Gregory the Illuminator: Wikis


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Saint Gregory the Illuminator
Գրիգոր Լուսաւորիչ
Γρηγόριος Φωστήρ
Born circa 257
Died circa 331
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Armenian Apostolic Church
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Oriental Orthodox Churches
Eastern Catholic Churches
Anglican Churches
Feast Armenian Christian June 9; Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic, September 30
Patronage Armenia
St. Gregory the Illuminator Patriarch of Armenia (Catholicos of All Armenians)
Church Armenian Apostolic Church
Enthroned 302
Reign ended 325
Predecessor St. Merozanes
Successor St. Aristaces I
Personal details
Born 257
Died 331

Saint Gregory the Illuminator or Saint Gregory the Enlightener (Armenian: Գրիգոր Լուսաւորիչ translit. Grigor Lusavorich, Greek: Γρηγόριος Φωστήρ or Φωτιστής, Gregorios Phoster or Photistes) (c. 257 – c. 331) is the patron saint and first official head of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He was a religious leader who is credited with converting Armenia from paganism to Christianity, Armenia thus being the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 C.E.



Gregory's father Anak, a Parthian, was charged with assassinating Khosrov I, one of the kings of the Arshakouni line, and was put to death. Gregory's mother was named Okohe. Gregory narrowly escaped execution with the help of Sopia and Yevtagh, his caretakers. Gregory was taken to Caesarea (present-day Kayseri) in Cappadocia where Sopia and Yevtagh hoped to raise him.

Gregory was given to the Christian Holy Father Phirmilianos (Euthalius) to be educated and was brought up as a devout Christian. He went on to marry Mariam, also a devout Christian; they had two sons, the younger of whom, Aristaces (Aristakes), succeeded his father.

At that time Tiridates III (Trdat the Great), a son of King Khosrov II, reigned. Influenced partly by the fact that Gregory was the son of his father's enemy, he ordered Gregory imprisoned for twelve (some sources indicate fourteen) years in a pit on the Ararat Plain under the present day church of Khor Virap located near the historical city Artashat in Armenia.

Gregory was eventually called forth from his pit in 297 to restore to sanity Tiridates III (a.k.a. Trdat), who had lost all reason after he was betrayed by Diocletian.

Diocletian invaded and vast amount of territory from western provinces of Greater Armenia became "protectorates" of Rome.

Declaration of Christianity in Armenia

In 301 Gregory baptized Trdat (now known as Trdat the Great) along with members of the royal court and upper class as Christians. Trdat issued a decree by which he granted Gregory full rights to begin carrying out the conversion of the entire nation to the Christian faith. The same year Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion.

The newly built cathedral, the Mother Church in Echmiadzin became and remains the spiritual and cultural center of Armenian Christianity and center of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Most Armenians were baptized in Aratsani (upper Euphrates) and Yeraskh (Arax) rivers.

Many of the pre-Christian, traditional Indo-European, festivals and celebrations such as Tyarndarach (Trndez - associated with fire worship) and Vartavar (Vadarvar - associated with water worship), that dated back to thousands of years were preserved and continued in the form of Christian celebrations and chants.

In 302, Gregory received consecration as Patriarch of Armenia from Leontius of Caesarea, his childhood friend.

Retirement and Death

In A.D. 318, St. Gregory appointed his son Aristaces (Aristakes) as the next Catholicos in line of Armenia's Holy Apostolic Church to stabilize and continue strengthening Christianity not only in Armenia, but also in the Caucasus and Anatolia.

Gregory also placed and instructed his grandson Grigoris (Aristakes' son) in charge of the holy missions to the peoples and tribes of all of the Caucasus and Caucasian Albania. Grigoris was martyred by a fanatical mob, while preaching in Albania.

In his later years, Gregory withdrew to a small sanctuary near Mount Sebuh (Mt. Sepuh) in the Daranalia province (Manyats Ayr, Upper Armenia) with a small convent of monks, where he remained until his death.


After his death his corpse was removed to the village of Thodanum (T'ordan - modern Doğanköy, near Erzincan). His remains were scattered far and near in the reign of Zeno.

His head is believed to be now in Italy, his left hand at Echmiadzin in Armenia, and his right at the Holy See of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon.

In the eighth century, the iconoclast decrees in Greece caused a number of religious orders to flee the Byzantine Empire and seek refuge elsewhere.

San Gregorio Armeno in Naples was built in that century over the remains of a Roman temple dedicated to Ceres, by a group of nuns escaping from the Byzantine Empire with the relics of Gregory the Illuminator.

A number of prayers, and about thirty of the canons of the Armenian Church are ascribed to Gregory the Illuminator. The homilies appeared for the first time in a work called Haschacnapadum at Constantinople in 1737; a century afterwards a Greek translation was published at Venice by the Mekhiterists; and they have since been edited in German by J. M. Schmid (Ratisbon, 1872). The original authorities for Gregory's life are Agathangelos, whose History of Tiridates was published by the Mekhitarists in 1835; Moses of Chorene, Historiae Armenicae; and Simeon Metaphrastes.

A Life of Gregory by the Vartabed Matthew was published in the Armenian language at Venice in 1749[citation needed] and was translated into English by the Rev. Father Malan (1868).

The Armenian Apostolic Church became extremely rich, besides the old temples which the church had confiscated, it was granted large tracts of land. The Armenian Church became the owner of approximately 10,000 farms and the clergy exploited these exactly as did the other Armenian princes. During wartime the church was obliged to assist the king with soldiers as well as taxes. It is on record that the church, if necessary, was obliged to provide the king with 5,000 cavalry and 4,000 infantry soldiers.


See also

External links


  1. ^ Tigranes the Great illustration in 1898 book «Illustrated Armenia and Armenians» [1]
Preceded by
New creation
Catholicoi of the Holy See of St. Echmiadzin and All Armenians
Succeeded by
St. Aristaces I

Simple English

Saint Gregory the Illuminator or Saint Gregory the Enlightener (Armenian: Գրիգոր Լուսաւորիչ translit. Grigor Lusavorich, Greek: Γρηγόριος Φωστήρ or Φωτιστής, Gregorios Phoster or Photistes), the founder and patron saint of the Armenian Apostolic Church, he was born about 257.

He belonged to the royal line of the Arsacid Dynasty, being the son of a Parthian named Anak, who assassinated Chosroes I of Armenia, and thus brought ruin on himself and his family.

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