There was also a Caucasian Albanian Catholicos Nerses I, who ruled in 689–706, and a Patriarch Nerses I of Constantinople, who ruled in 1704.

Nerses I the Great (Armenian: Ներսէս Ա Մեծ, romanizedNersēs I Mets; died c. 373), also known as Nerses the Parthian (Ներսէս Պարթև, Nersēs Part'ev), was an Armenian Catholicos (or Patriarch) who lived in the fourth century. He was the son of At'anagines and the Arsacid princess Bambishn, a sister of King Tiran and a daughter of King Khosrov III. His paternal grandfather was Catholicos Husik, whose paternal grandfather was Saint Gregory the Illuminator, the founder of the Armenian Church.

Saint Nerses
BornFourth century
Venerated inCatholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodox Church
Anglican Communion
Feast19 November[1]

Nerses spent his youth in Caesarea, where he received a Hellenistic education and married a Mamikonian princess called Sandukht. Sandukht bore Nerses a son called Sahak (Isaac), who would later become Catholicos. After the death of his wife, he was appointed sword-bearer (senekapet) to Arsacid king Arshak II. A few years later, having entered the ecclesiastical state, he was elected Catholicos probably in 353 and confirmed in the office in Caesarea in accordance with tradition.

His patriarchate marks a new era in Armenian history. Until that point, the Church had been more or less identified with the royal family and the nobles; Nerses brought it into closer connection with the people. At the Council of Ashtishat (c. 356) he promulgated numerous laws on marriage, fast days, and divine worship. Among other things, the council forbade people to marry their first cousin and forbade mutilation and other extreme actions in mourning. Nerses built schools, hospitals, leprosaria and poor houses and sent monks throughout the land to preach the Gospel.[2]

Nerses's relations with Arshak II, however, soon deteriorated. Some of the Catholicos's reforms drew upon him the king's displeasure. Nerses also clashed with Arshak over the latter's extermination of certain Armenian noble houses.[3] In approximately 358 (possibly earlier), Nerses was sent to Constantinople to escort Arshak's bride Olympias to Armenia. Arshak, like his father, pursued a pro-Arian policy, which led to a falling out with Catholicos Nerses.[4] According to the 5th-century historian Faustus of Byzantium, Nerses never again appeared at Arshak's court after the king ordered the murder of his own nephew, Gnel, in defiance of the Catholicos's exhortations.[5] Nerses was exiled for some nine years along with other anti-Arian bishops,[5] supposedly to Edessa. It was probably at some point during the latter part of Arshak's reign that Nerses went to Constantinople to ensure the emperor's support of Armenia against the Persians. According to Faustus of Byzantium, the Roman emperor Valens became outraged at Nerses condemning his following of the teachings of Arius and sent Nerses into exile.

Upon the accession of pro-Arian king Pap (Papas) in 369/370, Nerses returned to his see. Nerses undertook the reconstruction of Armenian churches and monasteries that had been destroyed during the Persian occupation of Armenia and strove toward the elimination of Zoroastrian influence in the country.[3] The classical Armenian historians write that Papas proved a dissolute and unworthy ruler and Nerses forbade him entrance to the church. Other historians believe that Nerses tried to bring the young king under his control using his considerable influence and with the help of some Armenian princes, prompting Pap to dissolve the Patriarch's benevolent institutions and confiscate holdings belonging to the Church.[3] According to Faustus of Byzantium and Movses Khorenatsi, Papas invited Nerses to his table under the pretence of seeking reconciliation and reportedly poisoned him in 373.[3][6] According to another theory, Nerses died of an illness of the lungs that he had contracted early in his life.[3] Pap appointed Nerses's successor without the approval of Caesarea, which refused to recognize the bishop's authority.[6]

Nerses's vision Edit

In medieval Armenia, a legend about a prophetic vision supposedly seen by Nerses in his dying moments gained widespread popularity and underwent several transformations over the centuries. Nerses's legendary vision is not mentioned by the main classical sources on Nerses's life, Faustus, Ghazar Parpetsi and Movses Khorenatsi, although Faustus and Parpetsi do write that Nerses's cursed the Arsacids, causing the fall of their kingdom.[7] The legend first appears in a 10th-century vita of Nerses attributed to Mesrop Yerets ("the Priest"), although the main version that has reached us was redacted sometime between 1099 and 1131, that is, soon after the first Crusader conquest of Jerusalem.[8] According to this version of the legend, Nerses predicted the fall of the Arsacid and Gregorid houses, the conquest of Jerusalem by the Persians, the capture of the True Cross, and its recapture by the Byzantines; the Armenian princes will be subjugated by the Byzantines, but the latter will soon be defeated by the "nation of the archers" (later associated with the Seljuks), leading to the total ruination of Armenia and its church; these calamities will be followed by the coming of the "Franks" or "Romans" (the Crusaders), who will defeat the infidels and subject them to Roman authority, leading to the creation of a heavenly kingdom on Earth where peace, prosperity and justice will reign until the coming of the Antichrist.[9]

In the arts Edit

  • Nerses is a character in the tragedy Nerses the Great, Patron of Armenia written in 1857 by the Western Armenian playwright, actor & editor, Sargis Vanadetsi, also known as Sargis Mirzayan.

References Edit

  1. ^ Attwater, Donald (1965) The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. Harmondsworth: Penguin; p. 248
  2. ^ Garsoïan 1997, p. 88.
  3. ^ a b c d e Harutʽyunyan 1982.
  4. ^ Terian 2005, p. 18.
  5. ^ a b Garsoïan 1997, p. 89.
  6. ^ a b Garsoïan 1997, p. 91.
  7. ^ Hovhannisyan 1957, pp. 17–18.
  8. ^ Pogossian 2014, pp. 466–468.
  9. ^ Hovhannisyan 1957, p. 19.

Sources Edit

  • Faustus of Byzantium, History of the Armenians, 5th century.
  • Garsoïan, Nina G. (1989). The Epic Histories Attributed to Pʻawstos Buzand (Buzandaran Patmutʻiwnkʻ). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-25865-7.
  • Garsoïan, Nina (1997). "The Aršakuni Dynasty". In Hovannisian, Richard G. (ed.). The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times. Vol. 1. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-10169-4.
  • Harutʽyunyan, H. (1982). "Nerses I Mec". In Hambarjumyan, Viktor (ed.). Haykakan sovetakan hanragitaran (in Armenian). Vol. 8. Erewan. p. 252.{{cite encyclopedia}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Hovhannisyan, Ašot (1957). Drvagner hay azatagrakan mtkʽi patmutʽyan [Episodes from the history of Armenian liberation thought] (in Armenian). Vol. 1. Erewan: Haykakan SSṘ GA hratarakčʽutʽyun.
  • Moses of Chorene, History of Armenia, 5th century,
  • Pogossian, Zaroui (2014). "The Last Emperor or the Last Armenian King? Some Considerations on Armenian Apocalyptic Literature from the Cilician Period". In Bardakjian, Kevork B.; La Porta, Sergio (eds.). The Armenian Apocalyptic Tradition: A Comparative Perspective. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-27026-8.
  • Terian, Abraham (2005). Patriotism and Piety in Armenian Christianity: The Early Panegyrics On Saint Gregory. St Vladimir's Seminary Press. ISBN 9780881412932.

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Nerses I-IV". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

See also Edit

Preceded by Catholicos of the Holy See of St. Echmiadzin and All Armenians
Succeeded by