Gregory the Illuminator, St.
GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR, ST.
Fourth-century apostle of Armenia; b. Valarshapat, or possibly Caesarea in Cappadocia, c. 240; d. Armenia, c. 332. An Armenian tradition says that Gregory was the son of Anak, a Parthian noble, who assassinated Armenian King Chosroes I. Gregory was saved from the massacre of his family, received a Christian education at Caesarea in Cappadocia, and returned to Armenia to convert his countrymen. According to Agathangelos, he destroyed the temple of the native gods at Ashtishat, was tortured by King tiridates iii, and was condemned to incarceration in a grave (chor virap ), from which he was rescued later. He converted the king and his people and was consecrated a bishop by Leontius of Caesarea (c. 315) and enthroned as bishop in Armenia by St. Peter of Sebaste. He evangelized the region of Armenia conquered by the Romans under Galerius (292) and baptized the kings of Caucasian Iberia (see georgia, church in ancient), Lazes, and Albania.
Gregory consecrated his two sons, Vhartanes and Aristakes, as bishops; the latter took part in the Council of Nicaea I (325). The office of the catholicos or metropolitan of Armenia remained in Gregory's family down to the time of St. isaac the great (d. 438). Nicephorus Callistus asserts that Gregory visited constantine i in Rome in the company of Tiridates (Hist. eccl. 8.35; Patrologia Graeca 146:609). Sometime before his death, Gregory retired to the life of a solitary in the wilderness. The 33 letters and homilies attributed to his authorship are spurious. The principal source for the life of Gregory is the history of Agathangelos, who claimed to be the secretary of King Tiridates. The fifth-century recension of this work is full of legendary material, making it most difficult to sort out the facts in the life of Gregory, who is not mentioned by any contemporary Greek ecclesiastical writers. A vita was written by George the Syrian during the eighth century.
Gregory's relics, which had rested in Naples, were solemnly handed over to the Armenian Apostolic Church on Nov. 10, 2000. He is the patron of Armenia.
Feast: Sept. 30.
Bibliography: Bibliotheca hagiographica Graeca, 712–713e. Bibliotheca hagiographica orientalis, 76–80. Acta Sanctorum Sept. 8:295–413. agathangelos, The Teaching of Saint Gregory, tr. r. w. thomson (Cambridge, Mass. 1970); History of the Armenians, tr. r. w. thomson (Albany, N.Y. 1976). v. g. zahirsky, The Conversion of Armenia: A Retelling of Agathangelos' History (New York 1985). v. langlois, ed., Collection des historiens anciens et modernes de l'Arménie, 2 v. (Paris 1867–69). g. garitte, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 4:1206–07; ed., Documents pour l'étude du livre d'Agathange (Studi e Testi, 127; 1946). p. de lagarde, Analecta Syriaca (Leipzig 1858) 122–128. p. peeters, Analecta Bollandiana 60 (1942) 91–130. Dictionnaire de théologie catholique (Paris 1951), Tables générales 1:1928. o. bardenhewer, Geschichte der altkirklichen Literatur (Freiburg 1913–32) 5:182–185. v. grumel, Catholicisme, Hier, aujourd'hui et demain, ed. g. jacquemet, 5:252.
[f. x. murphy]