Saint Nino

Saint Nino

Infobox Saint
name=Saint Nino
birth_date= 296 A.D.
death_date= ca. 338 or 340 A.D.
feast_day=January 14
January 27 (Eastern Orthodox)
venerated_in= Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodox Churches, Roman Catholic Church

caption= Icon of Saint Nino
birth_place= Colastri, Cappadocia
death_place= Bodbe, Kakheti
canonized_place= Kingdom of Iberia
canonized_by= Georgian and Russian Orthodox Church
major_shrine= Bodbe Monastery

Saint Nino ( _ka. წმინდა ნინო, _el. Αγία Νίνω), (sometimes "St. Nina" or "St. Ninny") "Equal to the Apostles and the Enlightener of Georgia", (c. 296 – c. 338 or 340) was a woman who preached and introduced Christianity in Georgia.

According to most widely traditional accounts, she was from Kolastra, Cappadocia ( _el. Καππαδοκία), was a relative of Saint George [Orthodox Church of America - [] ] , and came to Georgia (ancient Iberia) from Constantinople. Other sources claim she was from Rome, Jerusalem or Gaul (modern France) [] . She performed miraculous healings and converted the Georgian queen, Nana, and eventually the pagan king Mirian III of Iberia, who, lost in darkness and blinded on a hunting trip, found his way only after he prayed to “Nino’s God”. Mirian declared Christianity an official religion (c. 327) and Nino continued her missionary activities among Georgians until her death.

Her tomb is still shown at the Bodbe Monastery in Kakheti, eastern Georgia. St. Nino has become one of the most venerated saints of the Georgian Orthodox Church and her attribute, a Grapevine cross, is a symbol of Georgian Christianity.

Early life

Many sources agree that Nino was born in the small town of Colastri, in the Roman province of Cappadocia, although a smaller number of sources disagree with this. On her family and origin, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church have different traditions.

According to the Eastern Orthodox Church tradition, she was the only child of the famous Roman general Zabulon. On her father's side, Nino was related to St. George, and on her mother's, to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Houbnal I.

During her childhood Nino was brought up by her relative and the nun named Sarah Bethlehemlianka. Nino’s uncle who served as the Patriarch of Jerusalem oversaw her traditional upbringing. Nino went to Rome with the help of her uncle where she decided to preach the Christian gospel in Iberia, known to her as the resting place of the Christ’s tunic. According to the legend, Nino received a vision where the Virgin Mary gave her a grapevine cross and said:

:"Go to Iberia and tell there the Good Tidings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and you will find favour before the Lord; and I will be for you a shield against all visible and invisible enemies. By the strength of this cross, you will erect in that land the saving banner of faith in My beloved Son and Lord."

While on her way to Iberia, passing through Anatolia into Caucasus, Nino managed to convert some villages to Christianity in Northern Anatolia and Armenia.

Contrasting with this, the Roman Catholic tradition says Nino was brought to Iberia not fully from her own intent, but as a slave, and that her family tree is obscure. [] []

t Nino in Iberia

Nino reached the borders of ancient Georgian Kingdom of Iberia in about 320 A.D. There, she placed a Christian cross in the small town of Akhalkalaki and started preaching the Christian faith in Urbnis and finally reaching Mtskheta (the capital of Iberia). Iberian Kingdom has been influenced by the neighbouring Persian Empire which played an important role as the regional power in the Caucasus. The Iberian King Mirian III and his nation worshiped the syncretic gods of Armazi and Zaden. Soon after the arrival of Nino in Mstkheta, the Queen of Iberia Nana (daughter of King Asphagor) requested the audience with the Cappadician.

Queen Nana, who suffered from a severe illness, had some knowledge of Christianity but had not yet converted to it. Nino, restoring the Queen's health, won to herself disciples from the Queen's attendants, including a Jewish priest and his daughter, Abiathar and Sidonia. Queen Nana also officially converted to Christianity and was baptized by Nino herself. King Mirian, aware of his wife’s religious conversion, was tolerant of her new faith. He secluded himself, however, from Nino and the growing Christian community in his kingdom. His isolation to Christianity did not last long because, according to the legend, while on a hunting trip, he was suddenly struck blind as total darkness emerged in the woods. In a desperate state, King Mirian uttered a prayer to the God of St Nino:

:If indeed that Christ whom the Captive had preached to his Wife was God, then let Him now deliver him from this darkness, that he too might forsake all other gods to worship Him. [ Tyrannius Rufinus, "Historia Ecclesiastica" ]

As soon as he finished his prayer, the light appeared and the King hastily returned to his palace in Mtskheta. As a result of this miracle, the King of Iberia renounced idolatry under the teaching of St Nino and was baptized as the first Christian King of Iberia. Soon, the whole of his household and the inhabitants of Mtskheta adopted Christianity. In A.D. 327 King Mirian made Christianity the state religion of his kingdom, making Iberia the second Christian state after Armenia.

After adopting Christianity, Mirian sent an ambassador to Byzantium, asking Emperor Constantine I to have a bishop and priests sent to Iberia. Constantine, having learned of Iberia’s conversion to Christianity, granted Mirian the church lands in Jerusalem [ Theodore Downling, Sketches of Georgian Church History, p. 52 ] and sent the delegation of Bishops to the court of the Georgian King. Roman historian Tyrannius Rufinus in "Historia Ecclesiastica" writes about Mirians request to Constantine:

:"After the church had been built with due magnificence, the people were zealously yearning for God's faith. So an embassy is sent on behalf of the entire nation to the Emperor Constantine, in accordance with the captive woman's advice. The foregoing events are related to him, and a petition submitted, requesting that priests be sent to complete the work which God had begun. Sending them on their way amidst rejoicing and ceremony, the Emperor was far more glad at this news than if he had annexed to the Roman Empire peoples and realms unknown". [ Marjory and Oliver Wardrop, The Life of Saint Nino, volume 5, Clarendon Press Series ]

In 334 A.D, Mirian commissioned the building of the first Christian church in Iberia which was finally completed in 379 A.D. on the spot where now stands the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mstkheta.

Nino, having witnessed the conversion of Iberia to Christianity, withdrew to the mountain pass in Bodbe, Kakheti. St Nino died soon after; immediately after her death, King Mirian commenced with the building of monastery in Bodbe, where her tomb can still be seen in the churchyard.

Nino and its variants remains the most popular name for women and girls in the Republic of Georgia. There are currently 88,441 women over age 16 by that name residing in the country, according to the Georgia Ministry of Justice. It also continues to be a popular name for baby girls. [ [ Nino is the most popular name for girls in Georgia] ]


ee also

* Georgian Orthodox Church


Further reading


External links

* [ Biography from "The St. Nina Quarterly"]
* [ Life of St Nino]

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