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THE desire on the part of the Anglican Church for closer intercourse with the Churches of the East induces me to give from the Russian the following short but interesting account of the Church of Georgia, as yet little heard of, though venerable alike for its antiquity and for its faithfulness during centuries of untold vicissitudes. The author, a learned Georgian, writing for the first time a history of the Church of his country, claims in his Preface the indulgence of his readers for a work which is little more than an outline of the main features of the history he tells. The same indulgence will, I trust, be shown also to my work, which is only an attempt at supplying for the present the lack of information on this branch of the Eastern Church, until some better book on the subject appear. I have already received from the author himself fresh materials, which I hope to make known at some future time, when, D.V., I publish not merely the bald translation of an elementary work, but the more complete history of a branch of the Eastern Church that deserves to be better known.


Broadwindsor, November 11th, 1865.


“The Georgian Church, founded in the fourth century, has continued hitherto distinct, and independent of other churches. From her position she remained a stranger to the discord and dissension between the Greek and the Roman Churches, and is now, as ever, at one with the Greek Church. How is it possible to explain her origin, except by the fact that, both being of the primitive Church, they two had the same beginning?”—PHILARÈTE, Metropolitan of Moscow.

HITHERTO Georgia has never had a history of her own Church. Her historians often mention ecclesiastical matters and events connected with the Church, when these have any relation to the civil state of the people; but then, not only too briefly, imperfectly, without criticism, but also very often without any regard to dates. Hence the frequent anachronisms, the improbable statements, and also, therefore, the difficulties which at every step hinder the progress of the historian. Having surmounted by main force all these obstacles, I was obliged to have recourse to foreign assistance, and to look into Byzantine historians and elsewhere for what our own native sources do not yield. Setting forth for the first time a short history only, the writer flatters himself with the hope that his first efforts will not draw upon themselves unmerited censure from those who will bear in mind that he had at one and the same time to search out, unravel, and set in a systematic order facts scattered in many and various works. On this account, therefore, he craves the indulgence of his readers, and ventures to hope they will kindly overlook all mistakes and defects, and thus encourage him to a more complete history at some future time of this Church which contributes to the brightest proofs to the primitive orthodoxy and adherence to the Confession of Faith of the Græco-Russian Eastern Church, and that bears evident testimony to the departure of the Western Church from the true precepts and rules of the Apostolic and Synodal Church, as already remarked by the author of Conversation between an Inquirer and a Faithful Believer, p. 130, and by that of the History of the Russian Church, p. vii. Besides all this, my object in writing this book has also been to inspire the sons of the Georgian Church with veneration for our orthodox Faith, and with sincere devotedness to the Government. For a long time did the kings of Georgia on the throne, groaning under the Mahomedan yoke, and long for such a rule as that which we now enjoy; after such a rule did our ancestors ever thirst, when Russia, chosen by Providence as a check upon Islamism, had not yet been raised from the dead by the mighty hand of the Most High; for this rule did the kings Theimuraz I., Wakhtang VI., Heraclius I., and Theimuraz II. travel to Moscow; to this rule did King Heraclius II. turn himself, and thither did George XIII. flee for shelter. In the soul of this king rested the love of God, without which, the holy Apostle tells us, even the power of moving mountains is nothing. Without this love, the genius of our glorious sovereigns would have died out, and the glory of Iberia would have been darkened for ever; without this holy love, the bloody revels of the ruthless enemies of Christianity would never have ceased in a Christian country. King George XIII., while struggling with death, found yet enough of strength and of love in his broken heart to support, by every possible means, the desperate state of Christianity in his day. Then the Emperors of Russia welcomed with open arms to their bosom the wailing but orthodox sons of like Faith with themselves, and the Christians of Iberia rested at last from a long state of exhaustion.


Tiflis, 18th of November, 1835.

* The Author’s notes are numbered; the translator’s are distinguished by a letter.



THE first planting of the Christian faith in Georgia dates from the Apostolic times. The Georgian annals favour the tradition that, when the division of countries among the Apostles for preaching the Gospel took place, Iberia fell to the lot of the B. V. Mary. This tradition, now generally received among the nation, and long since commemorated by the Church, rests on the testimony of native and of Greek writers of the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, who ascribe to the H. Apostle Andrew the effectual preaching of the Gospel in those parts. According to one historian, S. Andrew passed through Cappadocia, the sea-coasts, and Trapezus into Lower Iberia, where he first preached the Gospel in the town of Didatchara. Thence he went to preach in Clarjeth, in Atskver, in Tschum, in Mingrelia, in Ap’hkhazia, and in other places; and his teaching was accompanied by miracles and the healing of diseases, which are all told in detail by native historians. We may safely infer that this preaching was not altogether without fruit, from the fact that, although the seed of the Gospel was crushed by King Aderc (A.D. 55), who soon raised a persecution against the new converts, yet neither the worship of idols nor that of fire ever after became as prevalent as before. We find, also, that the tomb of Simon the Canaanite, fellow-traveller of S. Andrew, and left by him in those wild regions for the confirmation of the Gospel—a tomb which is shown at the present day on the hills of Ap’hkhazia, soon became an object of pious veneration for the lawless tribes of the Caucasus. At all events, a result of his preaching was to put a stop to the cruel and bloody custom of offering children in sacrifice to the gods of the country, and of devouring dead bodies, after the manner of the Scythians, of the Massagetæ, and of other neighbouring nations; for King Rew, who abolished these heathenish rites, won for himself in history the title of “the Just.”

II. This great event of the enlightenment of Iberia was preceded by a very important circumstance, which we read in detail in native writers. A certain Hebrew youth, by name Elioz, one of the soldiers that were about the Cross of our Lord, got for his share our Saviour’s coat; and he, having wandered to the hill of Mtzkhetha, brought that coat with him. The miracles which then followed, as well as the news of the spreading of the blessed teaching of Christianity all over the world, having reached the Jews of Iberia and of Mtzkhetha, where those relics were kept, prepared the hearts of the heathens of Iberia to receive the Gospel; for, at the place, in the cathedral of Mtzkhetha, where our Saviour’s coat is kept, oil is said to have sometimes flowed; and this event is to this day commemorated by the Church of Iberia, on the feast of the 1st of October.

III. The light of Christianity ceased not to shine over that country ever after the preaching of S. Andrew. For we read in Irenæus that, in the hundredth year after Christ, the Roman bishop Clemens, who was sent by the Emperor Trajan into banishment, to the barren shores of the Black Sea, to the Taurian Chersonesus along the Cimmerian Bosporus, was the means of carrying the glad tidings of the Gospel into many places of Iberia, by means of divers confessors from Colchis and from Iberia who were converted to the Christian faith through his miracles and martyrdom. Not long after, however, appeared in the Church of Colchis, Palm, himself a Colchian and Bishop of Pontus, together with his son, the heretic Marcion, against whose errors Tertullian inveighs loudly.

IV. Afterwards, the Christian religion was lastly and finally established in Iberia through the preaching of Nonna or Nina. This holy woman, born in Colastri, a small town of Cappadocia, was the daughter of a certain Zabulon, and was brought up by a God-fearing old woman, by name Sarah Bethlehemlianka, keeper of a temple; but Nina was both directed and established in the faith by her uncle on her mother’s side, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Historians tell us that her parents, having long been without offspring, and having received her after a vow, consecrated her to God, and that themselves afterwards removed to the Jordan. S. Nina went to Rome with the blessing of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and at last decided on devoting herself to the work of preaching the Gospel in Iberia, known to her as the place where the Lord’s coat was kept. While thus disposed, she was strengthened by heavenly visions; and, as an earnest of the success which awaited her, she received at the hands of the B. V. Mary a cross made of the wood of the vine. While on her way to Iberia she succeeded in turning many to Christ; and although in Armenia she was exposed to persecutions and to trouble, she was miraculously rescued from the captivity which her fellow-travellers Ripsima and Gaiana had prepared for her. On reaching the borders of Iberia, she planted the first cross on the mountains of Djavakhethi, and preached the Gospel in the towns of Akhalkalaki, Urbnis, and at last in Mtzkhetha, the capital of Iberia. There, a festival in honour of the gods Armaz and Zaden afforded her an opportunity of beginning her preaching with an earnest prayer to God; after which arose a dreadful storm, accompanied by unusual hailstones, that dispersed the people and the court assembled at the feast, and, in the words of a writer of that time, “threw down the idols and cast them into pits, into clefts of the rocks, and into holes of the earth, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the glory of His might.”

Three days after this event, ascribed by the heathens to the anger of their gods, S. Nina went to Mtzkhetha, preached Christ, and in His name granted a son to the wife of the king’s gardener, with whom she was staying, and who, hitherto, had had no child. In that house she also healed the son of a widow by placing him on her bed and covering him with her own sackcloth. This miracle drew on S. Nina the notice of the king’s wife, daughter of the commander-in-chief of Pontus, who had long been suffering from a severe illness, and who also had some knowledge of Christianity, but was not yet converted to it. S. Nina, having restored her to health, won to herself disciples and hearers from among the queen’s attendants; the Jewish priest Abiathar and his daughter Sidonia; the mother of the youth she had recovered from his sickness, and a courtier; and, lastly, she granted recovering of sight to the king himself, who had suddenly been struck blind while hunting on the heights of Thkhoth. The result of this cure was, that the king, known by the name of Mirian, of the race of Chosroes, renounced idolatry under the teaching of S. Nina, and was by her baptized, together with his whole house and with all the inhabitants of the capital. He then sent (A.D. 318) an embassage to the new Rome (Constantinople), to the Emperor Constantine, requesting to have a bishop and priests sent him. While awaiting the arrival of those men, who were to give him advice, and to consult with him for the preaching of the Gospel in his dominions, the king levelled his own vine-garden, and thereon built a temple. There is a tradition that, while that temple was building, the workmen, having set up six principal pillars, were not able to set up the seventh; but that, at S. Nina’s instance, angels appeared who, in sight of the whole people, took hold of that pillar and set it up in its place. The king, astonished at this manifestation of God’s help and power, brought together abundance of silver, of gold, and of precious stones, for the building and adorning of that temple.

V. Soon after came the patriarch Eustathius from Antioch, with priests, with much clergy, and with the heir to the throne of Georgia, Bakurius (Bakar), who had hitherto been kept as a hostage by the Greeks. They brought, as presents to the king, consecrated relics of our Lord’s passion, a few bones of saints, and images of our Saviour and of the V. Mary, his mother; and, by their preaching, they wrought out the conversion of the whole of Iberia to the Christian faith, from the shores of the Black Sea almost to the mountains of Albania, and from the range of Caucasus to the frontiers of Persia. The first temple was dedicated to the name of the Saviour, and the second to the twelve Apostles. Having thus built up and established peace and concord in the new bond of the Christian faith, the patriarch returned to Antioch, but not before he had consecrated the presbyter John as Bishop of Iberia. The king, instructed by S. Nina, then sought out the place where the coat of our Lord was kept; and he ascertained, by divers signs and tokens, that it was kept where the seventh pillar was miraculously set up by the angels. In remembrance of the discovery of this relic, the king dedicated to S. Nina the first chapel in the temple of Mtzkhetha; and, at her request, four crosses were made out of a cedar growing in the town, and not only venerated, but all but worshipped for its beauty by the heathens. These crosses, intended as tokens of the church just founded, were planted, one on the hill over against Mtzkhetha, on the other side of the river Aragwi, where is now the temple dedicated to the Cross of our Salvation; the second was hoisted upon the hill Thkhoth, on the spot where King Mirian was struck with blindness; the third was placed in the town of Kakheth, called Boda; and the fourth was set up in Udjarma. Both from these crosses and from the miraculous pillar that went already by the name of Djivotvorets, “life-giving,” and Myrototchivi, “flowing with oil,” were sundry cures and other miracles wrought, to the still greater strengthening and confirming of the people in the faith.

S. Nina, having witnessed the conversion of Iberia to the Christian faith, and seeing the country established therein, withdrew from the noise of the world, and retired to the mountain pass of Bodbe, in Kakheth; though not until she had, with her own efforts, built, in several parts of Iberia, temples, dedicated to her fellow-countryman, martyr, and confessor, S. George, and had, according to Moses of Chorene, strengthened the faith of many of the inhabitants of the outskirts of Iberia. But when, at last, S. Nina felt herself about to depart from this world, she sent for the king and the queen, gave them her last injunctions, blessed them, received the Body and Blood of Christ at the hands of the Bishop, promised to bequeath her remains to the prior of her convent in Bodbe, and died. Such are the principal facts recorded in history respecting the conversion of Iberia to the Christian faith.

VI. The truth of these accounts is well authenticated by the additional testimony of writers of the eleventh, twelfth, and nineteenth centuries, who. grounded their history on private documents of a great age relative to the conversion of Georgia to the Christian faith, written from the mouth of S. Nina by Sudka (Sophia), queen of Kakheth, who had been converted by S. Nina. The Armenian records of these events differ in some particulars; this, however, may be easily accounted for by national prejudices. A certain inaccuracy in dates may also be forgiven, considering the want of books in olden times, and the necessity of handing down information from father to son through tradition. On the other hand, many authentic records of great importance for the cotemporary history of those days may have perished during the never-ending troubles and civil wars of Georgia. Rufinus, also, who lived in the days of Constantine, and who wrote at length the conversion of Georgia to the faith of Christ, declares that he relates what he himself heard from the lips of King Bakurius at Jerusalem. While historians like Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoritus, and others, who wrote after the time of Constantine, likewise agree with native writers and historians; except in this one particular, that they call S. Nina a captive, mulier captiva, of the Iberians, and the king who protected her Bakar (Bakurius), and not Mirian.



THE Iberians, in receiving pastors from Constantinople, received with them all the rites of the Greek Church which were coming into general use, and also admitted the decrees of the first Œcumenic Synod. Meanwhile, their Church, only just come into existence, was reckoned to the Patriarchate of Antioch. And King Mirian, wishing to acquaint himself with the places of the sacred events mentioned in Scripture, and also to worship the newly-discovered relic, went, by the advice of S. Nina, to Jerusalem, where he had an interview with the Emperor Constantine, and begged of him the site in Jerusalem called Lotosa, whereon to build a convent to the name of the Holy Cross.

II. After his death, his son and successor Bakar (A.D. 342–364), who, like his father, was zealous in spreading the faith of Christ, caused the Gospel to be preached a second time among all the tribes of his kingdom; the result of which was to add to the Church of Christ numbers of Ap’hkhazes, of Caucasians, and of Khebsures. Bakar, having raised temples everywhere, gave them in charge to the clergy, directing these at the same time to establish the faith, and by means of the kindly precepts of heavenly teaching to soften the rude customs and manners of the wild inhabitants of the mountains. Without undue constraint, he himself baptized nearly all his subjects, all of whom willingly received Christian teachers. Having thus established a general peace throughout his dominions under the hallowed shadow of the faith of Christ, he bound the whole into one large family or kingdom. With all this, however, he did not avoid a rupture of peace and of good understanding with the king of Persia. For, while a war from that quarter was little to be expected, owing to the kings of Georgia being by Bakar allied to the then reigning house of Persia, yet a war was not long in breaking out, though it were only against the resistless influence of the name of Christ; for it was waged on the occasion of the Georgians having embraced the Christian faith, and being thus fast united with the Greeks. But the Georgians took up arms in the name of the Faith and of the Holy Cross, and overcame and defeated the Persians. This first holy war ended in a triumph over the enemy; but how much misery followed from other lamentable wars, ruinous to the country, and fatal to the kingdom! Placed as the Georgians were, on the outskirts of the then known world, they formed a kind of barrier against the heresies that troubled the Greek Empire, already on the decline; yet, considering the freshening efforts of the fire-worshippers in the neighbouring countries, who can tell what the end of the kingdom of Georgia would have been if the Persians had succeeded in stretching their rule as far as the borders of the Black Sea, and in setting up a navy, of so much importance to themselves? This, at least, is certain, that the Georgians, often routed, and sometimes enslaved, firmly and courageously kept the faith they had once embraced. The kingdom of Georgia, during the space of fifteen centuries, hardly presents one instance of a regulation that was not owing either to ravages, to aggression, or to cruel affliction on the part of the enemies of Christ. Yet those fifteen centuries of misfortune have not weakened either the faith or the Christian endurance of the people.

III. We read in history that, after the favourable ending of the war above alluded to, all the parts of Iberia which, under the banner of the Cross, had overcome the tribes of the Caucasus were then united in the one kingdom of Iberia; and the king, who sat in Mtzkhetha, then became the Sovereign of the tribes of the Caucasus, which hitherto would none of his rule. Bakar, occupied in organizing his country and in putting the faith upon a firm footing, fetched from Greece, for the further enlightenment of the nation, teachers and instructors, that might lay the foundation of schools in which the Greek and the Syriac languages should be taught He singled out the Greek language from among the languages of the country for the service of God, and he ordered the translation of many religious books into the native dialects; he adorned divers temples already existing, and himself built others, generally in places celebrated for great gatherings in the dark ages of heathenism. Thus, for instance, he built a temple on the site of one formerly sacred to the gods Armaz and Zaden. He appointed bishops for the greater increase of the faith, by means of a closer and more careful inspection; and, wishing to do his utmost for the beautifying of temples, and for the edification of Divine worship, he introduced chanting, according to the Greek metre. He is generally acknowleged to have founded the eparchy of Tsilcan, and to have built the temple of that place in honour of the B. V. Mary, so celebrated in the times that followed, and even now renowned for miracles and for the tomb of Iese, Bishop of Tsilcan, one of the thirteen Fathers who came from Syria.

IV. The Church, so lately planted, enjoyed entire peace during the reign of Miridat, successor of Bakar, as well as in the days of the third Archbishop, Jacob, named John, and afterwards Job, by birth an Armenian, and deacon of the Armenian Archbishop Nersès I. The building in Imereth of the cathedral of Khoni, celebrated even at present, and that of numerous churches in other parts of the kingdom that completed the establishing and confirming the provinces of Clarjeth and of Djavakhet in the faith, was due entirely to the pious zeal of Miridat III., worthy son of Bakar. But this happy state of things was soon disturbed, through the negligence of his successor, Varaz-Bakar (A.D. 379–393). An attack from the Persians, called forth probably by the conduct of Bishop Abda, who, having set fire to the chief heathen temple in Persia, refused to rebuild it, and the breaking asunder, from some unknown cause, of the bond of union with the Greeks, were followed by the laying waste of Iberia by the Greek Emperor Theodosius, who required and took hostages from the nation. The peace of the Church and of the kingdom was again renewed at the instance of Archbishop Elias, who purchased it of the Persians at the price of gold.

V. But the vicissitudes of the Church increased when, after King P’harsman, who had restored the temples destroyed by the Persians, and confirmed both the faith and the kingdom, Miridat IV., who knew neither how to do well nor how to repent, ascended the throne of Iberia. He had despised the faith of his own nation, and purposed to follow in the steps of Julian; but God, who had exposed his faithful people to a trial of their faith, and who out of great misfortunes brings forth happiness for men, allowed the Persians to invade Iberia and to take possession of the country; and He thus, on the one hand, put a stop to the persecution the Church endured, and, on the other hand, He laid the foundation of the greatness, of the glory, and of the power that distinguished the following reigns of Archil and of Wakhtang Gorhaslan.

VI. Archil (A.D. 413–446), son of Miridat IV., did not imitate his father’s vices; but he rooted out the remains of heathenism, and purified the religion from all mixture of heresies and of heathenish customs; he expelled the fire-worshippers, and turned their temple into a Christian church and house of prayer; and he happily ended a war begun by the Persians at the instigation of their Magi, and of other followers of fire-worship in Iberia. With the Bishop’s blessing, he married a woman of another religion, who was called Sandukhta, and whom he converted to the Christian faith. For her sake, and for her own especial use, was the New Testament then for the first time translated into the Georgian language. Being deeply affected with the truths of the Gospel, she built in Mtzkhetha a temple to the memory of the proto-martyr S. Stephen, and called it Sion. But she gave yet greater proof of her zeal for the Christian religion and for orthodox principles when she determined to defend the Church against the fatal intentions of Archbishop Mobidakh, a Persian by birth.

VII. This false teacher, pretending to be a faithful Christian, fain would make an evil use of his ecclesiastical power, and change ceremonies and institutions in the rites and in the hierarchy of the Church, withal preaching Arianism, which in those days was fast overspreading the East, under the protection of the Emperor Valens, who was addicted to that heresy. Hiding a wicked heart under the mask of religion, Mobidakh persecuted the clergy under the pretence of misconduct on their part, and cut asunder from union with the Church all sincerely orthodox men. At last, and feigning to act as pastor of his flock, he made openly known his meaning and doctrine in a letter which he published for general reading. But Bishop Michael, encouraged in this work by the pious queen, unmasked Mobidakh, as an enemy of the Church, and had him deposed by the Synod which was sitting at that very time. He consigned to the flames Mobidakh’s letter, and to anathema his teaching, and then re-established the former rites of the Church approved and sanctioned by the Church of Antioch. Then was the chair of Archbishop Mobidakh occupied by Michael, who was a Greek.



WAKHTANG I. (A.D. 446–449) was only seven years old when his father died. The queen, his mother, renowned for her wisdom and for her piety, who had incurred the enmity of the Persians and of their king her father, only to protect the Christian faith, found herself at last obliged to allow the worship of fire in her dominions, with the sanction of the Archbishop Michael, who, as we saw, had been fetched from Greece into Georgia. As the preaching of the Christian faith prevailed among the people, the fire-worshippers from the first made little progress. Then the conversion to the faith of Christ of one of the Persian Magi, by name Rajden, and his patient endurance of a cruel death at the hands of his countrymen, who, says the learned Bishop Nicolas, nailed him naked to a cross and tore him in pieces, had a good influence and led the people to profess the Christian faith. The earthly remains of that martyr were laid in the cathedral of Nikozi, and the Georgian Church keeps the 3rd of August to his memory.

II. But that act of cruelty on the part of the Persians tended to weaken the faith in the distant parts of the mountain range of the Caucasus. Those mountaineers, having forgotten the unity of faith, invaded and laid waste Karthalinia; but the king, at that time a mere youth, felt in himself sufficient strength to oppose the arrogance of man, and went forth to battle in faith and with courage. Armed in the name of the Cross of Christ, together with orthodox nations, and assured of a speedy victory by the prayers of Michael, he sallied forth and severely chastised the traitors. And, on the rupture of good understanding with the Greek emperors, he turned his arms against the Greeks, and succeeded in wresting from them the province of Clarjeth, which of yore was peopled by Iberians, but which had for some time formed part of the Eastern Empire. Meanwhile, this withdrawal of the Caucasian tribes from under the Greek rule was not altogether favourable to the faith. Christianity, when first planted among them, was not nourished and maintained by duly appointed pastors; so that, from the first, it gradually grew weaker and weaker, until it perished altogether, by reason of the Georgians not always being able to maintain their own independence, much less to bring into subjection those wild mountain tribes. So that all that now remains of the light of Christianity once spread over those mountain fastnesses of the Caucasus are the ruins, here and there, of ancient churches, the name and memory of the prophet Elijah, the knowledge of the most Holy Trinity, and the keeping of certain fasts.

III. The Iberian Church, having preserved entire dependence from the Patriarch of Antioch, received all the rites and ceremonies of the Greek Church, and carefully kept herself in union with her. As, for instance, on the occasion of the introduction of the Trisagion by Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople, in 433. So also on the first appearance of the Eutychian heresy, Peter Phyllon, alias Gnathius, not minding the synod of Chalcedon, constrained with imprecations the Church of Iberia to receive the Trisagion; but this innovation was thrown out by the synod, and the Iberian Church stood by her former order. And, notwithstanding the falling away of some Armenians from union with the Eastern Church, and the increase of heterodox teachers—as, for instance, of Acephalites, of Severites, and of Phyllonists, and of other heretics all over Asia—the Iberians abstained from all change in rites and in ceremonies opposed to those of the orthodox Church.

IV. King Wakhtang, led by zeal for the Christian faith, and for orthodoxy, travelled with his family to Jerusalem, in order to worship at the sepulchre of our Lord. At or near the Holy City he built a convent, which for a long time remained in the hands of Georgians; then he left there, for the protection of the holy places, a few Georgian soldiers, who thenceforward, and unto the present day, live around Jerusalem and on the Euphrates; and he even forgot his own tongue in order to speak Arabic.

With the intention, also, of dividing Iberia into bishoprics, and of enlightening the nation by institutions in every one of their schools, Wakhtang called to himself bishops and teachers from Greece; but having once, in a fit of anger, been offended at his instructor, the Archbishop Michael, who opposed his will, he sent him to Constantinople for judgment. There Michael was shut up in a convent by the Patriarch Gennadius, who sent in his place to King Wakhtang the Archbishop Peter, with the title of Catholicos of all Iberia, and with the whole power of an independent ruler of the Church (αὐτοκέφαλος). Through the care of this new pastor the clergy was increased, priests were appointed in every town and village for the confirmation of the Gospel among the Ap’hkhazes and among the Mingrelians, inhabitants of the northern and of the eastern slopes of the Caucasus; by his order were ecclesiastical works that had been mutilated through copying collated afresh, and others translated from the Greek, and added to those already belonging to the Church; schools were founded in connection with the Church; and in the place of the old temple, built by Mirian in Mtzkhetha, a new one of stone was erected, of a large size, and surrounded by high stone walls; and twelve bishoprics were established in Karthalinia, twelve in Kakheth, nine in Somkheth, and two in Imereth.

V. We do not, at present, know exactly what was that Eparchy. Episcopius, who wrote in the last century, gives the following order of this hierarchy:—


                Catholicos of Mtzkhetha


                Catholicos of Ap’hkhazeth. and of all Georgia.


                Archbishop of Somkheth.


                Archbishop of Djqon-Did.


                Archbishop of Mtzkhetha.


                Archbishop of Alaverd.


                Bishop of Matskur.


                Archbishop of Bodbé.


                Bishop of Kumurdo.


                Bishop of Ninotsminda.


                Bishop of Ishkhan.


                Bishop of Antshi.


                Bishop of Mtbevel.


                Bishop of Tsartskuma.


                Bishop of Tskaros-Tav.


                Bishop of Erushathi.


                Bishop of Gangi.


                Bishop of Tsin-tsqaro.


                Bishop of Rustav.


                Bishop of Urbnis.


                Bishop of Katsari.


                Bishop of Samthawis.


                Bishop of Mrovel.


                Bishop of Bolnis.


                Bishop of Nikozi.


                Bishop of Anio.


                Bishop of Valasgird.


                Bishop of Tiflis.


                Bishop of Krel.


                Bishop of Tsalka.


                Bishop of Khardshasho.


                Bishop of Dmani.


                Bishop of Bana.


                Bishop of Gishel.


                Bishop of Tsherminsk.




                Bishop of Daban.

These bishoprics, established in the vaivods or palatinats of Georgia, were dependent on the Catholicos, who took the title of Catholicos of Mtzkhetha and of Iberia. The Catholicos governed the acts of the Church without having to give account to any of the four patriarchs; at all events, history is silent as to whether or not the Greek patriarchs exercised any influence over the doings of the Church of Georgia after the days of P’harsman III., who severed her from under Greek authority about A.D. 556. But, in consequence of this separation from the rule of the Greek patriarchate, and of this independence as a Catholicate, which was not only complete, but, so write historians, was wrought out with the consent of Eutychius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and of the Emperor Justinian, an inevitable estrangement and other inconveniences happened in this Church thus cut off from Constantinople and from Antioch, and divided by the jealousies of nations at enmity with one another. Yet, on the other hand, we find that on several important occasions the Catholicos of Iberia often referred to the patriarchs of the Greek Church, and submitted to the judgment of the Œcumenic Church all that which for good government required the sanction of the synod.



THE reign of P’harsman (A.D. 541–555), writes Wakhusht, was remarkable by the arrival in Iberia of thirteen champions of the Faith from Syria. Even the Iberians themselves were obliged to admit the mysterious call from Heaven to those men to come into Iberia, when these defenders of the Faith, thus miraculously brought, entered Mtzkhetha after having crossed the river dry-shod, and when they began to preach peace and the word of God in the Iberian tongue, to the astonishment of the wondering people, of the king, and of the Catholicos Eulabius himself. Georgian historians have preserved the names of all these men, and the lives of some of them. They were: (1) Ioané, or John, the chief, and teacher of all the others; (2) Abib, Aviv, or Abibos; (3) Antoni; (4) Dawith; (5) Zenon; (6) Thathé, or Thaddæus; (7) Ise, or Jesse; (8) Ioseb, or Joseph; (9) Isidore; (10) Michael; (11) Piros; (12) Stephanes; (13) Shio; and (14) the Deacon Elias, constant fellow-traveller of John. These men, sent to the Eparchs with directions from the king and from the Catholicos, chose for their residence places suited to the preaching of the Gospel, and to the teaching of the people, thus:—

1. Ioané, or John, the oldest of them all, settled on the rugged hill of Zedadzen, covered with thick forests, not far from the town of Mtzkhetha. After pulling down the remains of heathen temples at that place, that champion of the Faith shed forth from his narrow cell the gifts of God’s blessing on the people that came to him. His sainted life and miracles are still commemorated by the Georgian Church on the 7th of May. After his death a church was built in his name on that same spot, the ruins of which subsist to this day.

2. Aviv, or Abibos of Necres, who, at the request of the Catholicos and of the king, accepted the office of Bishop and the Chair of Necres, reduced the number of fire-worshippers through the conversion of many of them to the light of the Gospel, and brought back to the Faith the inhabitants of the Caucasus, and those of that region who had fallen back from Christianity to heathenism.

But, by the sleight of the chief of the fire-worshippers, Aviv was seized, stoned to death, and his body cast for food to wild beasts and to birds of prey, near the village of Rekha, about thirty versts from the city of Goria. The remains of that holy martyr, which were at first buried nigh unto the place of his martyrdom, were afterwards taken up by the ruling prince Stephen, son of King Adarnas, and then laid, with great pomp and ceremony, in the cathedral of Mtzkhetha, where they are yet devoutly worshipped. The feast of that martyr is held by the Church of Georgia on the 9th of November.

3. Antoni, or Antonius, settled on the wooded hills of Martqop’h, and from that solitude he got the name of Martqop’h the Hermit. After living a long time unknown, he was, at last, discovered by stag-hunters on those mountains, subsisting on doe’s milk and seated on a pillar, struggling with life. A church was afterwards built on that spot, and, in place of the pillar, they set up on that hill, to the memory of the saint, another pillar which is now in ruins. The Georgian Church keeps in memory of Antoni the 19th of January and the 16th of August. These feasts are celebrated with great pomp and solemnity; they bring together even Armenians and other heterodox Christians. Until the year 1760 the hill of Martqop’h was inhabited by hermits, who were then driven away by the incursions of the Lezghians.

4. Dawith, or David, was the founder of the hermitage of Garedj, thus named from his solitary life, and renowned, until 1780, for the number of hermits, of grottoes hewn in the solid rock by the hands of monks, and for the number as well as for the riches of its churches. That solitude was celebrated for many a worker of miracles, among whom we remark especially Lucian and Dodo, disciples of S. David. The feast of this saint is kept on the Thursday of the seventh week after Easter.

5. Ise, or Jesse, was ordained Bishop of Tsilcan against his will, but at the request of King P’harsman III. They quote, as an instance of his power to work miracles, the bringing of water from the river Ksani over the fields of Tsilcan by the waving of his crozier. This saint, renowned for his miracles, and for his sanctity, ended his life peaceably in Tsilcan. The Church of Georgia celebrates his feast on the 2nd of December.

6. Joseph, after having preached the faith of Christ to the inhabitants of Eastern Kakheth, sowed further into the mountains the seeds of the Gospel, which, however, were soon smothered among the rough mountaineers. Unable to endure certain traces of superstition and of heathenism, this holy man pleaded with the Catholicos and with the king for a greater number of churches, and for greater zeal in maintaining the faith undefiled. His feast is kept on the 14th of September; and his relics rest in the large temple of Alawerd, the most spacious of all churches in Georgia, built during his lifetime, and dedicated to the confessor and martyr S. George.

7. Shio, surnamed the Anchorite, by reason of the manner and of the place in which he lived, was renowned for his miracles and for his deep humility. While living in a cavern hewn in the rock by himself, he was fed by a dove which brought him food in his retreat. This led the great Evagrius to betake himself to that solitude and to ask Shio to admit him into it. Evagrius being thus received, built, at the request of the saint, a church dedicated to the B. V. Mary, and built a hermitage, which often contained a great number of hermits. The bones of Shio, which of their own accord moved forward from the bottom of the cavern in which they lay, and in which he had lived and struggled, were long shown to believers; and this miracle is to this day commemorated by the Church. At the time of the irruption of the Persians into Iberia, under Shah Abbas, these bones were taken out of their place, and carried away into Persia. But, when, in consequence of this, the Persians were routed by the terror caused through divers apparitions, and reduced by a fearful epidemic that preyed on them for some time, they then brought back the remains of the saint into Georgia with great pomp and with presents. This miracle is commemorated on the Thursday after Shrove Sunday.

As to the other seven Syrian saints, the particulars of their lives were lost during the invasions of the Persians and of the Turks into Georgia. Hymns of thanksgiving in honour of them, composed by Arsèn, Nicolas, Antoni I., Kissarion, and Macrina, sister of King Theimuraz I., are sung even to this day in the churches of Georgia. And the spots where their remains were found are marked by temples built thereon, which subsist at present. Thus the name of Zenon is religiously honoured in Iqalto, that of Thaddeus in Stephantsminda, that of Isidore in Samthawis, that of Michael in Ulumba, that of Piros in Brethi, that of Stephen in Khirsa. Besides special days set apart in honour of some of them, the general feast of them all is kept on the 7th of May.

II. The Iberian Church, from which the Ap’hkhazes, the Lazes, and the inhabitants of Colchis that dwell on the shores of the Black Sea fell away in the reign of P’harsman III., received them back by the help of Zath, king of the Lazes, who had shaken oft the Persian yoke, together with the Iberians, and had renounced heathenism. These tribes had severed themselves, living apart from Iberia, and, being governed by men from among themselves, declared Zath king, and made use of the crown, of the purple, and of the baptism of the Emperor Justinus in order to confirm Zath in his title of king. Soon after a church was built in the town of Bitshvinta (Pitiunta,), which Vakar, successor of P’harsman, adorned and enriched with ecclesiastical furniture, while the Catholicos provided priests and a clergy for the service thereof.

III. In order to strengthen the union with the united Greeks, the king of Iberia repaired with the whole of his family to Constantinople in 597, to the Greek emperor, to give him a proof of his friendship, and thus to establish on a firm footing in Iberia an unalterable unity in faith, and a good understanding between the two nations, with one and the same creed in common.

Greek historians allude to this circumstance, and tell us that in the days of the Emperor Justinian the Ap’hkhazes returned to the Christian faith; and they single out, as a proof thereof, the Ap’hkhaze officer Euphrate, who stood at the gate of the Greek emperor. With the assistance of the Greeks, this attendant on the king spread afresh the Christian faith among his own people, softened their savage habits, and rooted out from among them inhuman customs. And the same writers tell us that Justinian built for them a beautiful temple, dedicated to the B. V. Mary, and that he gave them priests provided with everything necessary for Divine service, and for all other religious ceremonies.



UNFORTUNATELY, the persecutions carried on against the Christian Church in Georgia did not grow less. After that Izdegerd and Varan had put to death 160,000 Christians in the East, a most cruel persecution against the Church of Iberia was set on foot by the wily and warlike king of Persia, Kabad (A.D. 321). This man, under pretence of the rights formerly granted to fire-worshippers, and himself wishing to revive that worship, put the king of Iberia to great straits; so that, now by threats, and then by promises of mercy, he so managed that the Christian sovereign brought back Iberia to the worship of fire and to Persian rites.

II. The king of Iberia, Gurgen, begged the Greek emperor to send him help; but the emperor, occupied at home, and hampered on his eastern frontiers by the generals of Kabad, only sent to the Iberians Probus Patricius, who, however, coming to the rescue of a Church so threatened without sufficient number of troops, could afford no assistance whatever. Then the king of Georgia, seeing his own efforts unavailing and his resistance hopeless, was driven to hide himself with his family among the mountain passes of the Lazes, after having abandoned everything to the fate of war. Yet the Church of God in Iberia, planted with the Cross of Christ, was not only not destroyed in the midst of all these troubles, but was even strengthened. Kabad, suddenly called back to the rescue of his own kingdom, returned to Persia, leaving Iberia, it is true, in a state of desolation, but withal strengthened within herself by unity of the Faith. And we may quote Procopius to show that, as to the spirit of the Christians of Iberia in those days, they were, of all Christians, the best and the most earnest in their defence of the rules of faith, and of the rites and ceremonies of the orthodox Church.

Meanwhile, as the persecution ceased and quiet reigned without, so also did divisions and dissensions increase within; and the Church, which had just enjoyed a short respite and peace, was again subject to fresh disturbances from heretics called Albanians for having first appeared in Albania, a district to the south-west of Georgia, in the year 650. The doctrine they preached was, in many respects, like that of the Manichæans and of other Syrian heretics. However, watchful pastors girded against them the sword of the Word of God, as kings did the whole of their strength; so that, at the outset, the nation felt confidence in resisting these teachers of strange doctrine, and thus stayed the further progress thereof among orthodox Christians.

III. About this time Georgia was exposed to the invasion of Murwan Abul Kazim, the last khalif of the Omniads (A.D. 730). The Christian Faith, however, in this case, not only deprived of many advantages the Persian magi, who were obliged to close their fire-temples in Georgia, but it also opposed a barrier to the inroads of Islamism. Murwan, having drawn his troops to the borders of Georgia, rushed into Imereth, where, after having exterminated both Christians and Christianity, he demolished temples and gave whole towns and villages to fire and to the sword. The Persian barbarians revelled in the despair and in the lamentations of the people; they defiled the sanctuaries, offered violence to religious women, slew the priests and sprinkled their blood on their altars. It was during this time of woeful tribulation for the Church of Iberia that the two brothers Dawith and Costantine, powerful princes of Argweth, suffered martyrdom for their courageous confession of Christ. Their bodies, which had been thrown into the river, were afterwards found lying face to face on the bank, and were laid by pious Christians in a wooden coffin in the convent of Motsameth. Even at present their relics cease not to work wonderful cures on those who piously worship them; and the Church commemorates their death on the 2nd of October. Indeed, many that are not Christians, but that are still in heathenism, come to do homage to those sainted relics, as if in token of the influence Christianity once had on the inhabitants of those countries.

The war waged by the Persians on the occasion of the spreading of the Christian Faith among the Lazes and among the Ap’hkhazes again cost Georgia the life of many of her sons. The hordes of Persia, grievously oppressed and afflicted Iberia, in spite of the troops sent by the Greeks to her assistance. That was a trying time for the Church; but God, who never leaves His own without deliverance, bade them remain quiet in His hands, while He subjected the barbarians themselves to sundry defeats and to severe losses, such as the rout caused by the extraordinary terror of Masalma, general of the Khozars, at the Caspian gates; a violent earthquake felt by the Persians while preparing to fall across Georgia upon the Khozars; the irruption of these same Khozars into the northern parts of Persia, where they took rich spoils and made many prisoners and captives; and, lastly, one of the most severe winters ever known in that part of Asia, and, in consequence of it, a great famine and the pestilence that followed.

IV. The truth of the Christian Faith was then proved by the martyrdom of many Christians; among others, we notice that of Shushanika (Susanna), wife of the governor of Rham. At first she seemed inclined to relapse, owing to the efforts of certain Armenian emigrants, who, availing themselves of the protection of the Emperor Mauricius, endeavoured to spread in Georgia the doctrine of the Monophysites, a doctrine by means of which Mauricius wished to reconcile the Greeks, who had cut off the Syrians from union with them; but Kyrion, Catholicos of Iberia, opposed to them the Council of Chalcedon and those that followed it; he forbade, under pain of anathema, all intercourse with the setters forth of this strange doctrine, and thus preserved the Church whole and pure. Besides this, and notwithstanding the snares set by the orthodox Greeks of the same faith, who trafficked through Iberia as far as the frontiers of Persia, and who gratified their love of gain without regard to the sacrifice to which their oppressed brethren of Iberia were exposed in the person of King Stephen, who was put to death by them during the conflict that took place before under the Emperor Heraclius, Iberia continued firm in the Faith; and the Greek emperors, following a far from wise policy, and wishing to rule even over the Faith, were all but made to withdraw from the borders of Iberia.

V. In the ninth century the district of Ap’hkhazia, worried by inroads of Greeks, and exposed to the selfish purposes of the Greek emperors, wished to have a separate head of the Church of their own, with the title of Catholicos of Ap’hkhazia and of Imereth. This object was facilitated with the Greek emperor through the family ties of Pancrat, or Bagrat, prince of the Ap’hkhazes. Bagrat then, himself took the title of king, having resolved to throw up all allegiance to the king of Iberia. This, of course, weakened the bond of union between the northern and the southern districts of Iberia; and it had, moreover, no small influence on the morality both of the savage Ap’hkhazes and of the inhabitants of other districts who were led to follow their example; as, for instance, Imereth, Mingrelia, Guria, Swaneth, and other parts of the kingdom.

No sooner was Bagrat I. made king of Ap’hkhazia than the king of Iberia had to go to war with him, in order to conquer him. But, although the loss of political independence did not materially alter the existence of the neighbouring country of Georgia, it yet proved an injury and a source of danger to the Church; for at that time appeared signs of negligence in the management of the Church and of the faith of Ap’hkhazia. Troubles afflicted her; and now, not Persians from without, but barbarians from within, tore her asunder, and both-Church and country fell a sacrifice to the greatest misfortunes.

VI. Happily those misfortunes did not last long. The Iberians, having shaken off the yoke of the Ap’hkhazes, raised to the throne a king of the same house, and, with great zeal, showed their faith by their works, and prepared to follow steadily in the way of civilization. To that intent they sent into Greece and to Constantinople sons of freemen and of the clergy, in order that, after being themselves educated and civilized, they might bring home the same advantages to their own countrymen.

Of course the rending asunder of peoples of the same race, and of lands hitherto united, was not likely to lead to the welfare of the Church. Yet, in spite of this, the orthodox Faith continued pure; yea, even rival rulers who cherished hatred and ill-will towards each other were nevertheless devoted to the Christian Faith. Unfortunately, the two nations of Georgia and of Imereth were at the same time entertaining mutual hatred for each other, and a disposition to reciprocal hostilities, which increased in after-time. The king of Iberia saw with grief the falling away of the Ap’hkhazes, and the hatred of the inhabitants of Imereth for those of like faith; but, by resorting to conciliatory measures, he saved his kingdom from the dangerous consequences of division; and he set about confirming the remaining members of the Church in the bond of faith by spreading and establishing Christian principles among the people. The inhabitants of Imereth, on their side, ceased not to take up arms against their fellow-countrymen of the same faith, whether in order to recover their independence or to take the reins of government. It was only through partial victories on the side of Georgia, through the weakening of the whole of Imereth by the defection of vaivodes who raised themselves into independent princes, and through the gradual enlightenment of that country by the Faith and by sciences, that, in time, the tribes of Imereth ceased to struggle for their freedom if not for the mastery. And the spirit of the Gospel, effectually taught and diffused by faithful pastors and by kings, renewed for a time the bond of fellowship which had been either slackened or broken between the two countries, as we find from sundry examples of a common opposition from both kingdoms to the persecution of the Church and of the orthodox Faith.



IN the unhappy times for the Church brought on by the Iconoclasts in Constantinople (A.D. 821), Gabriel, a monk from Georgia, who was living on Mt. Athos in utter seclusion from his brethren, was deemed worthy to receive the image of the B. Virgin, which appeared to him from the sea, over against Mt. Athos. That image, honoured there in the convent that was soon after built by Georgian monks, became renowned under the name of “the Iberian.”

During the reign of the widow-Empress Zoe, the Iberian Prince Tornikius, who served gloriously in the Greek army, took the order of monk, and withdrew to Mt. Athos, in the days of S. Athanasius of that place, together with two other princes of the same country, who also became monks. The fame of this man shone not only in his great efforts as a religious of his order, but also in his building there a general convent, spacious and rich, the fruit of his military deeds. It happened thus. When war broke out between the Persians and the Byzantine empire, the Greeks found themselves without an able general. Then Tornikius, who before had already distinguished himself by his valour on the field of battle, was called from his cell in the convent; and, at the repeated instances of S. Athanasius, and with his blessing, he took the command of the Greek army and ended the war with glory. The Greeks, to show their gratitude, rendered him great assistance by building on Mt. Athos a new monastery, which subsists to this day, and retains its original name of the Iberian convent. Tornikius, promoted to the post of archimandrite of that monastery, ended there his glorious, long, and angelic life.

II. Neither wars, nor revolutions, nor yet the internal weakening of the Church, which increased in time, could hinder the progress of outward enlightenment, in proportion of which the inward strengthening of the Faith found increase and support. We may judge of that degree of civilization from the few remaining monuments that escaped being entirely destroyed by fire, and by the ravages of time, by the Mahomedan thraldom, and by mountain tribes which harassed the Church, not so much from a feeling of hatred to her as from an innate disposition to lawlessness and to rapine. Such destruction of existing monuments was all the more disastrous, as at that time public libraries, and other collections of books in monasteries, were still far from common. As regards outward and visible proofs of individual piety, that period is remarkable for the building of monasteries by pious princes and by kings; for the beautifying of temples; for the costly gifts and riches poured into them by Christians; and for the endowment of the same with lands and villages, charged with the maintenance of the clergy, and with that of anchorites living in solitude.

III. In Georgia personal piety showed itself in the building of the church to the B. Virgin of Khakhul, in that of the cathedral of Bedia, of Sap’hara, and of Kitai, in the beautifying of the monastery of Gaenat, and of others such. Out of zeal for the saints, other temples were then either restored or built in memory of men who had suffered for the Faith; such are, for instance, the temple of the B. V. Mary in Tiflis, on the same spot where people worship the relics of Shushanika, or Susanna, queen of Rhan, who, as we saw above, received the crown of martyrdom at the hands of her husband Vaskan, a worshipper of fire; the temples dedicated to the martyr Eustathius, to the martyrs David and Constantine, to King Archil, to S. Constantine, to the martyr Gobron, to the worker of miracles S. Hilarion, and to others. Besides this, festivals in honour of these saints were instituted, in order to bring and keep together as well as to encourage the people, harassed as they were by the frequent incursions of their enemies. On the other hand, the earnestness of the great efforts made from monasteries for the good of the surrounding country and villages brought out many good and holy men, encouraged by the example of Prince Dawith, son of Sambat, a grandee of the realm; of Adamas and of Basil, sons of Bagrat who took religious orders. Thus were monasteries not only kept up as means of good to the country, but thus also were they oftentimes richly endowed and otherwise supported.

IV. The zeal for the orthodox faith, which is a distinctive feature of very many kings of Georgia, was not long in enlightening the Eretes, at that time poisoned with the Arian heresy, and with that of the Monophysites. So also the establishment at that time of the eparchy of Ishkondit, in Mingrelia, by King George, and of that of Mokuski, in Samurtshakan, by King Leon; the gathering of the relics of those who had pleased God during their life; the translation from the Greek language of all books of the Church, and of some other theological works by Georgian teachers, brought up in the convent of Mt. Athos and at Constantinople—as, for instance, by John of Athos, Euthymius, and Gregory; as well as the zeal and the efforts of Gregory, Arsen, Antonius, Basilius, Cyprian, Bishop of Samthavi, of George, celebrated under the name of Sviatogorets, the holy mountaineer; of S. Hilarion, and of others,—strengthened and established the Church for ever; and kings, by founding and supporting schools, contributed to the enlightenment of many of their subjects. These learned and educated men not only corrected and purified the Georgian language, which hitherto was unformed, but they also wrote much in prose and in verse, and translated still more works of the best Greek authors. The kings of Georgia, on their side, did not only found and support schools for the enlightenment and civilization of the people, but they also made other efforts to multiply teachers. To that effect they frequently sent to Greece, for their education, a considerable number of children, for the most part of the more honourable families in the land, and already more or less prepared at home by a like education, so as to perfect themselves in the learning of that time. Among such men, to whom Georgia is greatly indebted for light and knowledge, we may notice John Patricius, a scholastic philosopher, surnamed Tchirtchimius, Stephen, and others. These learned men brought back into their native land the creations of Greek intelligence; they translated into the Georgian language some of the works of Plato, of Aristotle, of Porphyrius, of Damascius, and of others, translations which exist at present in manuscript.

V. History tells us that the Georgians, although separated from Europe, were yet near enough to it to share in the spirit which at that time roused the whole of Europe, and with it they also took up arms for the Crusades. Flattered at the thought of conquering the world, and of rescuing the grave of our Lord from the enemies of Christianity, Georgia sent a few troops on that expedition; but those courageous defenders of the Faith were wrecked on the Black Sea. This untoward accident, however, did not hinder fresh attempts on the part of the Georgians. The glory of the victories and the report of disasters carried here and there over the world, and, as a Greek writer (Anna Comnena Hist. of Emp. Alexis) says, shaking the whole of Europe to her foundations, led the Georgians to set on foot another expedition. The success thereof is not known; but the Georgian crusaders probably joined the Syrian Christians and the Armenian princes, who went forth on an expedition after the victory of the Saracens, and who joined it under the name of Captains of the West.

VI. Notwithstanding all the increase of light, the Church of Iberia did not remain free from internal divisions and dissensions. These were all the more felt as the estrangement of the people of Imereth begat hatred on their part for the Georgians of the same faith with themselves, in addition to the little love which existed between these two countries, independently of faith or of brotherhood. These times, troublous, and often even stormy, by reason of the frequent attacks of the Persians and of the Turks, required a king of a strong mind and of a firm character. Such was Dawith or David III., who came to the throne in the year 1089. He called together a synod, and cleansed the Church of sundry remnants of heresy: at the time, too, when the whole of Asia seemed divided between the heresy of the Monophysites and that of the Acephalites, spread right and left by whole companies of monks who wandered about Georgia deceiving those who were weak enough to hearken to them. Things went so far that even the bishops and pastors of the people despaired of maintaining the orthodox faith.

News of all this reached the ears of the Roman emperor Diogenes. He endeavoured to devise means whereby to prevent further schisms in the churches of Asia; but political considerations did not leave him free to carry his good intentions into effect; so that, after having tarried awhile on the borders of Iberia, he returned to Constantinople. Meanwhile zealous opponents of the Greek Church scattered about in Asia did their best to injure the orthodox faith in Iberia by spreading their false doctrines among the faithful. But, as the wickedness of their motives became apparent, the Church doubled her efforts and care in preserving the purity of the Faith among her sons. Then the reaction that followed against those heterodox teachers soon found an opportunity of turning itself against Arians as well; or, more correctly, perhaps, against those Arians who had embraced the heresy of the Monophysites.

King David, after his victory over the Armenians and the storming of their city Ani, called together a synod, over which presided John, Catholicos of Iberia, and the learned bishops Arsen of Ikaltska, Ephrem the younger, Theophilus, and John, surnamed Taitch. These learned men might have been inclined towards the orthodoxy of the Armenian bishops then present at the synod; but the Armenian people, having received information of this, would not hear of even the least alteration in their Faith; wherefore, with the exception of increased enmity between the two nations, the synod rose without any results. Moreover, about the year 1147, the Church of Constantinople, making fresh efforts, succeeded in bringing the Armenians into union with herself; and, after lengthened deliberations of Armenian bishops with learned Greek and Georgian bishops, held before the Emperor Michael Comnene, which were thus dragged on because the Greeks insisted on the complete alteration of rites adopted from olden time and firmly rooted in Armenia, a certain Theorian travelled from Constantinople into Armenia, and, as himself relates, persuaded the bishops and pastors of the Armenian Church to give up every difference between them and the Eastern Church. As to what other results his return to Constantinople had neither Theorian himself nor other writers tell us aught. It is probable that, owing to the troubles of the time, he did not succeed in reaching Constantinople alive.

The good deeds of King David in behalf of the Faith were not limited to Georgia only; for he sent rich presents to Jerusalem, to Mt. Athos, to Mt. Sinai, and to Cyprus. On Mt. Sinai he built, at his own expense, though it is not known on what occasion, a temple dedicated to the Holy Virgin and martyr Catherine, and he placed there a metropolitan. During his encounters with enemies both of the Church and of his country David never once forgot that it was God himself who blessed his efforts and protected his life. Thus, on his own testimony, while meeting an attack from the Turks, both he and his enemies saw S. George protecting him; and, on another occasion, he was saved from instant death by a special act of faith, when a thunderbolt falling upon him was prevented from hurting him by the golden image of the Archangel Michael which he wore on his breast.

An invasion of Iberia by Greeks obliged David to defend the frontiers of his dominions and to seek redress with the sword. On account of the great services which David rendered to his own kingdom, harassed as it was by incursions of the Persians, he was surnamed the Reformer; while, for his holy life, which always shone with good deeds, as well as for his constant defence of the Faith, he was numbered among the saints, and is feasted by the Georgian Church on the 26th of January.



IN the flourishing days of Georgia—that is, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries—the Georgian Church was adorned with very many learned and enlightened men. Almost all of them taught in places where Christian sciences found refuge from the barbarism of the Middle Ages; many attained to the highest then possible eminence of spiritual instruction, even in the interior of the country, whether through their own superiority of mind or through the introduction and assistance of the public teachers of the land, who, being often even of the rank of high priests, did not object to the work of teaching, in consideration of the great want of instructors for the people. Among those men are especially remarkable—

(1) Arsenius of Ikaltska, who was brought out of the caves of Shiomginsk, at the earnest instance of the king, to be the court chaplain. Cotemporary writers call him theologian, physician, metaphysician, syllogistic, and poet, both spiritual and secular; (2) Ephrem, the younger, schoolfellow of Arsenius; (3) George, first founder in Tiflis of the high school for noblemen and for the children of the clergy, translated from the Greek sundry books of the Holy Scriptures, and multiplied copies of them, through his own teachers, copyists, and caligraphists, for the use of many churches; (4) Theophilus, called, in the Georgian Church, “creator of hymnology,” translated from the Greek many books into the Georgian language, and composed several hymns in honour of Georgian saints; (5) John Taitcha, whose compositions are still extant, they say, in the Iberian convent on Mt. Athos. Among the learned men of that time we may also reckon Demetrius, an ascetic of the solitude of Garedj.

II. Towards the middle of the eleventh century a monk native of Shabtel, by name Prochorus, was sent to Jerusalem, and there took up his abode in the convent of the Holy Cross. He was furnished by King Bagrat Curopalat, who before had interested himself in behalf of that convent, with a sufficient sum of money for the restoration and beautifying thereof. But that establishment, after having for a long time been the abode and refuge of pilgrims from Georgia to Jerusalem, fell into decay. The pillars that support the dome of the convent, which had, by reason of old age, reached a hopeless state, were restored and decorated by Shota Rustavel, treasurer of Queen Tamar, who mentions him in a poem written by herself under the name of Barsova koja, “The Panther’s Skin,” wherein he is also represented or described under the appearance of an old man.

III. Notwithstanding the yoke of Mohammedanism, that weighed heavily on all parts of the world then conquered by Christianity, the Church of Iberia stood her ground manfully in the midst of the fears, wars, and incursions of her enemies. The kings who sat on the throne of Georgia after David the Reformer imitated the piety, the firmness, and, in general, the example of their honourable and worthy predecessor, courageously defended and protected the Church, and fought for her honour and for the increase of knowledge. King George III and his daughter Tamar reaped the fruits of their efforts in a thorough renovation of Iberia (A.D. 1150). The period of this queen’s reign, called the golden age of Georgian literature, and the writings of that time that have come down to us, show that she bestowed great attention on the literature of her time, both ecclesiastical and civil (A.D. 1174).

After proclaiming Iberia an imperial government, she proceeded, within a short time, to bring under her rule the whole of Ap’hkhazia, all the inhabitants of the mountains, Imereth, Karthalinia, and Kakheth. She called a synod in Mtzkhetha for the purpose of confirming the Church, by the establishment of ceremonies, in harmony with the institutions of the Greek Church. Twice did Tamar put to flight the Turks, come out for the conquest of Iberia. During two terrible battles she herself saw the finger of God directing her to the fight, and, with her soldiers, witnessed the miraculous conversion of one of the Mohammedan generals who was made prisoner. Treading in the footsteps of David and of his heroism, she sent presents and made gifts to many places in the Greek empire the most exposed to the Turkish arms. Historians remark that the Greek emperor wished to avail himself of some of those presents, which he took by force from the Georgian ambassadors. But the Georgians avenged themselves of this on him, by making incursions against Trapezus, Sinope, into Paphlagonia, upon the shores of the Black Sea subject to the Greek rule, and into Cappadocia. Besides all this, innumerable churches on mountains and in forests, built in places memorable for glorious events of that or of the preceding time; the adorning and endowing of temples with gifts of gold, silver, and precious stones, as offerings to the precious objects of Faith and of piety; the beautifying of monasteries both at home and abroad, at Jerusalem, on Mt. Athos, and on Mt. Sinai; about 300,000 troops for the defence of the nation against the enemies of the Church; and a tribute laid on the Armenians and on the Ap’hkhazes, form other proofs of Tamar’s power and of her zeal in doing good.

IV. After the reign of Queen Tamar (A.D. 1204) the Georgian Church suffered persecution at the hands of some of her ambitious pastors. This proved to be for her all the greater evil, as, for about two years, the Tartars and the Persians endeavoured to prevail against her with the Coran. But Providence, in order to stay the misfortunes of those days, appeared in the person of George VII., who shook off the yoke of the Persians and of the Greeks in the time of Paleologus. He, being himself a pattern of Christian bearing and manners, which he set forth in the strict rule of a Christian life, rebuilt at Jerusalem nearly the whole of Golgotha, having obtained it from the Greeks in exchange for subsidies he had sent them. Throughout history he is called “the Morning Star;” the native writers compare him with Jeremiah and Zorobabel; and they describe the era of his reign as “the sun” of Georgian history.

V. The times of the irruption of the Mongols into Georgia were of the hardest for the Christians (A.D. 1176–1229). By order of Gengis-Khan, Christians of all ages, ranks, and conditions were brought into the temples and there burnt alive. Pyramids of human heads marked his progress through the country, the swords of his soldiers having put to death 300,000 Christians. In the city of Mtzkhetha itself, that was a monument of primitive Christianity, he left nothing but traces of the walls and mounds of ruins; he slew all the inhabitants who had remained in the city; he witnessed himself the destruction, down to the foundations, of the cathedral, which was a beautiful relic of ancient architecture; he visited with like destruction all the monasteries and the cathedrals of the several dioceses, including the monastery of Bodba, wherein rest the bones of Nina, the light of Georgia. It is possible that all this cruelty might be owing to the fact that the Iberians, in order beforehand to protect themselves from the ravaging sword of Gengis-Khan, left their houses in prey to the cruelty, rapine, and destroying hordes of the barbarians, and, at the time of his arrival, hid themselves in forests and in inaccessible mountain passes.

VI. As if for a greater increase of misfortune to the Church, soon after the death of Queen Rusudana, Iberia, which was already divided into the two kingdoms of Imereth and of Kakheth, suffered a fresh dismemberment of her own kingdom into independent states, such as those of Odish (Mingrelia), Guria, Ap’hkhazia, Swaneth, and Djikheth, the result of which was the entire falling away from the Faith of all the Ap’hkhazes, Djikhethes, Ossetes, Kabardes, and Kisthethes. The kingdom of Iberia, together with the district of Radchana, was yet at peace, and her kings, crowned in the city of Kitais, quietly occupied the throne until the invasion of Tamerlan, God’s scourge on the sins of Iberia, as historians call him.

VII. In the midst of woeful misfortunes and of the devastation caused by Gengis-Khan and by the wars of the sultan, God’s Providence for the consolation of the Church was marvellously displayed in the patient endurance of confessors and of martyrs Such were: (1) Shalva, son of a vaivode of Akhal-Tzikhé, who would not hearken to the persuasive entreaties of the Sultan to change his faith (A.D. 1272); (2) Demetrius, king of Iberia (A.D. 1289), who from the first professed the faith of Christ before infuriated Mohammedan teachers, and who after that received the crown of martyrdom in Persia (A.D. 1289–1294); (3) King Wakhtang, and a multitude of other Christians and faithful pastors. Examples of earnest life through faith were set by Basilius, known as the uncle of the Catholicos Euphemius; by Pimen, who preached the Christian faith in Daghestan among the mutinous inhabitants of the shores of the Caspian Sea, renowned for his piety, and burning with love and zeal for Christ’s sake; and by Antoni Naokhrebuli who shut the mouth of preachers of the Coran by his simple but powerful discussions. Unfortunately for the Church, true Christians were greatly diminished under the Tartar and the Mussulman rule. Through the general corruption of Mezkha, the Christians of Imereth fell upon the property of the Church, and many either took to reducing the revenues of the churches and monasteries, or at all events to turn them to their own use. With the destruction of temples and of churches by the Tartars, many waxed cold in their inward zeal for the Faith and for good works.

The Catholicos Nicolai, both learned and zealous for good works, alone maintained a Christian spirit of zeal, and inspired with it all classes of the people. Meanwhile Christians, having forgotten the faith in God, were made to acknowledge proofs of His providence in terrible chastisements and other manifestations, such as the yoke of the Tartar rule, appalling earthquakes during the solemn festival of our Lord’s glorious resurrection, and a famine which for five years raged over the whole of Iberia.



DURING the reign of Queen Rusudana (A.D. 1219–1239) began the first relations of Iberia with the Western Christians, on the occasion of the separation of these from the Greek Church. What led to this was the incessant incursions of Turks and Persians into Georgia, and their strenuous efforts to exterminate Christianity and to subject the country to Islamism. Queen Rusudana applied by letter to Pope Gregory IX., in 1239, and begged of him protection from the Tartars. Instead of the assistance which she asked, he sent her seven monks of the order of Preachers (patres prædicatores), whose errand was to promote in Georgia the arrogant intentions of the court of Rome. In his letter the Pope regretted his inability to comply with the queen’s wishes, while, with the usual crafty diplomacy of Rome, he ceased not to flatter the queen, by praising the faith of the Georgians, and their good name as Christians, to try and persuade the queen to submit herself and her people to the chair of St. Peter and to the warden of the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. But even when the predecessor of Gregory IX., Honorius III., made the same propositions to Queen Rusudana, she expressed her decided unwillingness to submit to the Western Church. This, however, did not hinder Georgians, together with Armenians, from being ready to unite with soldiers of the West, and to make common cause against the Saracens. So great was the ardour with which this rising took place that even women took up arms for the defence of the Faith.

In the year 1289 the preachers sent by Pope Nicolas IV. into Georgia met with a favourable reception from the queen, though with no reference whatever to Latinism. They, however, turned their favourable reception by the queen into days of bitter tears and of persecution for the Church; and they wrung from Rusudana leave to establish in Tiflis an episcopate, with the bishop Johannes Florentinus, of the order of Preachers, at the head of it.

II. In the year 1400 Tamerlan laid waste Georgia, acting with the utmost cruelty, and inflicted untold misery on the country, weakened as it had been before his coming by numberless irruptions of Persians and of Tartars. In this instance, however, Georgia had, in certain respects, brought upon herself the thunder of Tamerlan’s vengeance, devastation and rapine, terrible even for Bajazet. Happily, the slaughter did not last long. Tamerlan was obliged to march against Bajazet; and the Georgians, taking advantage of his departure, sallied from their retreats in woods and in mountains passes, returned to their houses in ruins, and then, when the inhuman Timur buried in the earth four thousand Armenians, whom he had made prisoners after the desperate defence of Sebastopolis, and went into Egypt and Syria, they hastened to sow their fields and to commit to the earth troops of slaughtered brethren, in order to prevent a pestilence. This happened during the reign of George VII., king of Georgia.

III. In the midst of afflictions from without and from within, at the time of Timur’s invasion, the Church of Iberia not only had no distinguished teachers, but even hardly those that were necessary; wherefore she had either to wait for such help for her confirmation, or to crave and to receive at the hands of the king and of the Catholicos such aid, in this respect, as they could afford. And, in fact, King Alexander I., who afterwards put on the habit of a monk, and his successors, the Catholicos Michael and David, sons of King George, ceased not to occupy themselves with the restoration of temples and of churches destroyed by the enemy, with the beautifying of monasteries in the wilderness, and with the bringing back to the Church of many who had embraced Islamism. Through their unflinching zeal for the Faith, in the midst of persecution they revived the broken hearts of Christians, whether by their guidance or their advice, so as even to draw upon them the notice and respect of their enemies.

IV. The pious king Alexander I. (A.D. 1414–1442), having opposed to persecutions a heart firm and steadfast, restored later the temple of Mtzkhetha, which exists at present. During the long years of his reign he did not levy a single tax or tribute on his subjects, he and his princes supporting themselves by the work of their own hands. Having from the first brought together into one kingdom all the scattered principalities, without thinking of the evil consequences of division, he nevertheless divided his kingdom of Georgia, according to the number of his sons, into the kingdoms of Karthli, of Kakheth, and of Imereth.

V. About that time shone with especial glory King Demetrius, who embraced monasticism, and put on the cowl as simple monk under the name of Damian. He withdrew into the solitary life of a monk with this object in view, to draw by his example other Christians to the same vocation; so that solitudes which had been without inhabitants became gradually peopled with them. That immortal man, in the midst of the arrogance of furious enemies, peaceably sowed the seed of good deeds from his cell, until he shone brightly by kindling in the life of his countrymen both piety and zeal for works of faith and the love of God.

Notwithstanding the many efforts of the Mohammedans to turn the whole of Iberia to Islamism, the Church always abode firm in the faith of Christ. Time, that destroyed so many monuments of the faith and of the piety of our fathers, could not shake those divine foundations on which the Church of Christ is immoveably fixed, built as it is on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and adorned with martyrs and teachers.

The gloom of persecutions did not succeed in extinguishing the light of the orthodox faith, which had shone over Iberia for more than a thousand years. Even Colchis, together with Trapezus, over which ruled the Emperor David Comnenes, being deprived at that time of enlightened pastors, and laid waste by Amyrates, and afterwards by Mohammedans that succeeded them, did lose everything except the faith, from which it could not swerve, even in the years 1454 and 1455, dreadful and disastrous as they were both for the Church and for the people.

VI. To the persecutions against the Church, as it were, groaning, in 1476, and in the following years under the tyranny and revengefulness of Uzum Hassan, who at that time ruled over Georgia, were added, not once, but often, the efforts made by the Latins to shake the orthodox faith, which had been preserved undefiled for centuries. Their object was firmly to establish in the minds of the Christians of Georgia veneration for the Head of those of the West, a veneration which was to be accomplished by submission to his temporal government. A fresh embassage from King Constantine III. to Pope Alexander VI. was the fruit of the craft and of the repeated instances of the Romish monks; for the reluctance of the king to yield to the pretensions of the popes of the West is more than probable. To the praise of the Georgian Church must we again remark that both the efforts of heretics and the wiles of preachers of the Western Church were mostly in vain. Neither persecutions such as those set on foot by Pope Eugenius IV. against the Georgian metropolitan Gregorius and other Georgian grandees, who were present at the Council of Florence, nor the flatteries called forth towards the Christians of the Georgian Church, like those sent by the doctors of Tubingen and Martin Crusius, did not succeed in shaking the hold of the orthodox faith of Georgia, nor in inducing the orthodox Georgians to change the faith they had received from the Greeks.



AS the Turkish power increased in Anatolia, so were the Greeks obliged to seek the protection of the kings of Georgia (A.D. 1490). These retired into the interior of Georgia, and lived there in peace, as long as the iron hand of the Turk was not raised to exterminate the Christian faith, even in the kingdom of Georgia, bordering on that in which they now had to seek their future destiny. Until the year 1827 the Greeks always had a special bishop of their own, under the name of Akhtalic, so called from the small place Akhtal, to the south of Tiflis, where they took their abode. The last of them was Joachim, who died in Georgia in 1827; their eparchy, however, was subject to the Catholicos of Georgia.

The fall of the Greek empire had woeful consequences for the orthodoxy of Iberia; for the Greek emperors had always protected the Lazes, the Colchians, the Suani, and all the inhabitants of Georgia against the Persians and the Turks, sworn enemies of Christian Iberia. From the taking of Constantinople, and the increase of Turkish power in Asia Minor, the Iberian Church lost her protectors, and the inhabitants of Akhaltsikhé, and of other districts to the west of it, were obliged to become Mahomedans.

Imereth, and the lower parts of Karthalinia and of Kakheth, remained faithful to the Gospel, and suffered for the Cross. The only resource then left was to trust in God and in the orthodox Church of Russia (A.D. 1492). The king of Kakheth, Alexander I., sent messengers to the Tzar John III., deploring the persecutions to which his people were subject, the devastation of the country, the churches in ruins, the ignorance and degraded state of the clergy in those barbarous times, and the seditions and murders in the midst of Christian civilization. Alexander, addressing John III. as the hope of Christians, as the support of the poor, and as the zealous votary of S. Nicolas, begged of him help and protection; but circumstances prevented the Russian Tzar from becoming at that time the protector of this oppressed Church. The Turks breathed vengeance against the Iberians, and ceased not to urge the pasha of Anatolia to fall upon them, to take their land, and to turn them to Islamism. Unfortunately, internal discord became as it were the cause for which fire and sword laid waste the whole of Georgia, now at the hands of the Persians and then at those of the Turks. Iberia sighed and lost all spirit; her enemies did all that might be expected from barbarous times and from the rule of war of those days, which was to sanction by law every kind of evil in an enemy’s country without defender or protector on either side. The pastors of the Church were silent; the kings, afraid of the resentment of powerful neighbours, could take no effectual measures for the defence of oppressed Christianity; schools were closed; God’s Word was hardly remembered in secret, in the feelings and in the hearts of believers weighed down and afflicted, and but seldom heard in churches then in ruins. Priests on their way into Georgia, visiting from curiosity churches standing apart and in solitudes, found in many of them only remains of rich offerings of former times. King Alexander, having explained to them the cause of this desolation, attributed it to the division of Iberia into principalities. “We are surrounded,” said he, “by unbelievers; but we still praise the true God.”

IV. At last came a new and strange season of trial for the Georgian Church. Oppressed by internal discord, and by the dissensions of ambitious and unsettled princes, Georgia was again exposed to a severe persecution on the part of the Persians. These enemies of the Christian name ceased not to lay their sacrilegious hands on the riches of Iberia. The messengers of King Alexander to Moscow lamented the fearful misfortunes of their country, and represented how the great Shah-Abbas, having endeavoured to leave to himself the protection of the kingdom of Georgia, made in reality the Georgians enemies of the Russian Tzar.

V. In the year 1587 King Alexander II., having declared himself a vassal of Russia, sent to Moscow the priests Joachim, Cyril, and others; and, pressed on all sides as he was by the Persians and the Turks, entreated with tears the Russian Tzar Theodore Iohannovitch to take Iberia under his protection, and thus to rescue her from the grasp of infidels. “The present disastrous times,” wrote he, “for the Christian faith were foreseen by many men inspired of God. We, brethren of the same faith with Russians, groan under the hand of wicked men. Thou, crowned head of the orthodox faith, canst alone save both our lives and our souls. I bow to thee with my face to the earth, with all my people, and we shall be thine for ever.” The Tzar Theodore Iohannovitch having taken Iberia under his protection, busied himself earnestly in rendering her assistance and in works of faith. He sent into Georgia teachers in holy orders for the regulation of Church ceremonies, and painters to decorate the temples with images of saints; and Lob, patriarch of all the Russias, addressed to the Georgian king a letter touching the faith. King Alexander humbly replied that the favourable answer of the Tzar had fallen upon him from Heaven, had brought him out of darkness into light; that the clergy of the Russian Church were angels for the clergy of Iberia, buried in ignorance. The Prince Zvenigorod, ambassador to Georgia, promised in the name of Russia the freedom of all Georgia, and the restoration of all her churches and monasteries.

Notwithstanding the promise of help on the part of Russia made by Theodore Iohannovitch, and reiterated by his successor, Boris Godynoff (A.D. 1594), the fear of vengeance from Persia was so great among the Iberians that King Alexander, who still called himself a vassal of Russia, was obliged to go to war with Persia. The words uttered by Alexander’s son George in presence of the Russian ambassador Tatitcheff, and the words of the Iberian messengers to the boyars, show the terror caused by the circumstances of that time. “Never,” said George—”never did Iberia suffer more woefully than at present: we are under the feet of the Sultans and of the Shah; and both long to drink our blood and to take all we have. We have given ourselves of our own accord to Russia; let Russia, then, receive us with deeds, and not with words. It is no time for delay; soon there will not be one man left to embrace the Cross with useless attachment to the only sovereign that can defend it. He may save us. Turks, Persians, Kumiks, rush upon us on all sides; and we call to you most humbly. Come and save us. We wail on account of the infidels, and therefore have we given ourselves up with our heads to the orthodox Tzar, that he may protect us; but at present we weep over our homes, our churches, and our monasteries in ruins—our children in captivity, our shoulders under the yoke.”

VI. On the 7th of October, 1604, dawned the resurrection of Georgia, and of her ancient glory. But her future happiness required of her yet other, if not greater, sacrifices. The Tzarevitch Constantine, who had embraced the Mahomedan religion in Persia after renouncing the faith of his ancestors, showed himself an enemy by murdering his father Alexander and his brother. The chief men of the state, fearing the Mahomedan king, but encouraged by the envoys from Russia, required a Christian king. At last the uneasiness and agitation of the people were allayed only by Tatitcheff’s notification that the king might only be a Christian, and by the will of Tzar Boris Godynoff that he would deliver Iberia from Mahomedan thraldom.

Shah-Abbas, having won victories everywhere during his long reign, whether by main force or through cunning, became an object of terror, an impending ruin and desolation to the whole kingdom of Georgia. Every successive exaction of his from Georgia was made to fill the treasury of Persia, to reduce the Christian faith to a lower and lower state, and to establish the law of the Coran. Seeing that the native kings and princes were in no hurry to bow the knee before him, he thundered against Georgia, treading under foot everything on his way to Tiflis, bathing everything in blood, reducing to ashes towns, villages, churches, and monasteries. He showed himself a ferocious and proud man, and constrained all to lay down their arms. The Christians of Georgia, feeling no confidence in their strength for the war, put their whole trust in God. The churches and the monasteries were filled with earnest supplicants; fasts were proclaimed, and processions with the cross formed in various places; all confessed their sins and wept over them, hearkened to the instructions of their pastors, and, preparing for death, partook of the Holy Sacrament Shah-Abbas, having gathered together in churches Christians faithful to the Gospel, burned them by thousands. Even the bones of saints and of other champions for the Faith were not left to rest in the earth, to which they had been committed in hope of the resurrection. Yet, for all that, Christianity was not weakened in Georgia; the faith which always triumphs over troubles and difficulties shone yet brighter among Georgians through them all.

At last Shah-Abbas, having slaked his thirst for blood, began to feel God’s hand heavy on him. Historians relate that many Persians, when rushing into temples to plunder them, were struck with blindness, and that others, witnessing the wonders wrought by the power of Christ, turned Christians. Shah-Abbas himself could not demolish God’s spiritual building, against which the power of hell cannot prevail, being terrified at strange rumours concerning his army, which took to admiring Christianity and to wonder at it; as well as at evident interpositions of God’s providence in favour of his servants. He showed his feeling of dread by the restitution of images of the Assumption of the B. V. Mary, and of the most Holy Trinity, that wrought miracles, brought, among other spoils, from a monastery built by Queen Tamar upon a high mountain among the defiles of Ksais and of Aragv, and by the image of S. Eustathius, sent as a present into Karthalinia; by offering the valuable hilt of his sword, and by other gifts in acknowledgment of the Christian courage and valour of the Georgians.



NATIVE historians relate with honour the tale of misfortunes that befel Georgia in the xvith and xviith centuries. Kings and grandees of the realm, who had experienced the vanity of the world, and who, during the whole course of their life, had not seen the happy days of a Church at peace, put on the cowl, and became pastors of the people, in order that, by setting the example of Christian devotedness, they might contribute towards the consolation of the Church, then in despair of either rest or peace. Among such we may single out—

1. Simeon (A.D. 1532), Tzarevitch of Imereth, and Bishop of Bitchvinta (Pitiyunta).

2. Malachi (A.D. 1582), Catholicos of Ap’hkhazia and of Imereth, of the princely race of the Abashides.

3. Melchizedek (A.D. 1591), Bishop of Gaetan, son of the Tzarevitch Bagrat.

4. David (A.D. 1592), Tzarevitch of Georgia, who became a monk and lived in the solitude of a narrow cell as simple monk.

5. Georgius (A.D. 1594), Tzarevitch of Karthalinia, named Gerasim among his order.

6. Bagrat, brother of King David, called Barnabas among his order.

7. Luarsab, king of Karthalinia, named the “Gideon of Iberia” for his giving peace to the Church, both within and without, and called “saint” by reason of his devotion and piety.

Others likewise sealed with their martyrdom, in presence of the people, the truth of their faith. Such were—

1. Theodorus, priest of Manglis.

2. Georgius, king of Karthalinia, poisoned by the Persians.

3. Simeon (A.D. 1619–1629), also king of Karthalinia, son of Luarsab, who, after being prisoner at Constantinople, was put to death by poisoning.

4. Luarsab II. (A.D. 1603–1616), king of Karthalinia, who was strangled for his confession of the name of Christ in presence of the Shah of Persia. The Iberian Church celebrates his feast on the 21st of June.

5. Ketevan (A.D. 1624), queen of Kakheth, who suffered the most cruel martyrdom for her firmness in the Christian faith, on the arrival of Shah-Abbas into Georgia. The Church commemorates her death on the 14th of September.

Those who followed the example of these kings and great men of the state in their piety and in their zeal for the Faith are mentioned by historians in such number that the Catholicos Antoni, in his praise of the glory of martyrdom, compares them to an host, armed and fighting against the world and the devil, and dying solemnly for the Faith like victorious men. One irruption of Tamerlan cost the Iberian Church 300,000 of her sons. In towns and villages, and in mountain passes, formerly teeming with population, there remain only faint traces of the former inhabitants. The traveller through Georgia sees only stone foundations of churches, ruined walls, the ruins of houses, scattered fragments of the images of saints and of crosses. This spectacle meets him in general in the western and southern districts of Iberia, which they call Samkheth. Mountain recesses, the abodes of pious anchorites, on steep and rugged rocks, like bird’s nests, innumerable as they are in Georgia, show proof of Christian self-denial. On seeing those places one cannot help feeling surprised; and, involuntarily despising the pride of life and the vanity of the world, while admiring the beauty of the scenery, one is led to cherish inward veneration for those indefatigable pioneers of faith and piety.

II. Meanwhile risings of the nation and the storms of war crippled the efforts of the Church of Georgia, by depriving the country of her best province of Samtskhé. This was accomplished by the Turkish arms, under King George, who was poisoned by order of the Shah of Persia because he would not embrace the religion of Mahomet. The upper parts of Karthalinia and of Djavakheth, taken by force by the conquering hordes of Turks, in the very midst of the provinces of Georgia, fell away from the Faith, and turned to Islamism; and the churches of orthodox Georgians were closed.

The king of Kakheth, Theimuraz I., grandson of the murdered king, Alexander I., sent, in 1619, Igumene Chariton as ambassador to the Russian Tzar Michael Theodorovitch, with the urgent and humble request that his lordship would have pity on his fellow-Christians, bound to him by the same faith, to take his part and to protect them from the persecutions of Shah-Abbas of Persia, from whom he had hidden himself in Bashitshina, a province of Dadian. He also entreated the Russian sovereign to intercede with the Shah for the release of his mother and of his two sons, Leon and Alexander, whom the Shah had taken captive. In his letter to King Theimuraz, he represented his wretched condition in these words: “Our tears and our miserable estate show you, O exalted sovereign, that our light is turned into gloom, that our sun no longer warms us, that our moon no more gives her light, and that our bright day is turned into night. For my part, I am come to this, that I wish I never were born rather than see the orthodox faith destroyed, the land of Iberia laid waste before my eyes, and the name of God no longer praised in our churches.” The conquest of Georgia by an orthodox and powerful nation was more agreeable to her people than their bondage to Mahomedans. It was welcome by the whole of Georgia—that is, by Karthalinia, by Kakheth, by Imereth, and even by the reigning prince Dadian. Russia, on her side, did all she could: she chastised the prince of Daghesthan, who kept Georgia in constant alarm through his incursions; and, for the time, gave rest to the country by making peace with Persia.

III. But Georgia, which, despite all the invasions of the Turks and of the Persians, had succeeded in keeping the Faith inviolate, had nevertheless to undergo yet greater misfortunes. The Shahs of Persia, taking advantage of the troubled times of Georgia, broken up, as it were, into bits, laid their bloody hands upon her on all sides, and determined to make every effort to turn her to their own creed. The people, weakened, reduced to beggary, and panic-struck, appeared to the Persians to be in a state ready to embrace Islamism, and thus also, and once for all, to receive the Persian yoke. Wherefore the politics of the Persian court were, with its usual vigilance, directed to this, whether by threats or by flatteries, to bring to Islamism, if not actually the people of Georgia, at least her kings.

The Persians succeeded in this; and Rostom, Tzarevitch of Georgia, who was brought up in Persia, and who embraced Islamism, mounted the throne of Karthalinia in 1634, bringing with him every kind of vice (A.D. 1634–1658). Ashamed neither of his own disgraceful apostasy from the Christian faith, nor yet of his years—he was then sixty-seven—he enforced the Mahomedan religion in his dominions, and oppressed his subjects, obliging them, especially in the first year of his reign, to renounce Christianity. He showed his unworthy zeal for Islamism, especially in his dealings with the Catholicos Endemon. This man, imprisoned in spite of his old age, but despising the threats of the king, ceased not night and day by prayers and and with tears to exhort the wailing nation, and the pastors thereof, to abide faithful to the faith of their fathers; but Rostom ordered him to be thrown down the highest rock in Tiflis, from a height of upwards of three hundred feet. On the other hand, Rostom’s queen, Maria, protected the Church to the utmost of her power.

IV. To Rostom succeeded his adopted son, Wakhtang (A.D. 1658–1675), also a Mahomedan, who changed his name to that of Shahnabaz. The first years of his reign were also hard and heavy for his Christian subjects, but afterwards he favoured them, albeit in secret; and, in all the good he did for the Church, he always acted through his twin brother Domentius, whom he had himself appointed Catholicos of Iberia. After the melancholy martyrdom of this king (A.D. 1676–1688), his son George mounted the throne of Iberia, having embraced the Mahomedan faith, even after his father, by constraint of Shah-Abbas II. of Persia. Having, like his father, shown favour to Christianity through the Catholicos Nicolai, of the princely house of the Amilakhvors, he did as much good as the Tzarevitch Heraclius, called among Mahomedans Nazaralikhan, who after him occupied the throne through intrigue, did evil. The first act of Heraclius was to depose the Catholicos Nicolai; after which followed sundry other alterations in the government of the state, evidently to the injury of the Church.

Faithful pastors of the Church, however, ceased not, in the midst of troubles, seditions, and persecutions, to teach the true Faith with care and earnestness. So much so that, at the invitation of the Patriarchs Paicius of Alexandria and Macarius of Antioch, called to Moscow by the Tzar Alexis Michaelovitch in the year 1665, to the synod held against Nicon, were also present the Georgian Metropolitan Epiphanius, with Philotheon of Trapezus, and the Georgian Archimandrite Pachomius. Among the happy results of that synod for Georgia were the reconstruction of the hierarchy, and bright examples of holy life among the clergy, among men of the world, and among all members of the Church in general.

V. At last, in the year 1701, Wakhtang VI. sat on the throne of Georgia; he was a sovereign who feared God, a zealous Christian, a wise and prudent politician. He secured the happiness of Georgia by enacting laws which to this day go by the name of the Code of King Wakhtang. These laws, founded on religion, allayed warlike passions, and set limits to the love of war of the peoples inhabiting Georgia. When once on the throne he reinstated the Catholicos Nicolai, who had been deposed by Heraclius, into the dignity of his office; for he was a man renowned in his time both as theologian and as philosopher; and after the death of Nicolai, Wakhtang intrusted the chair of Catholicos to his brother, Domentius III.

The Church, which had hitherto been troubled by the wars with the Turks and by the internal dissensions of the kingdom, found rest and experienced happier days under the sceptre of Wakhtang, though not for long. Among his deeds in behalf of the Church were the building of new temples and the restoration of many that were dilapidated; the calling together of a synod for the purpose of the establishment of the orthodox Faith in all respects in harmony with the Greek and the Russian Churches; the institution and regulation of Church discipline; the restoration of monasteries and of hermitages that were celebrated for their ancient foundations; his bringing a printing-press to Tiflis, and the publication of books of devotion and for Divine service, all of which may yet be procured easily for use in churches and for edification at home. He opened schools, generally in connection with monasteries, wherein children of the best families were taught for the most part the Holy Scriptures and Philosophy, after the scholastic method of those days; he sanctioned and confirmed the revenues given by former kings to monasteries and to hermitages, and he secured sufficient maintenance to those that were not adequately endowed. At that time monasteries were everywhere abodes of science and centres of civilization and of enlightenment for the country. The Georgian Church, which flourished during his reign, so soon enriched herself that, in a very short time, she was able to send valuable offerings to the monasteries of Mt. Athos and to others, elsewhere in Greece. Historians relate that Wakhtang sent to Jerusalem, as an offering to the Holy Sepulchre, the sum—a very large one for those days—of 2000 tumans (or 20,000 roubles); and he received for that a number of bones and of wonderworking images, copies of the B. V. Mary of Okona, which has long been feasted on the 30th of July. This image was at first discovered in the monastery Gaenat, afterwards brought into Russia, and is now found in possession of the Georgian princes, descendants of King Wakhtang VI., in the village of Liskova, of the government of Nijegorod.



BY a misfortune, which, however, did not last long for the Church, Wakhtang, fearing the vengeance of the Shah of Persia, and moved by other political considerations, was obliged to abdicate the throne, to go into Russia, and, to his great grief, to see sitting on his own throne, even at the time of his departure, Iesse, who welcomed Islamism into Georgia from the Turks. Mounted on the throne, that apostate brought with him every kind of vice taught by the laws of the false prophet. The Catholicos Domentius and John Saakadze, superior of the hermitage of Davido-Garedj, unwilling and unable to endure the horrors and the lawlessness of those unhappy times, helped to unmask the real intentions of the Mahomedan king then sitting on the Christian throne of Georgia, which were to destroy, by his example, the good results of Christian temperance and self-denial among his Christian subjects. By so doing he armed against himself the pastors of the Church. When they exposed him, he excused himself by the religion which he professed; so that it only remained for the Christians to pray that those dangerous and disastrous days for the Church might be shortened; and soon God’s providence put an end to the sensual life of that ungodly king by a most horrible death.

II. To the sad circumstances of those troublous times was added another great misfortune for the Church: an irruption into Georgia of the Persians, who laid her waste and carried off with them some of her people captive, and a quantity of spoil. No sooner had the invading hordes of Persia quitted her borders than Georgia was again, from 1723 to 1731, subjected to the bondage of the Turks, who succeeded in establishing their power, by giving to the country a pasha, whose residence was in Tiflis.

This fresh servitude of Georgia was the more onerous, as the Persians, by no means inclined to yield to the Turks, made incessant incursions, every one of which laid waste the land and deprived it of inhabitants. Every fresh arming of the Turks required funds for the maintenance of the war, to say nothing of the taxes continually levied, not only on the people, but even on bishops and on monasteries. This time of bondage cost the Church many of her sons; nevertheless, many Georgians showed themselves strong in the Faith, and by their firmness excited the wonder even of the enemies of the Cross of Christ. The Catholicos Domentius ventured to appear at Constantinople before the Sultan, and to plead for the liberty, the peace, and the prosperity of the Church. Unfortunately, however, his pleading did not produce any great result. Through the pasha’s artifice Domentius was put in prison on one of the islands of Greece; and in his chair was placed a sacrilegious individual who had bought of the pasha the Episcopate; an office that cannot be purchased. The Catholicos Domentius remained in exile until the death of this usurper of his chair. This dreadful trial for the Church, which lasted until 1744, was put an end to by the Georgian kings Theimuraz and Heraclius, who reigned at one and the same time in Karthalinia and in Kakheth.

III. About this time Nadir-Shah, remarkable for his opposition to the exploits of King Heraclius II. (A.D. 1736–1747), for faithful service in the expedition to India, supplied him with troops which enabled him to drive away the Turks from the borders of Iberia. Meanwhile, no sooner did the Church seem to rest and to be free from the yoke of the Turks than a terrible foe appeared in Nadir-Shah himself. Apparently he favoured the Church, then expiring and oppressed; but, feigning himself a protector of the people, he prepared a greater evil for the Church, and a yoke heavier than that of the Turks. The king of Kakheth, Theimuraz II., while bound to this pretended liberator, soon found that his pity was as dangerous for Iberia as even his hatred could be. He found no other means of assistance for his country than, quitting Georgia, to go himself in person and lay the request of his whole people before the throne of Russia, that was of the same faith with him, and there to sue for help to the tottering kingdom and to its oppressed Christianity. Theimuraz II. (A.D. 1762), starting for Russia, adjured all the nation in the porch of the temple to defend the Christian Faith, attacked by Turks and Persians; he presented to the clergy and to the people his grandson Prince George, then only twelve years old, girt on him his sword, blessed him with the Cross that gives us life, and proclaimed him king of Karthalinia, under the protection of his son Heraclius II., king of Kakheth.

Heraclius (A.D. 1762–1796), being left king of the kingdoms of Kakheth and of Karthalinia, which had hitherto been separate, turned his attention to the internal condition of his kingdom, and for a time procured rest for the Church. Tumults and dissensions, that burst out in Persia, through the ambition of men aspiring to the throne, gave him an opportunity of encouraging the Christians in works of faith and piety, and of confirming the faith and good works among the people. During a short time of peace he brought a printing-press to Tiflis, and printed Church books; such as Octoichos, the Flower triodon, the Lent triodon, the Gospel, the Book of Psalms, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles; the Ritual, the Missal, the Book of Prayers, the Book of Hours, and an Akathist to the B. V. Mary.

IV. Meanwhile Imereth was exposed to great dangers on the part of the Turks, from whom that country was suffering as much as Georgia had hitherto suffered from the Persians. A multitude of Christians perished by the sword of the votaries of the Coran, and others inclined still more to the Mahomedan faith. Soon, may be, even the memory of Christianity would have disappeared, as it had done among the Ap’hkhazes and the Lazes, had not the Russian army hastened to the rescue. By the help of these the Turkish army was driven from the frontiers of Imereth, of Guria, and of Mingrelia; and King Solomon I., who had hitherto concealed himself among the mountains, returned to his people. By the treaty of 1774, between Russia and the Turks, in which Mingrelia alone was ceded to them, the shameful tribute paid to the Sultan in girls and boys was put an end to. King Heraclius II. obtained the same results in his relations with Persia.

V. King Solomon I. (A.D. 1763–1782), who confirmed the Christian faith in Imereth, and who for that reason is justly called by historians “the light of Christianity and the support of piety,” occupied himself with the destruction of one custom that recalled the times and the spirit of barbarism; namely, that of selling prisoners to captivity in Turkey. And, in order that it should rest on the conscience of his subjects, he made it the subject of a synod that branded with anathema every one who would not assent to the wishes of the king, and obey him and the commandments of God. The fear of that sentence disturbed the conscience of the Christians of Imereth, and this measure not only did not remain fruitless, but even yielded considerable advantages to the Church and to the kingdom, by teaching the people to respect the sacredness of the king’s crown, and to cherish obedience to religion and to the laws of the land. Solomon I., by reason of all the good he bestowed on his orthodox kingdom, won for himself the special title of Solomon the Great.

VI. But, for all that, the persecutions of the Church did not become less. The Western Church, which more than once attempted to destroy the orthodox faith, continued, in those trying and troublous times, to disturb the peace of the Georgian Church. Already, from the year 1625, Roman missionaries of the order of Theatine got a footing in Iberia; and the kings, as well as the people, finding among them clever physicians and intelligent men, treated them with kindness. The head of this mission, Avitavolis, rejoiced, in 1631, the Pope Urban VIII. with the report of the small results of his mission; to which may be ascribed the union of many Armenians with the Latin Church. After them came monks of the Capucin order, who succeeded in perverting not only many Armenians, but also Georgians in Tiflis, in Guria, in Kitais, in Mingrelia, and, above all, in Akhaltsikhé, still under the power of the Turks, by promising them peace and salvation in the bosom of the Roman Church.

At first the kings of Georgia did not feel any diffidence towards these teachers from the Western Church, but made use of them as of learned men for the improvement of elementary teaching in their dominions; and the Catholicos Antoni I., who found them useful instruments to enlighten Georgia, fell himself a sacrifice to their wiles. The king heard with grief of the intention of the Catholicos to abandon the orthodox faith. He called together a Synod, and by its decision Antoni had the choice given him of either quitting Georgia or of abdicating his office of Catholicos. Antoni left Georgia in 1755, placing himself under the protection of the Holy Synod of all the Russias, and submitted to the inquiry thereof his confession of faith, which was found in every respect conformable to the orthodox Greek faith; then, by permission of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, the vacant eparchy, or diocese, of Vladimirsk was given him with the title of archbishop, which he filled since the 27th November, 1759. In the course of time he was brought back to Georgia, and reinstated into his office of Catholicos, when he showed himself a zealous promoter of the orthodox faith.

VII. The king and the pastors of the Church, having by these means sown the seeds of the errors of the Western Church, afterwards did their utmost, whether by rules of piety or by powerful refutations, to maintain the integrity of the orthodox faith and the purity of the Græco-Eastern Church. Among these we may especially notice—

(1) Zacharias (A.D. 1617), Catholicos of Georgia, who wrote a history of his times.

(2) The Catholicos Nicolai (A.D. 1710), a native of Imereth, who wrote an exposition of Holy Scripture, and a history of the Church. For the sake of his faith he endured the loss of his office and exile, which he rendered yet more glorious by his magnanimous endurance of the wrath of the king.

(3) Gideon, Archbishop of Ishkhnisk, who was confirmed in his office by the Turkish Sultan.

(4) Gregorius, Archbishop of Mtzkhetha, who took part in the compilation of the code of Wakhtang.

(5) Vissarion (A.D. 1724), Catholicos of Georgia, historian, theologian, and singular for his knowledge and rich endowments. He wrote much in refutation of Armenians and of Catholics; sacred songs in praise of saints celebrated in Georgia, and for the festival of Our Saviour’s Coat. Many of these hymns were lost, and others are still sung in the Church.

(6) Domentius III. (A.D. 1703), Catholicos, collected the accounts of the lives of the saints of the Greek Church. He also wrote descriptions of the events of his time.

(7) Macrina (A.D. 1658), sister of King Theimuraz I., wrote hymns in praise of the saints of Georgia, which are still in use in the Church.

(8) Antoni (A.D. 1662), Archbishop of Tiflis, mentioned by the Russian traveller Arsenius Sukhanoff.

(9) Joseph (A.D. 1702), Archbishop of Tiflis, known by his spiritual writings and meditations. Men of his time called him the Philosopher.

(10) Eudemon (A.D. 1662), Catholicos of Ap’hkhazia, framed canons known by the name of Catholicos.

(11) Arsenius of Nicotsminda (A.D. 1682), theologian and philosopher, wrote an exposition of Holy Scripture. The purity of his thoughts, his simple conversation, and his saintly life won for him the title of Arsenius the Angelic.

(12) Jacob I. of Imereth (A.D. 1712), visited the holy places of Palestine. His writings are preserved in manuscript in the monastery of Gaenat.

(13) Michael (A.D. 1724), of the court of the chief priest (Protoiereus), wrote books during the reign of Wakhtang VI.

(14) Nicolai of Mrovelsk (A.D. 1742), bishop, who came after the Archbishop of Tiflis, published books for Divine service in Tiflis.

(15) Joseph (A.D. 1742), archbishop, known by the name of Samebeli, corrected the Bible, and prepared it for the press at Moscow, by order of the Tzarevitch Bakar, in 1743.

(16) Gregorius (A.D. 1737), Hieromonachos, of the princely race of Vakhvakhof, wrote a narrative of the martyrdom of Queen Ketevan. He also wrote in praise of her hymns, which to this day are sung in the Church.

(17) Johan of Tchkhatyr (A.D. 1698), of Guria, a monk, wrote in verse the history and the praises of saints, and a history of Christianity in Kobyleta, or Western Guria.

(18) Joseph (A.D. 1779), Catholicos of Imereth, brother of King Solomon I.

(19) Cosma (A.D. 1672), Hieromonachos, wrote in praise of Queen Ketevan.

(20) Job (A.D. 1691), Archimandrite of Bpitareth, learned in the Scriptures and preacher, wrote hymns in praise of martyrs.

(21) Timotheus (A.D. 1755), Archbishop of Tiflis, travelled in 1755 to Constantinople, to Mt. Athos, and to Palestine. The only part of his writings known at present is his travels to the holy places.

(22) Iesse (A.D. 1640), Archbishop of Tiflis.

(23) Dositheus (A.D. 1671), Bishop of Necres, and philosopher.

(24) Savva (A.D. 1759), Bishop of Ninotsmindsk, godfather to the last king of Georgia, George the Xlllth.

(25) Zacharias Protoiereus (A.D. 1762), of the family of Gabaev.

(26) Athanasius (A.D. 1772), archbishop, printed Divine service books at Moscow.



THE Catholicos Antoni I. (A.D. 1762), once returned from Russia to his chair in Georgia, set to work to confirm the orthodox faith, by putting forth and exposing in many writings the faith of the Græco-Eastern Church, and by contributing to the enlightenment of the country. Out of love for science, though without the knowledge of language guages, but with the assistance of others, he succeeded in translating many excellent books that tended to the real enlightenment of the people. He also made proof of this same love of knowledge, in his efforts to collect ancient books scattered about in Georgia, so as to save them from the wear and tear of time, for the benefit of posterity. At that time monks and the clergy in general were the instructors of the sons of the Church in true wisdom; and monasteries were the abodes of science and of libraries. There were all the nobility taught; and from thence came forth pastors of the Church and instructors of the people. Then, as heretofore, theology was the chief of all sciences.

II. After Antoni, we may mention Gaius, who was afterwards Archbishop of Astrakhan, as having rendered service to the Church by his writings and by his teaching of youth. Owing to his having been for a short time rector of the Seminary of Telab in Kakheth, he formed many men, who afterwards did service both to the Church and to the country. The fruits of his labours, however, exist only in manuscript.

At that time appeared the writings of Prince Sulkhan Savva Orbelian, first lexicographer of Georgia, who wrote in the year 1761. His works, in which he endeavoured to show the heterodoxy of the Græco-Eastern Church, are known under the name of “The Gate of Paradise.” After taking the order of monk in Georgia, he departed from the orthodox faith, by receiving at Rome the Roman Catholic confession of faith, at the instigation and under the protection of Pope Clement XI. Antoni I. opposed himself so strongly to this perversion, that, despite the extensive knowledge, acquirements, and reputation of Orbelian, neither his writings nor his example had any dangerous influence over the orthodox Christians of Georgia.

III. Then was the Church of Imereth and of Mingrelia governed by an independent Catholicos. After the peace with the Turks made by the Russians in 1774, that Church could not be safe from the wistful looks of the Pashas of Anatolia, who saw hidden under her, a great and powerful support of the Russian throne. Moreover, King Solomon II. (A.D. 1793–1811), brought up in Tiflis, having ascended the throne of Imereth, turned his attention to the morals of his subjects; and, for the close union of his kingdom with that of Mingrelia, he contracted an alliance by marriage with one of its most powerful princes, by taking to himself to wife the Princess Maria Katsievna; he brought a printing-office into Kitais, where was printed a remarkable number of books for the service of the Church; he opened schools; and, being in the straitest bond of union with all the provinces of Imereth, he gave peaceful days to the Church.

Imereth, Mingrelia, and Georgia had a sufficient number of learned men for their spiritual enlightenment; among them the Archbishop Antoni of Tchkondiv descended from the great princes of Dadian, confirmed by his words the orthodox faith throughout Imereth. Nevertheless, neither could the safe establishment of the kingdom nor the prosperity of the Church be settled and completed without the help of the Russian people.

IV. The great number of monasteries and of hermitages in Imereth contributed to the peaceful results of true Christianity, and served as pillars on which the Church rested, while persecuted on all sides by the Turks. During this time of persecution and of anguish to all, the Church of Imereth saw and honoured many defenders of the Faith who occupied the Episcopal Chair, in her rugged mountains and in many of her desert places. Among them shine most brightly John, Bishop of Manglia, a worker of miracles, celebrated, even in Russia, for his sainted life, and now honoured by God himself through all his miracles in Tiflis, where his bones rest in the Synod Cathedral of Sion; Nicolai, Catholicos of Imereth; Zenon, Bishop of Necres; Theodorus, Archbishop of Mtzkhetha; Germanus, Metropolitan of Tiflis; Gennadius, Anchorite in the desert of John the Baptist; Zenon, Archbishop of Alaberd; Victor, Bishop of Khartshashni; Serapion, champion of the desert of Davido-Garedj. Many others, glorious for their struggles for the Faith, for their solitary life, and for their martyrdom, whether from the omission of historians, or from their own silence, are known of Heaven alone.

V. Georgia, having received the protection of Russia, in 1783, during the reign of the Georgian king, Heraclius II., underwent little alteration in her ecclesiastical hierarchy. This alteration consisted only in the Catholicos, who, by the arrangement of the Holy Synod of all the Russias, could no longer exercise his former independent office. It stands to reason that such a change brought no real alteration in the faith; but the Georgian Church, by being in union with that of Russia, found for herself both a stay and unity of thought, as well in doctrine as in rites and ceremonies. By this change the Catholicos Antoni II., son of King Heraclius, was honoured with a seat in the Holy Synod, without, for all that, losing the title of Catholicos of Mtzkhetha and of all Georgia—a title which continued attached to that dignity and in Georgia until the year 1811.

VI. The last and most heavy trial of the Church of Iberia was the irruption of Mahomed-Khan into the weakened state of Georgia, in the year 1795. In the month of September of that year the Persian army took the city of Tiflis, seized almost all the valuable property of the royal house, and reduced the palace and the whole of the city into a heap of ashes and of ruins. The whole of Georgia, thus left at the mercy of the ruthless enemies of the name of Christ, witnessed the profanation of everything holy, and the most abominable deeds and practices carried on in the temples of God. Neither youth nor old age could bring those cruel persecutors to pity; the churches were filled with troops of murderers and children were killed at their mothers’ breasts. They took the Archbishop of Tiflis, Dositheus, who had not come out of the Synod of Sion, made him kneel down before an image of the B. V. Mary, and, without mercy on his old age, threw him from a balcony into the river Kur; then they plundered his house, and set fire to it. The pastors of the Church, unable to hide the treasures and other valuable property of the Church, fell a sacrifice to the ferocity of their foes. Many images of saints renowned in those days perished for ever; as, for instance, among others, the image of the B. Virgin of the Church of Metekh, and that of the Synod of Sion. The enemy, having rifled churches, destroyed images, and profaned the tombs of saints, revelled in the blood of Christians; and the inhuman Mahomed-Khan put an end to these horrors only when there remained not a living soul in Tiflis.

VII. King George XIII., who ascended the throne of Georgia (A.D. 1797–1800) only to see his subjects overwhelmed and rendered powerless by their incessant and hopeless struggles with unavoidable dangers from enemies of the faith and of the people, found the resources of the kingdom exhausted by the constant armaments necessary for its own protection; before his eyes lay the ruins of the city, villages plundered and laid waste, churches, monasteries, and hermitages demolished, troubles within the family, and without it the sword, fire, and inevitable ruin, not only of the Church, but also of the people, yea, even of the very name of the people. In the fear of God, and trusting to His providence, he made over orthodox Georgia in a decided manner to the Tzar of Russia, his co-religionist; and thus obtained for her peace and quiet It pleased God, through this king, to heal the deep wounds of an orthodox kingdom.

Feeling that his end was drawing near, he, with the consent of all ranks and of the people, requested the Emperor Paul I. to take Georgia into his subjection for ever (A.D. 1800). The Emperor Alexander I. when he mounted the throne, promised to protect the Georgian people of the same faith with himself which had thus given itself over unreservedly and frankly to the protection of Russia. In his manifesto to the people of Georgia (A.D. 1801) he proclaimed the following:—”One and the same dignity, one and the same honour, and humanity lay upon us the sacred duty, after hearing the prayers of sufferers, to grant them justice and equity in exchange for their affliction, security for their persons and for their property, and to give to all alike the protection of the law.”

Thus were the last wishes of the king fulfilled—to abide with heart and soul by a Tzar of the same Faith, who on that occasion distinguished himself by a more than human wisdom. Posterity will value the boon granted by that sovereign.


NEITHER the Georgian annals, which for a long time past have been followed by writers, nor the records found at the present day in monasteries, give in full the course of the Georgian hierarchy, nor the introduction of Christianity into Georgia, either at first or in after-time. Neither do Greek authors make mention of Eustathius of Antioch, as we already remarked in Chap. I. It is in the history of the country, and in charters of the Georgian monastery on Mt. Athos in Greece, that we find first mention made by name of S. Nina, the illuminatress of Georgia, and of the Archbishop Eustathius of Antioch, patriarch, sent by the Emperor Constantine at the request of King Mirian. But as temples and Christians increased in number, so also did an increase of bishops and of priests follow as a matter of course. From history, too, it is evident that for this purpose Greeks were for a long time appointed bishops, as we see clearly from their succession after Eustathius of Antioch. Their rights and rule extended, according to the spirit of those times, not only over the churches, but also over civil matters. This was done, however, not so much in order that the archbishops should strive ardently for worldly distinction in an ambitious spirit, as that the kings themselves, little instructed in the faith, wished that the bishops and the archbishops should share in the civil government for the good of the people, thoroughly devoted to Christianity. Then, undoubtedly, it may be owing to the respect paid to the Patriarch Eustathius, to whom belongs the glory of establishing that Church, and of consecrating her archbishop, that the Georgian Church from the first was dependent on the Patriarch of Constantinople, and, therefore, soon united to the chair of Antioch. Whether or not she from the first appointed independent archbishops, or αὐτοκεφάλους, of whom there were many at the beginning of the fifth century, does not appear from history; only Balsamon, in his history of Constantinople, mentions Iberia as an αὐτοκέφαλος, independent Church.

Meanwhile we find from the history of Georgia that, during the reign of Wakhtang Gorhaslan, and by his will, the Archbishop of Iberia took the name of Catholicos; and with that title were henceforth also given to the Archbishop of Iberia all the rights of independence (αὐτοκέφαλον). Procopius writes that in his time, both in Georgia and in Perso-Armenia, the heads of the clergy were called Catholicos. On the other hand, such a separation of the Georgian Church from the Greek Patriarchates was, it appears, the result of the difficulty of relations with Antioch, and not without the consent of the Patriarch of Antioch. The Church of Iberia, on a par with the Church of Cyprus, and with that of Bulgaria, as to rights, although dependent on her own Catholicos as regards her inward rule and government, in her outward construction never swerved from the orthodox faith and from union with the Eastern Greek Church, except in one ceremony of the Armenian Church—not to mix luke-warm water with the consecrated elements, as is commonly done in the Georgian Church; but this was altered by the decrees of the second Council of Constantinople. Likewise the custom of giving Georgian daughters in marriage to Mahomedans, the result of the times, and not of endurance of Mahomedanism, or of the fear and helplessness of the Georgians under the yoke of their Mahomedan rulers, also drew the attention of the Greek Church, and a well-merited rebuke from her. Georgian Christians shared their meat and drink with heretics, with Mahomedans, and even with heathens; but they showed how truly impossible it is to hold close intercourse with even neighbours who are heretics—as, for instance, with the Armenians, of whom many were subjects of Georgia; with Mahomedans—as, for instance, with the Persians and with the Turks, at times lords over them, at others their subjects; with heathens—as, for instance, with the mountain tribes subject to them; and with such others whose friendship, by reason of their number, was an advantage to the Church of Georgia.

We find, then, from history that not only did the Georgian Church not come out from the Greek Church, but that she quarrelled with the churches which severed themselves from her. Moreover, in the troublous times of the Greek Church caused by the Iconoclasts, the Georgians piously adhered to the primitive teaching of the Church, as to the respect paid to images; and the Catholicos of Georgia consecrated in Mtzkhetha John, bishop of the Goths. The final and common judgment of the Church, centered in the person of the Catholicos, could not otherwise have been complete and decisive without the consent to it of the Greek Patriarch in Constantinople, as it is evident from the example in the person of the Catholicos Michael, who was sent for judgment to Constantinople. Kings, albeit they sallied forth to do the work of the Church by arming themselves with power and with strength against heretics, and against books injurious to the Church, yet did this only for the confirmation of the Faith, and of ecclesiastical regulations, as we see from the examples of Queen Tamar, and of King David the Reformer.

Colchis, the present Mingrelia, was dependent on the head of the Church of Iberia ever since the days of the Greek Emperor Justinian. In those days the Greeks, for the furtherance of their commerce along the Black Sea with Asia through Karthalinia, and for the support of Christianity in the towns built by them, established here and there a few clergy and bishops, who were everywhere dependent on Greek hierarchs, as also the Colchians, who were then under the rule of Greek emperors. All those churches were reckoned to the Eparchy of Asia Minor. Stratophile, one of the bishops of the town of Pitiunta, was present at the first Œcumenic council of Nicæa. And at the sixth Œcumenic council of Constantinople were present the Bishops Theodoras and John, of the towns of Colchis, Petia, and Phazida. On the other hand, since the kings of Iberia never yielded to the Greeks the ancient dignity of their kingdom and of their subjects, then were both Colchis and Trapezus itself reckoned at times to the Catholicos of Iberia, and at others they found themselves independent of them, considering themselves as it were an independent church (αὐτοκέφαλος). Thus the town of Sebastopolis was of the Autokephalia of Ap’hkhazia, Phazida a province of the Lazes, and Trapezus of the province of Pontus. From the records of the Emperor Leo, it is evident that the Bishop of Colchis was dependent on the Metropolitan of Trapezus. But the Georgian Kodin mentions Ap’hkhazia and Sebastopolis as Autokephalia of the Patriarchate of Antioch. On the other hand, he places the towns of Phazidis and Rhodopolis, and others, in the Eparchy of the Lazes.

All the rest of Kakheth, of Somkheth, where is now the town of Manglis, and the churches of the Caucasus, were straitly united to the Church of Karthalinia under one head, the Archbishop or Catholicos of Mtzkhetha.

Historians give us the names of the Catholicos of Georgia in the following order:—





                John I.















                John II.


















                Samuel I.


















                Simeon I.



                Samuel II.



                Simeon II.






                John I.









                John II.



                John III.



                Nicolai I.



                Michael I.






                John IV.






                Nicolai II.



                Euthymius I.



                Nicolai III.



                Abraham I.



                Euthymius II.



                Basile I.



                Dorotheus I.






                Elioz I.



                Michael II.



                David I.



                Elioz II.









                David II.



                Nicolai IV.



                Abraham II.



                Basile II.



                Dorotheus II.









                Nicolai V.



                Domentius I.









                Eudemon I.






                Domentius II.



                Nicolai VI.



                John V.



                Eudemon II.



                Domentius II.






                Nicolai VII.



                Antoni I.






                Again, Antonius I.



                Antoni II.


When the division of Georgia into two kingdoms took place, there appeared two Catholicos, one of which was named Catholicos of Karthalinia, of Kakheth, and of Tiflis, and lived in the capital of Mtzkhetha, and the other lived in Bitchvinta (Pytius), but afterwards in the town of Imereth Kitais, with the title of Catholicos of Ap’hkhazia and of Imereth.





                Arsenius (about)









                Eudemon I.






                Malachi II.



                Maximus I.



                Gregory I.






                Simeon, died in



                Eudemon II.






                Gregory II.












                Maximus II.


After the death of the last Catholicos of Imereth, Maximus II., who died in the convent of Retchersk in Kief, in the year 1796 (30th of May), the two churches joined by outward bonds of union, yet at times separated from each other by different confessions of faith, were governed by the one Catholicos of Georgia.

The badge which in ancient times distinguished a Catholicos from other bishops was:—(1) Two seraphims made of strung pearls and other precious stones, and sewn on the skirts of the black cape; (2) a cross in front thereof; (3) a black velvet cloak with silver streamlets; (4) a mitre with a cross on the top, and edged all round with a fretted crown; (5) and, while officiating, two panaghias with a cross. Above these, the Emperor Paul I., of blessed memory, bestowed on Antoni II. a white cape with seraphims.

When the last Catholicos Antoni was discharged from the government of spiritual matters in Georgia, on the 10th of July, 1711, the office of Catholicos ceased altogether. Instead of it, the head of the Georgian clergy was allowed, by the supreme will of the Emperor, to take the name of Metropolitan of Mtzkhetha and of Karthalinia, and for ever to appropriate to himself the title of “Member of the Synod, and Exarch of Georgia.” And to that dignity was the Georgian Archbishop Balaam then raised by the Emperor’s good pleasure. The Emperor attached to him a court for the regulation of matters referring to the Georgian Church only; for the Church of Imereth was then under the government of archpriests of those parts. On the 30th of August, 1814, the exarchate of Imereth was given by the Emperor, to the Georgian exarch Balaam, and instead of the court then sitting in Tiflis, a board of management of the holy synod of Georgia and of Imereth, under the immediate supervision of the synod, was organized, and presided over by the exarch. In December 1818, and at the representation of the synod, which the Emperor confirmed, one exarchy alone was established in Georgia with the title of Eparchy of Karthalinia and of Kakheth; whence the Exarch of Georgia is at present called Exarch of Karthalinia and of Kakheth.

Together with the establishment of the exarchate in Georgia, or from 1811, the Exarchs have been:

1. The Metropolitan Balaam, of the princely race of Georgian Eristhavs, who died in 1830 at Moscow.

2. The Metropolitan Theophilact, who died at Georgia, July 19, 1821.

3. The Metropolitan Jonas, who is now (1842) at St. Petersburg, attending the Holy Synod of Government.

4. The Archbishop Moses, who died in Tiflis, July 13, 1834.

5. The Archbishop Eugenius, who now (1842) governs the Exarchate of Georgia.


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