Saint Gregory the Illuminator

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St. Gregory statue at the Vatican
The pit where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned. Copyright Alex Amirbekyan

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, was born about 257.

He belonged to the royal race of the Arsacides, being the son of a certian Prince Anak, who assassinated Chosrovs of Armenia, and thus brought ruin on himself and his family. His mother's name was Okohe, and the Armenian biographers tell how the first Christian influence he recived was at the time of his conception, which took palce near the monument raised to the memory of the holy apostle Thaddeus. Educated by a christian nobleman, Euthalius, in Caesarea in Cappadocia, Gregory sought, when he came to amn's estate, to introduce the Christan doctrine into his native land. At that time Tiridates I, a son of Chosroes, sat on the throne and, influenced partly it may be by the fact that Gregory was the don of his father's enemy, he subjected him to much cruel usage, and imprisoned him for fourteen years at what is now Khor Virap Monastery. It would be useless to recount the various forms of torture which the orthodox accounts represent the saint to have endured without permanent hurt; almost any one of hi twelve trials would ghave been certain death to an ordinary mortal. But vengeance and madness fell upon the king, and at length Gregory was called forth from his pit to restore his royal persecutor to reason by virtue of his saintly intercession.

The cause of Christianity was now secured; king and princes and people vied with each other in obedience to Greory's instruction, and convents, churches and schools were established. Gregory in 302 received consecration as patriarch of Armenia from Leontius of Caesarea, and in 318 he appointed his son Aristax to be his successor. About 331 he withdrew to a cave in the mountain Sebuh in the province of Daranalia in Uper Armenia, and there he died a few years after unattended adn unobserved. When it was discovered he was dead his corpse was removed to the village of Thodanum or Tharotan. The remains of the saint were scattered far and near in the reign of Zeno. HIs head is daisd to be now in Italy, his right hand at Etchmiadzin, and his left at Sis. It is almost impossible to get at Gregory's real personality through the tangled growth of ecclesiastical legend; buthe would appear to have possessed som eof that consideration for expediency which is so frequently of service to the reformer. While he did his best to undermine their system, he left the opagan priests in enjoyment of their accustomed revenues.

A number of Homilies, possibly spurious, several prayers, and about thirty of the canons of the Armenian Church are ascribed to Gregory. 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 th 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, published in Armenian at Venice in 1749, was translated into English by Rev. S.C. Malan, 1868.

from the 9th edition (1880) of an unnnamed encyclopedia

The Vatican has a statue of St. Gregory the Illuminator. It is close to the queue for the ticket office to climb to the top of the Basilica. Outside, near a drinking fountain. The location is also described as kind of on the side of the church, on the way to the underground cemetery they have there, you'll pass the statue.

Yerevan's main cathedral is named St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral. It has some of the holy relics related to the saint near the entrance. They were given as a gift to the church by the pope at the time the cathedral was built, as they had been kept in a church in Italy for centuries.

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