Gregory the Illuminator

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Saint Gregory the Illuminator or Saint Gregory the Enlightener (Armenian: Գրիգոր Լուսաւորիչ translit. Grigor Lusavorich, Greek: Γρηγόριος Φωστήρ or Φωτιστής, Gregorios Phoster or Photistes) (c. 257 – c. 331) is the patron saint and first official head of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He was a religious leader who is credited with converting Armenia from paganism to Christianity, Armenia thus being the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD.

Contents

Beginnings

Gregory's father Anak, a Parthian, was charged with assassinating Khosrov I, one of the kings of the Arshakouni line, and was put to death. Gregory's mother was named Okohe. Gregory narrowly escaped execution with the help of Sopia and Yevtagh, his caretakers. Gregory was taken to Caesarea (present-day Kayseri) in Cappadocia where Sopia and Yevtagh hoped to raise him.

Gregory was given to the Christian Holy Father Phirmilianos (Euthalius) to be educated and was brought up as a devout Christian. He went on to marry Mariam, also a devout Christian; they had two sons, the younger of whom, Aristaces (Aristakes), succeeded his father.

At that time Tiridates III (Trdat the Great), a son of King Khosrov II, reigned. Influenced partly by the fact that Gregory was the son of his father's enemy, he ordered Gregory imprisoned for twelve (some sources indicate fourteen) years in a pit on the Ararat Plain under the present day church of Khor Virap located near the historical city Artashat in Armenia.

Gregory was eventually called forth from his pit in 297 to restore to sanity Tiridates III (a.k.a. Trdat), who had lost all reason after he was betrayed by Diocletian.

Diocletian invaded and vast amount of territory from western provinces of Greater Armenia became "protectorates" of Rome.

Declaration of Christianity in Armenia

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