With the life and career of Peter the Iberian (c. 409-488), we emerge from the local traditions of the Georgian Church into the wider arena of Byzantine religious and political affairs. During the events surrounding the Council of Chalcedon,, held in the year 451, Peter stood out as champion of the Monophysite or anti-Chalcedonian cause, denying the doctrine of the dual nature of Christ as formulated at that Council. While the orthodox Patriarch Sophronius of Jerusalem indignantly refers to Peter as that putrefaction from Georgia, with his barbarous mind, the Syrian, Coptic and Armenian Churches, which also refused to accept the dogma of Chalcedon, regard Peter as an eminent saint and ascetic. Peter's native Georgian Church has tried to gloss over his doctrinal deviations.
Born the son of a Christian king of Georgia, Peter renounced his royal lineage for an ascetic life in the Holy Land. His biography provides valuable material for the history of the Christian Orient during the 5th century, since Peter was personally acquainted with many prominent personalities of the time, including the Emperor Theodosius II and his consort Eudocia, St. Melania the Younger, and the famous Patriarchs Nestorius, Juvenal, Proterius of Alexandria and Timothy the Cat, and has handed down vivid reminiscences of them. Furthermore, the late Professor Ernest Honigmann sought to identify Peter the Iberian as author of the important mystical writings purporting to have been composed by the Apostle Paul's contemporary', Dionysius the Areopagite. This theory has aroused considerable discussion in recent years, hut tins not found general acceptance.
Peter's life has come clown to us in two versions. First there is the biography originally written in Greek by Peter's disciple John Rufus soon after the saint's death. Of this, we now have only the Syriac translation, in a manuscript dating from the 8th century. Another biography, preserved in a Georgian version, apparently derives at third-hand from the lost Greek life of Peter by Zacharias Rhetor, bishop of Mitylene, and in its present form is not older than the 13th century. This Georgian text has been much distorted by its pious redactors, who wanted to present the heretic Peter as an impeccably Orthodox saint. For this reason, we have preferred to draw on John Rufus’ version, adding a few episodes from a collection of Peter's reminiscences known as the Plerophoriae, also preserved in Syriac. It should be noted that such terms as 'orthodox' and 'God-fearing' are used in Peter's biography in the sense of Monophysite and anti-Chalcedonian, while the partisans of Chalcedonian Orthodoxy are termed 'renegades' and 'apostates.'


Biography of the holy Peter the Iberian, the venerable bishop, ascetic and confessor of our Lord.

The blessed Peter's fatherland was the renowned country of the Iberians, those northern people who dwell towards the rising of the sun - a land perpetually at war with the Romans and the Persians, because each of these nations was attempting to annex it for strategic reasons. In the language of their count, he first bore the name Nabarnugios, but when he was made worthy to bear a monk's holy garb he was given instead the name of Peter, after that of the first of the Apostles.
Now the father of the blessed Peter was Bosmarios,. king of the Iberians, and his father’s father was also called Bosmarios. His mother was Bakurdukhtia, and his grandfather on his mother's side was the great Bacurius. On his father’s side, his grandmother was Osdukhtia, whose brother Pharasmanios enjoyed great favour with Arcadius, Emperor of the Romans, and occupied the rank of general in the army and a position of supreme distinction. Later, however, the intrigues of Eudoxia, wife of Arcadius, forced him to seek refuge in flight. Returning swiftly to his homeland, he reigned over the Iberians and called in the White Huns [A.D. 395] who were neighbors of the Iberians, as a result of which the peoples subject to the Romans suffered great disasters.
The brother of the great Bacurius was the saintly Archilios, who reined jointly with Bacurius and Bosmarios according to the custom of the Iberian royal house. He attained a great age, and ended his life in chastity and all piety.
The blessed Peter had no blood-brother. He had a half-sister on his father's side, born of a concubine, and her name was Bomisparia. In accordance with his father's wishes, however, he treated her as a full sister. A holy and renowned woman called Tsutso brought Peter up as a child, and he remained hidden in her home to avoid being handed over as a hostage to the Persians, who sent many envoys to gain possession of his person.
After he had thus been conceived, born and brought up under the protection of God's grace, he was dispatched [A.D. 421] at the age of twelve as a hostage to the God-fearing and Christian king of the Romans, Theodosius the Younger, since his father Bosmarios valued the friendship of the Romans as Christians more highly than that of the godless Persians. He was sent off with great ceremony and pomp, and when he came to the blessed Theodosius he was welcomed affectionately and brought up and loved like a son.
Observing the reverence and love which the Emperor Theodosius and the Empress Eudocia bore towards Christ, as also did the men and women who served them, and notably the eunuchs who are called chamberlains, he was inflamed with zeal. And there was a certain deacon, a native of Antioch, and one of the outstanding members of the clergy, whose name was Basil. It was he who set Father Peter on the road to salvation when he was a child at the imperial city, and lit in him the flame of monastic life.
When still living at home with his parents, he had already imbibed the love of God, so that it was like a spark within him. Now therefore he fanned this spark carefully from day to day by feats of pious austerity, until he had made himself into a complete flame of heavenly goodness. Next to his body he wore a hair tunic, on top of which, to hide his virtuous conduct, he wore a brilliant and resplendent robe. His food was that which Daniel and his friends used to eat, and this he took in moderation only once in three or four days, or sometimes only once a week. To subdue the disorderly pleasures of the flesh he resorted to self-chastisement, and the earth served the young and tender prince as a bed.
He had with him the relics of holy martyrs, Persian by nationality, who had died a martyr's death in those days. (Their names air known to us even today from tradition handed clown by the blessed Peter, so that we still celebrate their anniversaries and react their acts.) These he had laid with all honor in a coffer in the same room where he performed his pious devotions. There he would sleet before them on the ground and perform sacred rites with candles and incense, hymns and prayers.
Now once when the festival of the Holy Epiphany had arrived, at which time custom demanded that every senator pay a visit to the emperor and to one another, he shut himself tip in the martyrs' room and sent to his chamberlain for oil to be brought to light the lamps. But the latter was indignant because Peter took no delight in the things of this world and said, 'Woe to the great hopes placed in him by his country', now that he who was sent to the Romans for the sake of honour and royal splendor wants to become a monk and bring misery on all of us his companions ." And he refused to send any oil. But when the holy youth and sage perceived the activity of the Evil One, he filled all the lamps with water alone, and no oil, and lit them. And they stayed alight continuously night and day for the seven days of the holy festival. When the emperor and all his family and the members of the Senate heard of this, they were amazed, so that many of them conceived the desire to mutate his conduct and ascetic way of life.
Our father and bishop, the venerable Abba Peter the Iberian, used to tell us that he was in Constantinople when Nestorius was still alive and exercising the episcopate. 'When Ncstorius was ending the commemoration of the Forty Holy Martyrs in the church which is called Maria, he rose in my presence to expound the scriptures before all the people. He had a clear and feminine voice. In front of me, he began to blaspheme and say in the middle of his sermon: Thou shalt not be glorified, O Mary, as if thou hadst given birth to God; but O excellent one, thou hast given birth not to God, but to a man, the instrument of God. - As soon as he had said this, he was possessed in the pulpit by a demon, so that his face and right hand were twisted askew. As he was all bent up and on the point of falling, the attendants and deacons seized him quickly and carried him into the sacristy. Front then on, most of the townsfolk cut themselves off from communion with him, especially the people of the palace, and in particular I myself, although he was very fond of me.'
'While I was still a child,' he used to tell its, 'and residing at the palace in Constantinople, holding vigil and living an ascetic life, I used to reason in my mind on the mystery of the Holy Trinity how it is that when we confess one single God, we believe at the same time in a Trinity of the same essence, eternal, without beginning; and also whether He who was incarnate for us is one of the Trinity”. Then be told us that he had a vision in which tire Apostle Peter led him to a high place and showed him in the heavens a great light, inaccessible and incomprehensible, in the shape of a wheel, like the sun, and said to him That is the Father. Then he showed hint a second light which followed the first and resembled it completely, in the middle of which was our Lord, represented with the features of the Nazarene and he added : That is the Son. Finally he showed him a third light similar in every way to the preceding ones, and St. Peter said to him That is the Holy Spirit - one essence, one nature, one glory. one power, one light, one Godhead in three hypostases; but while all three are inaccessible, only that in the centre was represented with the figure of the Nazarene, to show that He who was crucified is one of the Holy Trinity and not another - far from it! But the two others are simply a light inaccessible, unimaginable, unattainable, incomprehensible.
Now as Peter grew in age and spiritual love, he experienced a compelling urge to retire from the world and its emptiness and undertake a pilgrimage, that most virtuous of enterprises. But though he tried many times to flee away, he could not succeed in doing so for the devil and his myrmidons found it out. Peter’s slaves, namely the spearmen who carried him around in his litter, went so far in their hate for him that they made many secret attempts on his life. The god-fearing Emperor Theodosius himself was concerned to keep Peter as a hostage, in ease his own people demanded him back. If he could not then return Peter to them, the emperor feared that he might make them into militant enemies instead of friends and allies. So he had him strongly guarded to stop him leaving secretly.
But nothing is stronger than the power of Christ, and nothing warmer than the love of those who love Him uprightly. Christ had loved Peter from his childhood days, and protected him as one of His sheep. So now Peter found a helpmate given by God in the person of his godfather, John the Eunuch, who shared his aspirations and was like him in his longing for the life eternal. Originally John came from the land of Lazica, and was adorned with all reverence and meekness. Peter united himself with him by the bonds of affection, like Paul with Barnabas, and availed himself of his advice and companionship in his escape.
As Peter knew that it was through the activities of the demons that their plans failed to remain secret, he took John to the coffer where the bones of the holy martyrs were laid. While they both had their heads bowed over these relies and spoke to each other there, they arranged the time and manner of their escape.
Now that they felt themselves to be secure, they looked for a ship. Through the help of the martyrs, they found one, and boarded it immediately. But the feared they might be captured if they were pursued, or if they were recognizes at the straits of the Bosphorus, so they hanged into shabby slaves’ costume. Then by the protection of God, they managed to escape the vigilance of the people who were stationed in the Bosphorus to intercept them.
At this point they left their ship and continued on foot. They went on their way alone through Asia Minor, in company with the holy martyrs, whose venerable relics they carried in a golden casket. In joy and happiness, as if it had been a short excursion, they covered the distinct from the New Rome to Jerusalem. When they had reached the outskirts of the holy city of Jerusalem which they loved, they saw from a high place five stades away the lofty roof of the holy church of the Resurrection, shining like the morning sun, and cried aloud, 'See, that is Sion the city of our deliverance !' They fell down upon their faces, and from there onwards they crept upon their knees, frequently kissing the soil with their lips and eyes, until they were within the holy walls and had embraced the site of the sacred cross on Golgotha.
Seeing tat they were strangers in the Holy Places, God Himself led them to good hosts, guides and helpers in their holy purpose, namely the blessed Melania, a Roman lady residing there with her husband Pinianus and her mother Albina. Among the senatorial families of Rome, they had occupied the first place, possessing lineage, riches and honor, but since they loved Christ dearly and despised all these things, they had renounced the world and departed to live in prayer at the Holy City. When they had arrived there they built two large monasteries on the Mount of Olives, near the holy church of the Ascension, one for men and one for women, and endowed them for the glory of God.
When Melania heard of the arrival in Jerusalem of the holy youths Peter and John - at this point, however, they were still called in the language of their homeland Nabarnugios and Mithradates - she received them gladly. She remembered that site bad once visited Constantinople and seen the blessed Peter there as a young boy when he was being brought up to a king's estate. So Melania welcomed the saints like beloved sons, and they became held in honor for the exemplary life they led in the monastery which she had built. Without delay they received the monk's habit from the renowned Gerontius, who was priest and abbot on the Mount of Olives. This Gerontius enjoyed a great reputation, and lived until the days of the apostasy of the synod of Chalcedon, when he showed the zeal of true witness throughout his bondage and afflictions.
Now that they were living in peace in the monastery of which Gerontius was abbots they deposited there the venerated relics of the holy martyrs, side by side with those of the renowned Forty Martyrs of Sebastia, over whose interment the righteous and blessed Cyril, archbishop of Alexandria, presided [AD. 438-39]. For when Cyril was requested by the pious Empress Eudocia to come and inter the relics of the protomartyr Stephen and to consecrate the beautiful temple which she had built outside the northern gate of the city, he accepted the invitation with gladness. After he had arrived with a company of bishops from all Egypt, he also acceded to the request of the holy Melania to celebrate the interment of the Persian martyrs together with the Forty Martyrs of Sebastia in the smaller temple on the Mount of Olives, which had also been splendidly restored by the Empress Eudocia, as is commemorated by an inscription on one of the walls there.
At this time, the holy city of Jerusalem was still lacking in inhabitants, as well as being deprived of walls, since the former walls had been destroyed by the Romans. As the bishops residing in Jerusalem wanted to increase the number of citizens, they gave free permission to anyone to take whatever site he liked gratis, and build there a dwelling place. Accordingly the blessed Peter chose a place on the north side by the holy church of Sion near the so-called Tower of David, and built there a cloister which is called to this day the Abbey of the Iberians, and lies to the left when you go from the second door of that tower towards the holy church of Sion.
We must not omit to mention a miracle which occurred while they were building this place. Their neighbor was a prominent member of the clergy who had also taken a site and was building a residence on it. While Peter was sitting quietly in his cell, a quarrel arose over the boundary line, as often happens between neighbors. John the Eunuch, who was outside with the workmen, spoke to the other in peaceable and conciliatory tones, as was his custom. The other, who was in the wrong, hit him violently on the cheek. In spite of the pain he felt John made no attempt to retaliate but went indoors to join Father Peter, holding his cheek with his hand. Then they both went down on their knees and gave thanks to our Lord, because He had deemed them worthy to be partakers of the blows which He had suffered. On the following morning that shameless man was dead, although he had felt no previous pains. All the citizens of Jerusalem realized that God the righteous was prompt to punish the shame inflicted on these holy men, to whom He afforded every assistance.
As they were living by themselves and still had some money left out of what they had brought from Constantinople, they decided to perform good works by welcoming and refreshing the pilgrims and poor folk who came from all sides to pray at the Holy Places. They laid in a supply of provisions, and invited in pilgrims in such numbers that it often happened that they had ten tables in one day, especially on high feasts.
However their residence there was not fated to be of long duration. The Empress Eudocia, consort of the pious Emperor Theodosius the Younger, heard of the zeal of the afore-mentioned Melania, and likewise conceived the desire for the calm and tranquillity of the Holy City, to worship and be near the scene of the Passion which Christ, the King of Glory, suffered for us. In pomp and ceremony she passed through various towns, and arrived at the Holy City for which she longed. When she heard that Father Peter lived there she was anxious to see him, since she had brought him up with a mother's tender love at the royal palace. At first, he begged that he might be excused from leaving his cell, since he regarded this as a temptation. But since she insisted, he came out on one occasion to talk to her. She observed with attention his great meekness and wisdom and said, 'Blessed are you, my son, for you have chosen the good thing! Remember me in your holy prayers!' But he rejoined, 'What benefit can a sinner's prayers bring?' But she replied, 'May your sins be upon my head, my son.' And so he returned to his cell in peace.
But when she again insisted on seeing him, he hastened to the holy Zeno, the hermit and prophet, a pupil of the great and renowned Silvanus, and revealed his thoughts to him, as he was accustomed to . From him, Peter received the counsel, 'Save yourself and flee.' Accordingly, he left the holy city of Jerusalem, handing over his cloister to a group of men who had likewise renounced the world, and went to stay in the monastic community which is situated between Gaza and the small town named Mayuma which is by the seaside. It was divine providence which guided his wandering to this place, thus providing for this most Christian town a high priest and bishop particularly suited for this time of apostasy, at which there was need for a man who could be at once an inspirer of reverence and a preacher, a custodian of the orthodox faith and an intercessor for our souls.
While he was living in this community he used constantly to go with his cell-mate John to visit the holy Zeno who then lived in the village of Kefr-Searta fifteen miles from Gaza. The blessed Peter used to relate in after years, 'Once when I came to him, the holy Zeno was standing in prayer. And he turned to me and said, Pray! This he repeated three times. In astonishment I said to him, Forgive me, reverend Father, but do you not know that I am a layman and a sinner? Then he said, Yes, yes. Forgive me. He himself completed the prayers and sat down.' And seven days later Peter was himself ordained!
A.D. 445. How this came about we must not pass over in silence. When Peter was still living in the Holy City, Juvenal, who was then its bishop, sought many times to ordain him, but could not succeed in doing so, for God was Peter's protector. Now at this time when Peter was residing in the vicinity of Mayuma, Juvenal's nephew, Paul, was bishop of that place. On the commemoration day of the glorious martyr Victor, when an assembly of many bishops was in session, Paul drew one of these aside and persuaded him to carry out the ordination. This bishop took with him as his assistant the blessed father superior Irenaeus, who was on good terms with these holy men, and caught Peter and John by surprise. and ordained them to the priesthood under duress in spite of their struggles and resistance. Then Peter recognized the foreknowledge and prophetic wisdom of the holy Zeno.
A.D. 451. After he had thus received the laying on of hands, Peter refused obstinately for seven years to carry out the priestly offices, until it fell to him to be raised to the episcopate in the time of the transgression of Chalcedon. It was then that the apostasy of all those schismatic bishops, sanctioned by the godless Tome of Pope Leo, and attended by the adoption of the scandalous doctrine of Nestorius, resulted in Dioscorus, chief of the bishops of Egypt and a zealous fighter for truth, being driven into banishment, while Juvenal, who bore the tide of bishop of Jerusalem, signed the act of apostasy and thereby assumed the role of the traitor Judas.
A.D. 452. When this became known to the clergy and monks of Palestine they came out into the streets before Juvenal and implored him to remember his promise to eschew godlessness and fight for the true cause. When he refused to yield they assembled in the Holy City and elected the blessed Theodosius, a man devoted from his youth to the monastic way of life and imbued with the fear of the Lord, and who had distinguished himself even at the godless synod by his championship of the orthodox faith, and they made him pastor of the Holy City of Jerusalem. Afterwards Theodosius chose pious men from among the monks and bearers of the cross to consecrate them as bishops and confessors of the faith. Then the citizens of Maya which belongs to Gaza, who knew the blessed Peter to possess every' virtue, hurried to the spot where be was living in tranquillity and carried him off by force, although he bolted the door against them. A crowd of prominent burghers and clergy and common people bore him to the Holy City, so that they might receive a pastor and bishop from the hands of the chief of the priesthood.
On the way they came to a village called Sokha, and turned into an inn nearby, while the saint and his attendants spent the night in a house at the upper end of the village. In the depths of the night, when everyone was tired out from the journey, he asked his guardians for permission to go out on to the roof as if to satisfy a need of nature. When he had emerged by himself he hastened to cast himself down from the height on to a rocky place nearby, in the expectation that he would either escape completely, or be so maimed and disabled that his captors would release him. When he was about to commit this action he heard a voice saying, 'Peter, Peter, if you do this, you will have no share in me!' So he was prevented from carrying out his intent and was brought to Jerusalem. He protested his unworthiness, and when he was nevertheless consecrated bishop, he would not perform any church services until he had again been admonished by the voice of God. On the seventh of August, he arrived at the holy church of Mayuma and was borne inside and seated on the throne amidst general rejoicing.
He remained some six months in his holy church, during which time the people of Mayuma joyfully celebrated all the religious festivals, rejoicing in the protection of God who had granted them such a pastor, whom they cherished as an angel with love and affection. Then there arose the devil, that prince of renegades and arch-counselor of apostates, who was unable to endure the sight of such great glorifying of God and salvation of men. Accordingly he entered into the monarch who now held the reins of government, the Emperor Marcian, who readily listened to the devil's commands and he incited him to issue a decree deposing the righteous bishops who had been appointed throughout the towns of Palestine by the apostolic Patriarch Theodosius. In case of resistance, they were to be forcibly expelled from their sees and killed, while the Patriarch Theodosius was condemned to death. They all chose to go into exile, as the Patriarch Theodosius himself advised, since he deemed it more pleasing to God for the preachers of truth to he saved, rather than that they should perish and deprive the orthodox folk of comfort and support.
So the blessed Peter departed into Egypt and arrived by God's will at the city of Alexandria, where the rebel Proterius was now patriarch. Peter went into hiding and afforded encouragement and solace to the orthodox. Celebrating the divine service in secret, he did not allow their zeal and faith to be quenched.
It was granted him to see a fearsome vision in the following circumstances. While all the townsfolk were watching a play in the theatre the faithful believers were filled with zeal and suddenly shouted out, 'Up with Dioscorus and the orthodox ! Bum Proterius’ bones! Throw out the Judas !' They demanded the return of the pious Dioscorus from his unjust exile, and the expulsion of the ravening wolf and anti-Christ Proterius, the new Caiaphas. The authorities brought in a troop of armed soldier's ho surrounded the theatre and menaced the people with slaughter, so that they fled outside and threw each other down in the narrow passages of the theatre many of them losing their lives. At that time the blessed Peter was celebrating the holy sacrament in secret. In an ecstasy he saw many souls being carried up by the angels into heaven. When people came from the city and td him what had occurred, it transpired that the number of those who had perished by violence in the crush and confusion was the same as that of the blessed souls that he had seen in his vision.
At last the blessed Peter could no longer conceal himself from the godless Proterius, who was eager to deal him a mortal wound and send murderers in the night to seize and kill him. But he succeeded in escaping from then, for our Lord revealed the plot to him. When the emissaries approached and knocked on the door of his hiding-place, they pretended to be some of his friends among the orthodox and begged him to baptize a little boy whom they pictured as being in a critical condition. But a divine voice said to him, 'Do not open, these are scoundrels!' So he and the brethren with him shouted out loud, 'Father in heaven, look down! Robbers! Help!' When the neighbors and others nearby heard this they came running and drove off the villains.
After they bad thus been delivered from the snares of the hunters they departed and wandered in the upper regions of the Thebaid until they arrived at the town of Oxyrynchos. There Peter stayed, being cared for by one of the notables of the town, Moses by name. Oxyrynchos was a great and rich town of the Thebaid, in which the grace of God prevailed to such an extent that all the inhabitants were Christians, and the number of monks in the monasteries round about reached ten thousand.
A.D. 457. Later the blessed Peter left Oxvrynchos and returned to Alexandria. Now when the news of the death of Marcian, the leader and arch-inciter of all these evil deeds, reached Alexandria, the God-fearing populace breathed again and gave thanks to our Redeemer Christ. By unanimous resole they sent into the wilderness to fetch the holy Timothy, that renowned and true confessor, and brought him to the city, right into the church which is called the Kaisarion, to consecrate him as high priest and champion of the faith. But they could find only one of the orthodox bishops, namely Eusebius of Pelusium, the others having hidden themselves from the persecution. Learning that the blessed Peter was also there, the people hurried to the spot where he was living and carried him on their shoulders to the Kaisarion, where the populace was assembled. And the blessed one together with that other bishop carried out the consecration of Archbishop Timothy, the grace of God being with them.
Seeing himself menaced, the wicked and unprincipled Proterius was even further incensed. So he bribed the authorities with much gold, and notably an officer called Dionysius, a choleric and murderous individual, whom Proterius roused to such a pitch of frenzy that he hastened with an armed troop of brutal soldiery into the holy church of God and murdered many laymen, monks and nuns. Since the multitude could not endure this, they were inflamed with the zeal of martyrdom and daily resisted the soldiery with all the bloodshed of civil war. Then the civic authorities were afraid that this royal city would he altogether mined. When the news of the accession of the new Emperor Leo reached them, they decided to remove Proterius from the city until instructions were received from the sovereign. While Proterius was being escorted out by the soldiers one of them lost his temper and killed him, twenty days after the consecration of the blessed Timothy. They left him lying in the road like a pig or a dog, which he resembled in his manners and ferocity.
A.D. 457-74. After this, Peter went about Alexandria and the monasteries nearby in secret, and visited many other towns and villages of Egypt, edifying the hosts of true believers like a second Paul and providing for all an exemplary model of pious ardour. The wonders and great miracles and deeds of healing which he performed there we have not the power to describe in full detail.
When all this came to the ears of the orthodox brethren in Palestine it awakened their love towards their holy father and bishop. Many saintly men came to him and entreated him to visit his flock in Palestine also, now that they had been so long deprived of his spiritual care. So he returned to the land of Palestine. When he reached the town of Ascalon, be received a joyous welcome from the brethren there, and stayed in a village called Pelaea, ten stades from the town. While he was there many people came from all sides to see him, some of whom he confirmed in the faith, while others he enlightened and brought into the fold of the orthodox Church. For this purpose he made frequent journeys, now through the region of Gaza and Mayuma, now through that of Caesarea and Jerusalem, as far as the borders of Arabia.
Now I will relate further incidents in the life of the blessed Peter which the present writer either witnessed in person or else was privileged to learn by report, or heard from the very mouth of the saint, though this narrative will be but a small selection from the abundant material available.
Once the saint happened to go into the regions of Arabia to take a cure by bathing in the thermal waters of Livias, which ire called the Spring of Moses. Since his youth he had bruised his body and tormented it by various forms of ascetic discipline, so that his flesh had wasted away and only his skin and a thin one at that - was stretched over his dried-up bones. in his old age, indeed, he became so weak that he threw up with bloody "omit even what little food he swallowed. This was his motive for going to the hot spring at Livias.
After he had been using the thermal waters there for one day only, he refused to o into them any more, explaining that he got no benefit from them, as they were too cold. But the people from Arabia said that there was another warm spring in their country, very hot and health-giving, at a place called Baaru, and urged him to visit this one. So next day we set off for Madeba and later descended into the place called Baaru where the hot spring is. This spot is a deep gorge surrounded on all sides by high mountains, heated by streams of boiling hot water, which spurt up not only from the earth but also from the surrounding crags. The valley is heated to such an extent that the hills around are as black as a chimney from the clouds of smoke hovering perpetually about them. But on all the days when the saint was there the air was so clear and fresh that it seemed as if a dewy breeze was wafting, and all those who had come down with him were amazed, saying, 'Never have we seen such a marvel!'
Another miracle happened to strengthen them in their faith in the following circumstances. The folk who gathered there in winter-time used to collect reeds from the mountain stream which flows down the middle of the valley and make them into shelters. hen they left and summer came on, and there was nobody about, then these shelters shriveled and dried up from the heat. Now finding these ready made the people with us settled down inside. When one of them lighted a fire to prepare his food a spark sprang out and caught the reeds alight. The fire caught the other shelters nearby and turned them to ashes, and the flames darted so high that everyone in the shelters raised cries of alarm from fear of certain doom. Then the saint stepped forth in tears and fearfulness and stretched out his arms to heaven. While his mouth was silent he cried aloud in his heart, like Moses, to the Lord. Praise be to the unspeakable power and love of God Although nobody could quench the fire with water, and the shelters were reduced in a moment to ashes, they found neither man nor beast, neither pot nor garment destroyed, except for just one donkey's pack saddle, so that everyone knew that it was the saint's prayer alone which had checked the fire and rescued them.
Now in the city of Gaza there lived a pious scholastic called Dionysius, who was filled with love towards the saint. And he begged Peter to stay in his village, which was called Magdal Tutha, to the south of Gaza nearby the temple of the holy Hilarion, the great ascetic. After he had built a splendid residence for the saint he kept him there for three years.
At this time the blessed Isaiah the Egyptian, that great anchorite and prophet, was living in the neighborhood, in the village of Beth Daltha, four miles from Father Peter. We must marvel at the trust and love which these saints showed towards one another. Every lay the blessed Peter used to send Father Isaiah some victuals suitable for an aged man who was abstemious and frail in body namely the sort of Gaza bread he used to eat, a bunch of parsley and leeks, cleaned and washed, and two little fishes. In exchange, the other used to send him three cakes.
A.D. 485. While they were living in this way, the Emperor Zeno learnt of the virtue and powers of those saints. As he wanted to receive their blessing, he sent the eunuch Cosmas, one of his favorite chamberlains, with letters to induce them to come to him, promising to let them go again without delay. When he heard of this the blessed Peter was very distressed and fell on his face in front of the holy altar and said Lord, deliver me from the outrages of mankind ! And he decided to travel into the borders of Phoenicia and hide there until he had sent a petition to tell the emperor of his enfeebled state and persuade him to excuse him from so great an exertion-which indeed came to pass, since our Lord supported the saint's petition.
Then after Whitsun we traveled to Azotus, a place situated on the coast, for the Holy Spirit summoned the saint there for the comfort of those who lived in that town. Though many begged the venerable saint to take up his residence in the middle of the town, he refused and settled down in a narrow and wretched shed by the sea, shorn of any sort of bodily comfort.
While we were living in this shed the saint happened to fall sick. As soon as this came to the ears of Elias the Tribune, who had been the confidant of the Empress Eudocia and now resided in Jerusalem, he was impelled by his anxiety to go down and see Peter. And Elias took him and led him to a place on the outskirts of the town of Yamnia, which lay near the sea, and was excellently suited to the saint's invalid condition. This he did because the resort was crown property, and had once been the residence of the Empress Eudocia.
When we were here, there came round the commemoration day of John the Eunuch, who had been the cell-mate of Father Peter, and had passed away on the 4th of December. According to his custom, Peter invited many people to this festival, especially from the mountain regions round about, and gave orders to buy quantities of fish from the sea nearby. Now it happened that winter came on so suddenly that sea-fishing had to be completely abandoned. We were troubled because we could not entertain the brethren as the saint had instructed. But suddenly shortage turned to plenty. During the night so much rain fell that the river which flowed near us flooded its banks and inundated the vineyards round about. In the morning such shoals of fish were picked up that the local people said they could never remember such a prodigy, and we could not cope with all the fish who had come to attend the commemoration feast of that holy man.
Now the time was drawing near for the blessed one to find rest and be called to Jesus whom he loved-a time to is unknown and unexpected, but to him long announced in advance; for us, an event grievous and painful, for him a cherished moment awaited with joy, since he yearned to reach that goal which is the crown of God's heavenly call. He made his will, in which he named four heirs: John the Deacon, known as the Qanopite, and with him, his cell-mates Zacharias and Andrew, as well as the scholastic Theodore of Ascalon. He bid us remain fast until death in the orthodox faith and to shun and curse all heresies, namely the synod of Chalcedon and the godless Tome of Pope Leo. - “In addition to steadfastness in the faith, take care to attain purity of soul and body, without which no man can see the Lord, and love towards one another, and the concord which comes from the heart and flows from a clear conscience and untarnished belief. Beware of indiscreet talk either with men outside or amongst yourselves, for unrestrained frankness inflames the passions. Meditate on the writings of the saintly bishop Basil concerning the ascetic life, and model your manners and conduct according to his holy precepts. For these writings were brought into being by divine grace for the inculcation of virtue and the edifying of monastic communities everywhere.'
All that day we fasted, and we remained until evening in heavy sorrow and grief, while the blessed one was now preparing himself for his end and holding converse with the Lord. When evening came we sat down at table to eat. In the middle of the meal, Euphrosynus, an honored monk whom the saint loved and who was by his side looking after him, cried out, 'The father is dying! Come and receive his blessing!" Then we sprang up from table and hurried sorrowfully to his bedside. So that we should not hurt the blessed one, who was breathing his last, Euphrosynus took the saint's right hand and gave it to each one to kiss and receive the benediction. When the blessed one in happy tranquillity had entrusted his spirit into the hands of God, who even now was near him and bore him away, it was Father Gregory who closed his eyes for the last time.
It was now the dead of night, and soon Friday was about to dawn. When morning came we shrouded the saint’s body according to the custom and laid it before the holy altar, so that the holy sacraments might be celebrated in his memory. Afterwards we, his heirs, hastened to take his body and lay it to rest in his old cloister which lies in the neighborhood of Mayuma by Gaza. For we feared that if the townspeople of Gaza and Mayuma came to hear of it beforehand, they might he impelled by the great trust and love they bore him to carry off his sacred body and inter it in one of the churches in those towns. So we carried away the body of the pious departed. After spending a short time in a monastery on the outskirts of Ascalon, we went on all night and came before daybreak to the saint's old cloister. Now while the blessed one was still living here in quietness, he had erected three burial urns, into the middle one of which we now laid to rest his sacred body. In the right-hand urn reposed the holy relics of Father John the Eunuch, and on the left, those of Father Abraham, a pious hermit from Athribis.
When morning came the townspeople of Mayuma and Gaza heard of the death of the blessed one and the interment of his body. They hurried in a crowd to the cloister and fell down and prayed beside his sacred urn and kissed and embraced it like children bereaved not only of a father, but also of a teacher, guide and pastor. They remained assembled for seven days, holding vigil over him to the sound of hymns and liturgies, and seeking consolation for the grief they felt at his departing.
Our blessed father and bishop Peter died on the 1st of December, as Sunday was about to dawn, on the third day of the commemoration of Peter, the great martyr and archbishop of Alexandria, and five months after the passing of Father Isaiah the ascetic. And a year later, on the day before the commemoration feast of Father Peter, we reinterred his body in the crypt beneath the altar of the monastery church. The span of his life on earth was about eighty years. We celebrate his memory during three days: the first being the anniversary of the translation of his relies to the crypt beneath the altar, the second, that of the assembly of the people, and the third, the day of his burial in the earth and his committal into the hands of Christ Jesus, our Lord, God over all things, to whom be praise, honor and power to all eternity, AMEN.


David Marshall Lang (6 May 1924 – 30 March 1991), was a Professor of Caucasian Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He was one of the most productive British scholars who specialized in Georgian history.

Selected bibliography
    Lives and Legends of the Georgian Saints (New York: Crestwood, 1976)
    The Last Years of the Georgian Monarchy, 1658-1832 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1957)
    A Modern History of Georgia (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1962)
    The Georgians (New York: Praeger, 1966)
    The Peoples of the Hills: Ancient Ararat and Caucasus by Charles Allen Burney and D.M. Lang (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971)

The material presented by D. M. Lang and B. Sisauri [Master of Divinity - Georgia, Email: b.sisauri(at)mailcity.com]

During the six centuries which elapsed between the life-time of the great Georgian Athonites and that of the tragic Queen Ketevan, the kingdom of Georgia under-went great vicissitudes. At the time of the Crusades the inspiring leadership of King David the Builder (1089-1125) and Queen Tamar ( 1184-1213) enabled the coun-try to emerge as leader of a pan-Caucasian Christian empire. But the Mong~ invasions of the 1230's, and the later campaigns of Tamerlane, brought all this achieve-ment down in ruins. The fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453 cut off Georgia from Western Christen-dom, and left her a prey to the rising Muhammadan powers Ottoman Turkey and Safavi Iran.
Early in the iyth century, Shah Abbas the Great of Persia embarked on a series of campaigns to subjugate Eastern Georgia. He was helped by the defection of Giorgi Saakadze, a prominent general in the service of the young Georgian monarch, Luarsab of Kartli. Saakadze guided the Shah's armies, which vented their fury on Eastern Georgia; churches were devastated, icons and crosses broken up and the jewels given for orna-ments to the Shah's concubines. Many people saved themselves by fleeing to the woods and mountain strong-holds, hut at least sixty thousand were massacred. The rest of the population was deported to remote parts of Persia. To quote Pietro della Valle, a contemporary Italian observer:
"Today Persia proper, Kirman or Carmania, Mazan-deran on the Caspian Sea and many other lands of this empire are all full of Georgian and Circassian inhabi-tants. Most of them remain Christian to this day, but in a very crude manner, since they have neither priest nor minister to tend them. . .. There is no grandee who does not want all his wives to be Georgian, because it is a very handsome race, and the king himself has his palace full of them. . . . It would be too long to narrate all that has passed in this miserable migration, how many murders, how many deaths caused by privation, how many seduc-tions, rapes and acts of violence, how many children drowned by their own parents or cast into rivers through despair, some snatched by force from their mother's breasts because they seemed too weak to live and thrown down by the wayside and abandoned there to be food for wild beasts or trampled underfoot by the horses and camels of the army, which marched for a whole day on top of dead bodies; how many sons separated from their fathers, wives from their husbands, sisters from their brothers, and carried off to distant countries without hope of ever meeting again. Throughout the camp, men and women were sold on this occasion much cheaper than beasts, because of the great number of them."
King Luarsab of Kartli was sufficiently trusting to accept the Shah's offer of peace negotiations; on arriving in the Persian camp he was arrested, and later strangled near Shiraz. The other ruler of Eastern Georgia, Teimuraz I of Kakheti, preferred resistance, and allied himself alternately with the Russians and the Turks to carry on guerilla warfare.
In revenge, Shah 'Abbas castrated the two young sons of Teimuraz whom he already held as hostages. To the mother of Teimuraz, the Queen Dowager Ketevan, whom he also held in his power, he offered the chance of adopting Islam and entering his harem. On her re-fusal, she was cruelly martyred at Shiraz on September 22nd, 1624. The following account of her Passion is translated from a contemporary report from the Angus-tinian missionary fathers in Persia addressed to the Papal See; the original text was first published in 1910 by the late Father Michael Tamarati.


From a report of the
Augustinian Fathers in Persia:
Passion of Queen Ketevan

After Queen Ketevan was conducted to Shiraz, Brother Ambrose, who was then in that town, entered into contact with her and also with all the members of her household, who numbered about forty. They used to come to Mass at Brother Ambrose's church, and showed a great leaning towards the Catholic religion. Queen Ketevan sent to tell Brother Ambrose that she wished him to confess all her retinue (luring Lent; on the day of his patron saint, St. Augustine, she sent him from her chapel and oratory some pictures, candlesticks and carpets to adorn the church, as well as one of her men who could model wax, to make candles and tapers.
While Brother Ambrose was entertaining great hopes of harvesting the fruit of his fatigues through the con-version of these persons, the King of Persia sent certain of his minions to Shiraz; they were instructed to tell the Georgian queen in his name to become a Muhammadan, and that he would take her as his wife and give her great riches. If she refused, they were to put her to death with great torments. The queen replied that nothing on earth would make her abandon the faith of her Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, nor her chastity, which she valued more than all the trea~'res in the world. The officials begged her again not to expose herself to suffer such tortures, and to have pity on her tender flesh; but nothing could shake her constancy. When they saw this, the officials, after striving in vain to persuade her, told her to prepare to suffer the torments, and she asked for permission to say her prayers. This being granted, she entered her chapel, went down on her knees and prayed our Lord God to accord her His grace, to give her strength to suffer all these tortures for His holy faith.
When she had committed herself to God's keeping she went out and told the minions that they might do what the king had commanded. The officials begged her afresh to have pity on herself a weak woman, and not to con-demn herself to so miserable a death. The queen replied that they might give up trying to persuade her, for it was time wasted. The officials had already lit a great fire and inserted iron pincers into it, which were now as hot as the fire itself. They stripped the queen from her neck to her walst, and taking the red-hot pincers, they tore away the flesh from her delicate body with great cruelty, until at last the queen fell half dead to the ground, though continuing to invoke our Lord God with the greatest courage and fortitude. When she had fallen to the ground, they picked up the whole brazier and threw it on her body, anti finally put her to death by strangling her with a bowstring.
It is to he believed that this queen is partaking of God's glory in heaven, for although she belonged to the Greek rite, she was most cordially disposed towards the Holy Catholic Church and to all the Latins, showing them every mark of affection and helping them as much as she could. She lived on such good terms with us that it is impossible to believe that she was ill-disposed to the Holy Catholic Church. A rumour was current among the people of her country that her tomb was enveloped in an aura of shining light.


Troparia:

Being wounded by divine zeal, thou didst receive many wounds and endure multifarious tortures.
With boldness having acquired the Kingdom of Heaven instead of the transitory crown of a queen,
O thrice-holy Ketevan, intercede with Christ God to have mercy on our souls.


Kontakion:

The Queen of Heaven, the daughter of David, immaculate Mary receiveth today the blessed Ketevan,
the descendent of the seed of David, and giveth her sweet rest,
who through her deeds proved to be worthy of the crown,
and now standeth before the Holy Virgin interceding for us all.


Prayer to Saint Ketevan:

Thou didst renounce the transitory glory uniting thyself with the Queen of Heaven and Earth,
O Queen Ketevan, thou who didst suffer bodily for thy bridegroom,
intercede with Him for us thy servants, the Georgian people.


B. Sisauri [Master of Divinity - Georgia, Email: b.sisauri(at)mailcity.com]

The life of Saint David, founder of the David-Garejeli monastery in Eastern Georgia, belongs to the cycle of biographies known as The Lives of the Syrian Fathers, most of which were composed by the Catholicos Arsenius II of Georgia (c. 955-80). To these Syrian Fathers is ascribed the introduction of monastic institutions into Georgia. The historical background of their mission has been the subject of considerable discussion, especially as their biographies, in their present form, were not composed until four centuries after their deaths, with the result that facts are overlaid with legend and myth.

The approximate date of the Syrian Fathers' mission to Georgia can, however, be established by references to real personages and events. Thus, the life of St. David of Garesja mentions the Patriarch Elias of Jerusalem (494-513). Lives of the twelve other Syrian Fathers refer to a visit to St. Simeon Stylites the Younger (521-97), who is described as sitting in an oven, which he is known to have done between the years 541 and 551. There is also a reference to the Persian king Khusraus’s siege of Edessa, which took place in 544. The Georgian chronicle known as The Conversion of Georgia says that the Syrian Fathers arrived some two hundred ears after St. Nino’s apostolate. These allusions combine to show that the Syrian Fathers arrived, or were traditionally supposed to have arrived in the Caucasus at various times between the end of the 5th and the middle of the 6th centuries.

While the Syrian Fathers are revered among the fathers of the Orthodox Georgian Church there can be no doubt that they belonged to the Monophysite persuasion, as did Peter the Iberian, whose life we have read in the last chapter. Syria was a great centre of opposition to the edicts of the Council of Chalcedon. We have already seen with what vigour the Emperor Marcian (450-57) persecuted those who refused to accept the Chalcedonian formulation of the doctrine of Christ’s two natures. After a period of respite under Zeno and Anastasius, there was a fresh outburst of persecution between the years 520 and 545 under Justin I and Justinian. Contemporary analysts give a lurid picture of the excesses committed by the Byzantine authorities against the Syrian clergy and monks, many of whom were forced to flee abroad.

We also have to bear in mind that at the period under review the Georgian Church was itself sympathetic to the Monophysite cause. At the Council of Dvin in 506, the Armenian Georgian and Albano-Caucasian Churches united in condemning the dogma laid down at Chalcedon. Not until a century later did the Georgian Catholicos Kyrion formally reject the Armenian Gregorian doctrine and bring his flock back for ever within the Orthodox fold.

When we recall that the Syrian Fathers arrived in Georgia at a time when Monophysite monks expelled from Syria were taking refuge abroad, and that the Georgian Church was then on the Monophysite side, we must conclude that the Syrian Fathers were indeed Monophysite refugees anxious to continue their religious work in the more tolerant and congenial atmosphere of Georgia.

In general, the Syrian Fathers are pictured as lovers of a hermits solitary life. But they were by no means misanthropic in outlook. St. Iese of Tsilkani, for instance, obliged his parishioners by diverting the river Ksani to run through their town. Several of the Fathers were distinguished by their love of animals. St. John Zedazneli made friends with bears near his hermitage. St. Shio employed an obliging but rather inefficient wolf to guide the donkeys which brought supplies to his lonely grotto. But it is perhaps in the life of St. David here translated that the good relations existing between the Syrian Fathers and the animal world are brought out in the most touching and vivid light.

The First Thursday after Ascension Day -
The Life and Acts of our Holy Father David of Garesja

The homeland of this worthy and marvel-working Father was the Mesopotamian valley of Assyria, from which there have stemmed such a host of excellent and saintly men fertilized by the Holy Ghost and made into a spring-sown field of spiritual grace. But I could not discover when the saint was born, nor who were the parents from whom he received fleshly birth and upbringing, though we may assume that this noble branch sprang from excellent roots. As the good tree brings forth good fruit, so did the saint by his fruit make known the quality of his forbears.

Although I am ignorant of the names of his corporeal parents, his spiritual father is well known to all, namely the wondrous and noble John Zedazneli. This blessed Father John was from the borders of Antioch in the land of Mesopotamia. And by the guidance of the Holy Ghost, he arrived in this country of Georgia nearby the sacred capital city of Mtskheta. He longed for a hermits life, and said to his disciples, “My sons, why do you stand idle? Do you not know that the Lord Jesus Christ has sent and guided us here for the benefit of this country? For this is a virgin land. Now it is time for you to go away separately and strengthen our brethren to walk in Christ's ways.”

So our holy father David departed to dwell in desolate and waterless places, so that by an ascetic way of life in this transitory world, he might win for himself eternal bliss and rest everlasting. He therefore chose to live outside in the wilderness, and for this reason his desert abode is called Garesja. He took with him one disciple, Lucian by name.

When they had arrived in this uninhabited and waterless place they became very thirsty. Then they found a little rain water which had collected in a crack in a rock, so they drank some of it and lay down to rest in the shadow of the rock. Afterwards they walked this way and that, and found a cave in the crag and settled down in it. Whenever it became sultry or rained they rested in the cave. For food they collected roots and grass, as it was spring time, and plenty of nourishment for the flesh was to be found. So they collected provisions and glorified God, the giver of all good things.

After some days had passed, the meadows became withered and burnt up because summer had arrived. Suddenly there came three deer, followed by their fawns, and stood before them like peaceable sheep. Father David said, “Brother Lucian, take a dish and milk these deer.” And he got up and milked them. When the dish was full he took it up to the hermit. And he made the sign of the cross and it turned into curds, and they ate them and were filled, and glorified God. After that the deer came every day, except for Wednesdays and Fridays, and brought their fawns with them, so that they were contented in body and joyful in spirit.

But underneath, close by the cave where the saints resided, there was another cave, in which was a large and fearsome dragon with bloodshot eyes and a horn growing out of his forehead, and a great mane on his neck. One day the deer were going by the entrance to the cave when the dragon attacked them and seized a fawn and swallowed it. The terrified deer ran to the hermit and trembled. When Lucian saw them shivering with fright he said to St. David, “Holy Father, these deer have come flying to us and are shaking with terror, and they have left one of their fawns behind.” So the hermit went out with his staff in his hand. When he had reached the place past which the deer had come, he saw the dragon and said, “Evil dragon, why have you harmed our deer, which God has given us to comfort our weak flesh? Now depart from here and go far away into the desert. If you do not obey me, then by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ I will rip open your stomach with this staff of mine and turn you into food for the mice.”

But the dragon exclaimed, “Do not be angry, O servant of God Almighty! If you want me to go away from here, lead me up to the top of that mountain, and promise that you will not take your eyes off me until I have reached the river which flows on the south side of the hills, because I am afraid of thunderbolts and cannot endure them.” St. David gave his promise, and the dragon set out with St. David escorting him and reciting a psalm. And the rocks of that place wobbled from the tread of the dragon.

When Lucian saw this, he was afraid, and fell on his face and lay as if dead. And St. David led the dragon up as far as the top of the mountain, and the dragon began to scramble up to the peak. When the dragon had left the plain, St. David set off back towards his desert abode keeping his eye on the dragon. But the angel of the Lord spoke from behind him and said, “David!” So he looked round, and as he turned the dragon was struck by a thunderbolt and completely burnt up.

When St. David saw this he was very sorry and said, “O Lord, King of Glory, why didst Thou kill this dragon which put its trust in me, in spite of which Thou hast relentlessly destroyed him?” Then the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why are you sorry, O virtuous follower of our Lord Jesus Christ? for if the dragon had entered the river waters, he would have passed on into the sea. By eating the fish there, he would have grown enormous in size, and have overturned many ships in the ocean and destroyed many living souls in the seas. So do not grieve because the Lord has shown His mercy in this way, but go to your cavern, because your disciple Lucian has fallen on his face and is lying terror-stricken from fear of the dragon. Stretch out your hand and raise him up and strengthen and fortify him, and both together glorify God who has freed you from the fear of that detestable monster of a dragon.

On this the angel departed. David went and found Lucian quaking with fear, lying on the earth, and he stretched out his hand and raised him up and said, “Brother Lucian, why were you frightened of a worm, which God has shriveled up with fire in an instant? Now do not be afraid, for the might of God is with us, and God’s grace protects all that fear Him.” So Lucian was cheered by the hermit's words and gave thanks to the Lord.

Then several days went by, after which some hunts-men arrived from the borders of Kakheti, for in that wilderness, even up to the present day, there is abundance of game, including deer and wild goats and a countless variety of other sorts of game. When the hunters came they spied this way and that and caught sight of the hermit’s deer going into the cave in the rock. Then the hunters hastily turned aside to trap them in the cave in the rock. As they reached the hermit's cavern they saw the deer standing while St. Lucian milked them. When the men saw this, they were stricken with fear and ran in and fell at the feet of the holy hermit and said to him, “How is it, Holy Father, that these deer, wild animals of the field, are so tame as to be more peaceable than sheep brought up in a domestic farmyard?”

He said to them, “Why are you astonished at the glories of God? Do you not know that He tamed lions for Daniel, and saved the three children unharmed from the fiery furnace? So what is so wonderful about these deer? Now go and hunt other game, for these animals are granted by God for our feeble flesh.”

But they replied, “Great is the glory of the Lord it is fitting for us also to share in your holy way of life, saintly Father.” Their hearts were stirred, and they wept and said, “We will not return home again, but shall remain here with you and not leave you any more.”

But the hermit said to them, “My sons and brothers, this place is uncomfortable and confined. You had better go home.” And with difficulty he managed to persuade them to depart.

When they had finished hunting they went away and spread the news through all that country. From all sides people hastened to St. David's presence and begged to be deemed worthy to stay with him. But be said in reply, “Brothers, this place is lacking in comfort, and no food for the body is to be find in these parts.” But they treated him. saving, “Do not abandon us, Holy Father. If death should overcome us in your presence it would not seem like Tenth to us When he had failed to persuade them, he said “Since you have been granted faith in God, go and fetch spades and dig water cisterns, and also caves to live in. And they obeyed him and did what he told them.

After the brethren had gathered together, a worthy and virtuous monk, Father Dodo, heard this news. He also came before David, and they greeted one another. When a few days had gone by, a large number of other brethren collected, and David said to father Dodo, “Go, Brother, to the spur of that crag which stands opposite us, and take with you the other brethren, for they wish to be mortified externally in the flesh for the sake of the life of their souls.” St. Dodo obeyed his command and went and built the hermitage which is called after our most holy Queen, the Mother of God, the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and from Dave to day the number of the brethren increased and all together they glorified God.

The holy father David came out every day to the caves in the cliff and there peacefully offered up sacred prayers, and with his sweat and tears watered those places as with a spring. One day when he was praying thus, there arrived a certain man belonging to a tribe of barbarians from the district of Rustavi, and he was hunting game. Now his hawk brought down a partridge near the place where St. David was praying, and the partridge took refuge by the hermit and perched by his feet, and the hawk perched close by. This vas by divine intent ,so that this hunter should himself be hunted by the grace of God. Then the barbarian hurried up to take the partridge from the hawk.

When he saw the saint standing in prayer, and the partridge sitting by his feet, the barbarian was amazed, and said, “Who are you?” David replied in the Armenian language. “I am a sinful man, a servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I am imploring His mercy, to forgive me all my sins, so that I may leave this transitory life in peace and quietness.” Then he asked again, “Who looks after you and feeds you here?” David replied, “He whom I believe in and worship looks after and feeds all His creatures, to whom He has given birth. By Him are brought up all men and all animals and all plants, the birds of the sky and the fishes of the sea. Behold, this partridge which was fleeing from your hawk has taken refuge with me, the sinful servant of God. Now go away and hunt other game, for today it has found a haven with me, so that it may be saved from death.”

The barbarian replied, “I intend to kill you, so how do you expect to save the partridge from death?” But St. David said, “You can kill neither me nor the partridge, for my God is with me and He is powerful to protect.”

At this word of the saint the barbarian, who was on horseback, drew his sword to strike St. David on the neck. When he raised his arm, suddenly it withered away and became like wood. Then the barbarian realized his wickedness and got down from his horse and fell at the hermit's feet, and begged him with tears to rescue him from the error of his ways.

Then St. David had pity on him and besought the Lord, saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, our God, who didst come down to give life to the human race, Kind and Merciful One who didst cure the hand that was withered up - likewise, O Heavenly King, just as Thou didst see fit to do this, so cure the arm of this barbarian, that he may understand and recognize Thee and glorify Thy name.” Then the saint took his hand, and when he touched it, in an instant it was healed by the grace of God.

When he witnessed the might of God he began to entreat him greatly with burning tears and said :O St. David, “O servant of the Living God, my son at home is lame in both legs and completely unable to get up. Now I place my trust in your saintly virtues that you may pray for him to the Lord. If he is cured, then God's kindness will be all the more glorified, and I will bring the child before your holy presence to be blessed by you, and I and all my household will worship the name of Jesus Christ. I will present you with abundant pr visions, and you and all your followers will be generously provided with the fruits of my estate.”

St. David answered and said to him, “Go to your house, and if it please God, you will End your son cured.” So he went home in a cheerful mood, especially as he had had a successful day's hunting. When he arrived at his home - Behold now Thy wondrous works, O Christ! this lame child of his, which used to crawl on all fours, walked happily out to meet his father! When his father saw him completely restored and perfect in limb he got off his horse and offered up thanks to God.

When it was dawn he loaded donkeys with great quantities of stores, including bread and vegetables, and went out to the holy hermit, bringing his son and two other children of his to receive his blessing. Then St. David collected all the brethren together and fed them with the stores he had brought. When they rose from dinner. Father David asked whether he had any boon to ask of him, and he begged to be accorded holy baptism. Then St. David told him to take some of the provisions and go to Father Dodo and feed also the brethren who were there and receive their blessing too. And the worthy Father Dodo gave a joyful and cordial welcome to the barbarian man and his children and servants, and blessed them. In accordance with Father David's orders he gave them a priest, from whom he and all his family received baptism, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

A certain time elapsed, and the assembled brethren became very numerous. Then the blessed David summoned his disciple Lucian and said, “Brother Lucian, if it be pleasing to God, I want to go to the holy city of Jerusalem to pray at the Holy Places and worship at the life-giving sepulchre of our Lord Jesus Christ.” With some difficulty he managed to persuade Lucian to remain with the brethren, and he himself set off for Jerusalem, accompanied by a few of the brothers.

When they had arrived at the place which is called the Hill of Mercy, from which the city of God, the holy Jerusalem, can be seen, they all raised their arms towards heaven and offered up thanks to God. But when St. David saw Jerusalem he fell upon the ground and said to them, “No, brethren, I may venture to advance no farther from this spot, for I judge myself unworthy even to approach those holy places. But you go and pray for me, a sinner.”

After he had spent much time there in praying and lamenting, bowed down towards the earth, he picked up three stones and packed them in his scrip as sacred relics, as if they had been hewn from the very sepulchre of Christ. After this he turned round and walked joyfully along the road which leads to Garesja. But God, astonished at his candour and faith, wished to make manifest the renown of His servant, who from excess of sincerity did not dare to enter Jerusalem. So that night He sent an angel to speak in a vision to Elias, Patriarch of Jerusalem, saying:

“There is come as far as my city of Jerusalem my own particular servant David, and by his faith he has carried away with him the grace and favour of Jerusalem. So now send runners out swiftly to catch lip with him, for he is going along the road leading away from the city dressed in a felt cloak. He has an old scrip in which there are three stones which he has taken as sacred relies from the place whence he turned back. Tell those men to take these stones away from him and give him back one only, and they art to speak to him as follows: Thus the Lord commands you - Through your faith, you have taken away the grace and favour from my holy city of Jerusalem, but it has seemed good to me to restore two parts to Jerusalem, so that the city may not be entirely excluded from my mercies; but I will present a third of it to you to take back to your wilderness. Go then in peace and take this stone as a sacred relic to your hermitage, as a memorial and a testimony to your faith.”

When the Patriarch had seen all these things in his dream he started up out of his sleep and immediately summoned swift messengers and told them everything he had seen and heard from the angel in the vision. So they left the city and quickly went about their errand, and overtook the holy father David and informed him of everything the Patriarch had told them. In the scrip which he carried with him they found the three stones, and they took two of them away from him. But one they gave him hack as the Patriarch Elias had directed them. Some time later, St. David reached his hermitage, and all tic brethren greeted him with joy and good wishes when they heard of the arrival of their spiritual shepherd. And even today that stone remains in the hermitage effecting great miracles of healing right up to the present time.

And David, this great shepherd and father of ours, went out from day to day to visit and encourage the brothers who lived in remote parts, and strengthen them in the campaign of virtue. Now when a considerable time had passed in this way, his ship was full of the good cargo and inexhaustible riches of virtue, and it was time for it to be carried up to the heavenly shores above. So he summoned all the brethren whom he had gathered together and instructed them with words of paternal exhortation. Afterwards he partook of the immaculate and immortal mysteries of Christ, being the sacred flesh and holy blood of our Lord Jesus. Then he raised up his hands towards God and committed his soul to Him, and relinquished his body, worn out with much toil, to he committed as earth to earth, while the brothers who had gathered round wept bitterly over the loss of their good shepherd.


David Marshall Lang (6 May 1924 – 30 March 1991), was a Professor of Caucasian Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He was one of the most productive British scholars who specialized in Georgian history.

Selected bibliography
    Lives and Legends of the Georgian Saints (New York: Crestwood, 1976)
    The Last Years of the Georgian Monarchy, 1658-1832 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1957)
    A Modern History of Georgia (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1962)
    The Georgians (New York: Praeger, 1966)
    The Peoples of the Hills: Ancient Ararat and Caucasus by Charles Allen Burney and D.M. Lang (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971)

The material presented by D. M. Lang and B. Sisauri [Master of Divinity - Georgia, Email: b.sisauri(at)mailcity.com]