Posted by: anna | October 12, 2010

St Hripsime, patron saint of Armenia

Today (29 September) there are no British saints listed on yorkthodox, and none of the western saints at orthodoxengland caught my eye (what a frivolous way to choose) so I looked for a story from Miss Dunbar, who rarely fails me. There are few for 29 September, but one is St Hripsime (Ripsima, Ripsimia, Rhipsime, Arsema, Arapsima), 4th century virgin martyr and patron saint of Armenia. According to wikipedia she is commemorated on various days; 29 September is the Roman Catholic date, but this is not an exact science and according to the RC Church today is not 29 September anyway! So here is her story:
St. Ripsima or RHIPSIME, Sept. 29, V. M. c. 301, one of the patrons of Armenia. She belonged to a religious community under ST. GAIANA, at Rome. Her beauty having attracted the attention of Diocletian, they all fled from Italy, about 300, and took refuge in Armenia, in the reign of Tiridates III., son and successor of Chosroes. They built a house for themselves outside the walls of Valarshabad, the capital of the province of Ararat. When Tiridates saw Ripsima, he was no less struck by her beauty than Diocletian had been, and he had her brought to his palace. She escaped, but was pursued and murdered with Gaiana and thirty-three nuns, her companions. Divine vengeance fell upon Tiridates, for he was transformed into a wild boar and his people suffered divers plagues. At length it was revealed to the king’s sister that these plagues had come upon them for their wickedness in rejecting Christianity and persecuting the servants of God.
St. Gregory, called ‘the Illuminator’, had been the friend of Tiridates, and had endeavoured, fourteen years before this time, to dissuade him from worshipping the goddess Anahid and to influence him to receive instead the faith of Christ. Tiridates, angry and obstinate, after putting his friend to various horrible tortures, cast him into a pit full of loathsome reptiles, where malefactors were thrown and left to die. Gregory was fed in the pit by a Christian woman, and remained there alive for several years, but the king’s sister announced that he must be brought back and restored to favour, as a condition of the cessation of the plagues. Gregory now publicly instructed the people and prepared them for baptism. He then told them of a vision he had seen of Christ appearing from heaven and of three pedestals, each surmounted by a cross of light. Whereupon they built three churches, one at the spot where St. Ripsima was murdered, one on the site of the martyrdom of Gaiana, and the third on that where the thirty-three nuns were massacred. The place was called Etchmiadzin, the descent of the Only Begotten ; the Turkish name of the place is Utch-Kilise, the three churches ; on that spot was Gregory’s cathedral church when he was made first patriarch of Armenia. Thus Armenia became the first Christian nation, several years before the Roman empire adopted the true faith.
R.M. Neale, Holy Eastern Church. Rev. L. Davidson, ‘St. Gregory the Illuminator,’ in Smith and Wace, Dict. of Christian Biography.
  • wikipedia article on the church of St Hripsime, a 7th century structure 
  • the wikipedia article on Rhipsime includes quite a few more details of her story
  • thread on
  • SS Hripsime, Gayane & companions from Armenian Church in America
  • the next chapter of this story is that of St Nino, especially venerated in the Georgian and Ethiopian churches; according to legend, she was the only one of Gaiana’s nuns to escape the massacre, and went on to spread the Gospel to several nations.
I think I will start a saints’ lives tag for ‘vengeful lovers’; there seem to have been quite a few lately, often rulers who can’t get their way, and whose (sometimes not wholly unjustified) tantrums end in beheadings.

I am sure there are troparia and lots of other prayers to SS Hripsime and Gayane, including a well-known (in Armenian…) sharagan or canonical hymn called Antsink Nviryalk (Dedicated Beings), but I can’t find them in English.

Holy St Hripsime, pray to God for us.

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