessing of St. Blasius is given: two
candles are consecrated. These are then held in a crossed position by a priest over
the heads of the faithful or the people are touched on the throat with them. In
other places oil is consecrated in which the wick of a small candle is dipped and
the throats of those presents are touched with the wick. At the same time the following
blessing is given: May God at the intercession of St. Blasius preserve you from
throat troubles and every other evil.

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.

Krikor Loosavorich,
(326 AD) – Father and Patron Saint of the Armenian Church

Although there is a wealth of tradition connected with St. Gregory,
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
king’s 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 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

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.

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.

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.

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 333 AD by
a prince whom he reproached for impious activities.

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.

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.

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.

Daniel, Bishop (348

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.


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