The name of many Armenian churchmen and officials, five of whom are discussed in this article.
Nerses the Great, St., 4th-century Armenian catholicos or patriarch; b. Cappadocia, 333 or 337; d. Khakh, on the Euphrates, 373 (feast, Monday after the 4th Sunday after Pentecost). Nerses was the son of Athanakines and Bambish, the sister of King Diran, and a close relative of St. gregory the illuminator. He was educated in Cappadocia and married a Mamikonian princess, who bore him a son, Isaac the Great, and died a few years later. In the early years of the reign of King Arshak II, he returned to Armenia, served as a royal counselor and custodian of the royal sword, and was chosen the catholicos by popular acclamation after the death of Patriarch Shahak. He was consecrated at Caesarea in Cappadocia, the metropolitan see for armenia, by Eusebius (or possibly Dianos) in 353, and he initiated a reform of the Armenian church with a synod held at Ashtishat. He promulgated decrees prohibiting marriages between close relatives, denounced pagan practices, and introduced positive legislation regarding fasting and monastic life. He also erected schools, convents, hospitals, asylums, and churches in imitation of Cappadocian ecclesiastical activities. King Arshak deposed him for condemning the scandals of the court, and from 360 to 362 he appealed for aid in Constantinople. He returned to Armenia (364 or 368) and was restored as catholicos by King Pap after Arshak had been betrayed to the Persians by members of his entourage. Nerses rebuilt the churches destroyed by the Persians. In 372 he took part in a synod at Caesarea, but he was apparently poisoned at the king's command for denouncing the royal family's evil ways. His career is described by Faustus of Byzantium (History ), whose narrative must be used with caution.
Nerses II Astaraketzi, Armenian catholicos from 548 to 557. He called the Synod of Dwin (554–555) at which 18 bishops participated and condemned the Khoujik sect imported into Armenia by merchants infected with both Nestorianism and Manichaeism. The 38 canons of the synod are important for the development of Armenian teaching on the Sacraments and monastic life.
Nerses III, Armenian catholicos from 642 to 661. Endowed with a Byzantine education, Nerses built the patriarchal palace and the church of St. Gregory in Vagarshapat and received the title Schinogh or builder. He attempted to win the Armenian Church to the Chalcedonian viewpoint on the question of the two natures in Christ, but he had to cede before the opposition of Theodore Rschtuni and returned to his original bishopric at Taykh.
Nerses of Lambron, St., bishop of Tarsus in Cilicia;b. Lambron, Cilicia, 1153; d. Tarsus, July 14, 1198 (feast, Monday after 3d Sunday after Assumption). The son of Oshin II (d. 1168), prince of Lambron, Nerses was educated in the Armenian monasteries of Skewra and Siav Liarn, and spoke Armenian, Greek, Latin, and Syrian. His granduncle Nerses IV ordained him in Hromkla, and he changed his name from Smbat to Nerses and retired to a solitude. At the request of Gregory IV Tegha, he accepted the archbishopric of Tarsus in 1175; he was selected as an ambassador by King Leo II to greet Frederick Barbarossa. Upon Frederick's death in the river Saleph (1190), he took the young Prince Frederick under his protection. He participated in reunion efforts with Rome and Byzantium, gave the opening discourses at the Synods of Hromkla (1179) and Tarsus (1196), and undertook an embassy to Constantinople in 1197. Of his 33 preserved writings, those devoted to the liturgy, biblical commentaries, preaching, and Church discipline are the most significant. He also translated into Armenian a number of patristic works, including the Rule of St. Benedict, the Dialogues of Gregory the Great, and the Ekthesis of Epiphanius of Constantia, as well as the Syro-Roman legal code. Some of his works have been edited and translated into German by Max zu Sachsen, K. Bruns, E. Sachau, and F. Finck.
Bibliography: v. inglisian and m. van den oudenrijn, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 7:882–884. h. g. beck, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Tübingen 1957–65) 4:1403, Nerses IV. h. f. tournebize, Histoire politique et religieuse de l'Arménie (Paris 1910); Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912—) 4:297–298. j. b. emine. tr., in Collection des historiens anciens et modernes de l'Arménie. ed. v. langlois et al., 2 v. (Paris 1867–69). r. grousset, Histoire de l'Arménie (Paris 1947). É. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 1903–50) 15.1: 538–540. j. marquart, Philologus 55 (1896) 213–227. n. akinian, Analecta Bollandiana 67 (1949) 74–86, Nerses the Great. g. capuletti, Sancti Nersetis Clajensis opera, 2 v. (Venice 1833). f. nÈve, L'Arménie chrétienne et sa littérature (Louvain 1886). a. termikelian, Die armenische Kirche in ihren Beziehungen zur byzantischen (Jena 1892). p. dzoulikian, Proche-Orient chrétien 11 (1961) 36–43, Nerses IV and Nerses of Lambron. p. tekeyan, Controverses christologiques en Arméno-Cilicie (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 124; 1939).
[n. m. setian]