At the Origins of Martyrology Cover Image

მარტვიროლოგიის სათავეებთან
At the Origins of Martyrology

Author(s): Lela Khachidze
Subject(s): Christian Theology and Religion, Studies of Literature, Theory of Literature
Published by: ლიტერატურის ინსტიტუტის გამომცემლობა
Keywords: Stephen the Protomartyr; Stephane Sananoisdze-Chkondideli; St Gregory of Nyssa;

Summary/Abstract: Stephen the Protomartyr is one of the most popular saints in Christian literature. He is the first martyr in the history of Christianity. Stephen was the first of seven chosen deacons whom the Apostles themselves ordained for the service of deacons. St. Stephen was appointed the Archdeacon. His name is associated with the first martyrdom in the history of Christianity. The “Acts of the Apostles” keeps the words pronounced by the saint martyr before death. There is also a description of the saint martyr’s vision which has been reflected in Christian art more than once.The initial date of the martyr’s commemoration was 26 December. Later, in Byzantine a commemoration of St. Stephen was moved a day later, to December 27. Along with this, three more feasts of Christian Church are celebrated – the discovery of the Saint’s relics, the translation of the relics and commemoration of the 70 Apostles, including Stephen.The Church Fathers have had a particular interest in St. Stephen since the 4th century. His commemoration is found in fourth-century Syriac writers – Aphrahat and Ephraimthe Syrian.The commentaries to the “Acts of Apostles” were compiled by 4th century Alexandrian theologian Didymus the Blind. Approximately at the same period two homilies dedicated to Stephen the First Martyr were created by Gregory of Nyssa. John Chrysostom wrote “Homilies on the Acts of Apostles” ...Thus, along with increasing the interest to the “Acts of Apostles”.Lots of churches were built in honor of Stephen the First Martyr in the course of centuries. Numerous frescoes, artistic paintings (including masterpieces), hymns, homilies were dedicated to him.As it turns out, Stephen the First Martyr was also an object of special veneration in our country that is evidenced by several facts. In honor of the saint’s name some churches have been built and the specimens of mural painting were created. The known toponym –Stepants minda is linked just with his name. However, the place of this saint in Georgian church and history of Georgian culture hasn’t been yet studied.Stephen the First Martyr has been mentioned in Georgian church and old Georgian literature since the ancient times. He is well known in Georgian hagiography, hymnography, liturgy, homiletics. Commemoration of Stephen the First Martyr is found in “Jerusalimite Lectionary” that is a unique monument containing archaic divine liturgy.The commemoration of St.Stephen is included in “Oldest Iadgari (Tropologion)”which contains numerous specimens of hymnography, including archaic ones. 3 hymns dedicated to St.Stephen indicated in Lectionary are also found in “Iadgari”. Other hymns are also included in “Oldest Iadgari”. As far as the prototype of the ‘‘Oldest Iadgari” has been lost today it is difficult to say with certainty as to which of the hymns entering this collection are translated and which are original. Presumably, as well as the main part of extended repertoire entering the “Oldest Iadgari”, the hymns dedicated to St.Stephen must have been translated from Greek. In these hymns St.Stephen is referred to as a predecessor of martyrs that had become a tradition. There is also St.Stephen’s vision before his death. The repeated refrain in this hymn leaves an impression of archaism. The metre of these hymns is also archaic.These hymns preserved in the “Oldest Iadgari” are not found in the “Menaia” published in Greek and Slavonic languages and in this respect they are totally unique.As is seen, “The Martyrdom of St.Stephen” was also translated into Georgian earlier. In “Sinai Polycephalon” dated from 864 along with other readings “The Martyrdom of St.Stephen” was also included and “The Discovery of the saint’s relics”.Special interest to St.Stephen is revealed by tenth century Georgian figure and writer – Stephen Sananoisdze-Chkondideli who is one of the famous representatives of“Mekheli”.Stephen Sananoisdze is an author of the small-size hymn dedicated to St. Stephen the First Martyr which is included in Michael Modrekili’s collection “Iadgari” (978-988).The hymn is rhymed and distinct for artistic perfection. As it turns out, the author of the hymn is well acquainted with the “Life” of St. Stephen the First Martyr on which he is based upon when describing the death of the saint. The same can be said about the vision of St. Stephen the First Martyr with which Stephen Sananoisdze’s hymn starts.Stephen Sananoisdze’s special interest to this great saint is evidenced by the fact that he translated from Greek “Praise to St.Stephen the First Martyr” by Gregory of Nyssa. Two more versions of this homily by Gregory of Nyssa are available in Georgian language. The translator of the first of them is Stephane Sananoisdze-Chkondideli and the second translation belongs to George the Athonite. In both cases we have remarkable Georgian translations of this homily by pious Father of the Church – Gregory of Nyssa made by two outstanding representatives of Georgian culture – the bishop of Chkondidi – Stephen Sananoisdze and outstanding figure of Georgian Church – George the Athonite.

  • Issue Year: 2016
  • Issue No: 17
  • Page Range: 157-166
  • Page Count: 10
  • Language: Georgian