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Mechitar

MECHITAR

Armenian Catholic priest, founder of the mechitarists; b. Sivas (Sebaste), Asia Minor, Feb. 7, 1676; d. San Lazzaro (Venice), Italy, April 27, 1749. Baptized Peter Manug, Mechitar was educated at the schismatic Armenian monastery of Garmir-Vanq (Red Monastery), where he later (1691) received the religious habit from Bishop Ananya and took the name Mechitar (Mehitar; "consoler"). A chance encounter with a Catholic missionary and an Armenian noble at Erzurum, Asia Minor, provided him with keen insights into Western culture and Catholicism. On a voyage to Syria he went to Aleppo, where he met Antoine Beauvillers, SJ, who received him into the Catholic Church and urged him to visit Rome. A sudden malady prevented this, and he returned to Sivas in 1695. Ordained a priest at Surp-Nišsan (Holy Cross) monastery (1696), he received the title vartapet (doctor) in 1699. The church of St. George in Constantinople became the center of his apostolate to unite the Armenian Church with Rome, and in 1701 he founded the Order of St. Anthony for pastoral, educational, and scientific endeavors.

Mechitar's preaching and promotion of union with Rome aroused the hostility of Patriarch Ephraim and his successor, Avedek, and resulted in Mechitar's departure from Constantinople for Modone (Morea), in the territory then belonging to Venice, where he built a monastery and church. Rome approved his congregation (1711), but substituted St. Benedict's Rule for that of St. Anthony. The Turkish occupation of Modone (1715) forced Mechitar's withdrawal to Venice, where he was given the use of the island of San Lazzaro.

A great monastery with church and library was completed in 1740, and a printing press was established. Mechitar published approximately 20 works, dealing mainly with theology and philosophy. Notable among his writings are his commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew (1737); his Armenian grammar, dictionary, and catechism; and an Armenian edition of the Bible (1733).

Bibliography: Oriente Cattolico (Vatican City 1962) 614616.

[e. el-hayek]

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