Saint, 4th-century Armenian ecclesiastic and founder of Armenian Christian literature; b. Hatzikk', c. 361;d. Feb. 7, 440. Mesrop was originally called Mashtotz. He received a Hellenistic education, probably at Antioch, where he appears to have met theodore of mopsuestia. After a short military career at Valarshapat, he embraced the religious life as a monk (392 or 393) and was ordained by isaac the great. With the encouragement of the Catholicos and of Prince Vaghinak of Siunia, he made a missionary journey to the outer provinces of Armenia, where his experiences convinced him of the need of an Armenian written language. Assisted by Isaac and King Vṛamshapuh (401–409), he set out in search of an adequate alphabet and eventually settled on 36 letters (c. 404 or 407), with which he began the translation of the Bible into Armenian. He translated also the works of the Greek and Syrian Church Fathers. He assisted in the foundation of schools and monasteries, and evangelized the Georgians and the Albanians. In 422 he seems to have accompanied a diplomatic mission to Constantinople, where he obtained the aid of Emperor theodosius ii for his educational enterprises. Upon the death of Isaac (438), Mesrop assumed government of the Church in Armenia, until his death. He was buried in Oshagan near Erevan, where a sanctuary was erected over his remains. In 1962 Armenia celebrated the 16th centenary of his birth. Mesrop appears to be the author of the so-called Teaching of St. gregory the illuminator, attributed to Agathangelus. However, he is not the author of the much later polyhistory (Hadjachapatum ), also attributed to Agathangelus. Mesrop's vita was written by Koriun, his disciple.
Feast: Thursday following 4th Sunday after Pentecost, and Monday after 3d Sunday after Assumption.
Bibliography: o. bardenhewer, Geschichte der altkirchlichen Literatur 5:197–201. v. inglisian, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2 7:319; Handbuch der Orientalistik, v.7 (Leiden 1963) 157–160. Vies des saintes et des bienheuruex 11:872–873. j. marquart, Über den Ursprung des armenischen Alphabets (Vienna 1917). n. akinian, Der hl. Maschtotz Wardapet (Vienna 1949), Armenian with German résumé. koriun (Choriun), History of the Life and Death of the Ecclesiastical Official (Vardapet ) St. Mesrop (Venice 1894), in Armenian. r. grousset, Histoire de l'Arménie (Paris 1947) 171–175. s. lyonnet, Recherches de science religieuse 25 (1935) 170–187.
[n. m. setian]