Viro (Catholicos)

Viro or Viroy (Old Armenian: Վիրոյ, fl. 596 – c. 630) was the Catholicos and head of Caucasian Albanian Church in the early 7th century. His full official title was Catholicos of Albania, Lupenia and Chola.

Catholicos of Albania, Lupenia and Chola
ChurchCaucasian Albanian Church
Term ended630
SuccessorZachary II
Personal details
DenominationChalcedonian Christianity or Monophysitism

Life in Sassanid courtEdit

He succeeded Ter Abas as head of Caucasian Albanian Church in 596. Nothing is known about him prior to his tenure as catholicos. He was residing in Paytakaran during early reign of Khosrow II according to Stepanos Asoghik.[1] According to The History of the Country of Albania he fled to Sassanid court c. 603 after an ill-fated rebellion by Albanian nobles.[2] While Marie Brosset links this to Khosrow's attack on Byzantine Empire during Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628,[3] Dowsett finds this unconvincing.[4] He was described as a learned theologian and skillful diplomat, succeeding at learning Parsig and enjoying patronage of Queen Shirin.[4] His position as catholicos was kept secure by the guarantee of Khosrow himself.[2] He was released from the house arrest in Ctesiphon thanks to Kavad II in 628.

Life after releaseEdit

He arrived in Albania during height of Third Perso-Turkic war. While Sassanid marzban fled before the Göktürks, Viroy tried to stall their advance, however tired of waiting, Turkic envoys invaded Albania. Viro and a noble called Gad Všnasp (Constantin Zuckerman equates him to Varaz Grigor[5]) fled to Artsakh, then a province of Albania. However, Turkic army caught up and forced the catholicos and nobles of Albania to subdue. Viroy and his delegation visited Böri's encampment near Partav. Viroy submitted and obtained peace, returning enslaved Albanians back.[4][6]

After Heraclius' entrance to Albania in 628, he baptized and then consecrated Varaz Grigor as king, serving alongside him as catholicos. He was characterised by Mkhitar Gosh as 'a holy man resplented with virtue'.[7] Viro witnessed Plague of Sheroe surging in Albania and wrote detailed account of it,[4] himself probably dying from the plague in 630.

Theological viewEdit

Viroy was described as Chalcedonian by Zaza Aleksidze, who claims Khosrow demanded of him to anathematise the Council of Chalcedon.[8] However, Toumanoff maintains the idea that Viroy was monophysite and Heraclius wasn't able to reconvert him.[9] Akopyan also supports this version.[10] James Howard-Johnston concluded however that, Viroy's life was written much later after his life and the authors didn't want to acknowledge the awkward fact of him being Chalcedonian in light of the deeds done by him for fellow countrymen.[11]


  1. ^ Greenwood, Tim (2017). The Universal History of Step'anos Tarōnec'i : Introduction, Translation, and Commentary (First ed.). Oxford. pp. 162–163. ISBN 978-0-19-879251-2. OCLC 966822567.
  2. ^ a b Baca-Winters, Keenan (2015). From Rome to Iran: Identity and Xusro II (Thesis). UC Irvine.
  3. ^ Brosset, Marie-Félicité (1851). Additions et éclaircissements à l'Histoire de la Géorgie depuis l'antiquité jusqu'en 1469 de J.-C (in French). l'Académie impériale des sciences. pp. 474–475.
  4. ^ a b c d Movses; Dowsett, C. J. F (1961). The history of the Caucasian Albanians. London; New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 93–103. OCLC 445781.
  5. ^ Zuckerman, Constantine (2007-01-01). "The khazars and Byzantium—The first encounter". The World of the Khazars: 399–403. doi:10.1163/ej.9789004160422.i-460.70. ISBN 9789004160422.
  6. ^ Farrokh, Kaveh; Sánchez-Gracia, Javier; Maksymiuk, Katarzyna (2019-08-29). "Caucasian Albanian Warriors in the Armies of pre-Islamic Iran". Historia i Świat. 8 (8): 21–36. doi:10.34739/his.2019.08.02. ISSN 2299-2464. S2CID 216601428.
  7. ^ Dowsett, C. J. F. (1958). "The Albanian Chronicle of Mxit'ar Goš". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. 21 (1/3): 472–490. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00060134. ISSN 0041-977X. JSTOR 610613.
  8. ^ The Caucasian Albanian palimpsests of Mt. Sinai. Jost Gippert. Turnhout: Brepols. 2008–2010. pp. xix. ISBN 978-2-503-53116-8. OCLC 319126785.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. ^ Toumanoff, Cyrille (1963). Studies in Christian Caucasian History. Georgetown University Press. p. 477.
  10. ^ Akopjan, A. A (1987). Albanija-Aluank v greko-latinskich i drevnearmjanskich istocnikach (in Russian). Erevan: Izd. Armjansk. SSR. pp. 191–195. OCLC 600882151.
  11. ^ Howard-Johnston, J. D. (2006). East Rome, Sasanian Persia and the End of Antiquity: Historiographical and Historical Studies. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 56–57. ISBN 978-0-86078-992-5.