A member of a royal Roman family and among the very first Christian martyrs in Armenia, she is a very popular saint among many Churches.
c. A.D. 265 - A.D. 290
Saint Hripsime and her 35 female companions formed a group of devout Christian nuns who lived as hermits in a Roman monastery near the end of the third century. Hripsime was believed to be a descendant of a royal family of Rome. She was extremely beautiful and had attracted the attention of the Roman emperor Diocletian, who vowed to marry her.
To avoid the Emperor’s forceful advances and to maintain her chastity, Hripsime, her fellow nuns, and their leader Gayane, fled Rome. After traveling to Alexandria, then to Jerusalem, they finally came to the vicinity of Vagharshapat (later called Etchmiadzin) in Armenia, where, it is said, they found an old building of an abandoned wine press and settled there.
The Roman emperor continued his pursuit of Hripsime and the nuns. He asked the pagan Armenian King D'rtad (Tiridates) to help in returning them to Rome. However, when King D'rtad's soldiers discovered where the nuns were hiding and King D'rtad saw the beautiful Hripsime, he, too, fell in love with her and commanded her to marry him. When Hripsime was brought before the king, she refused to deny her Christian faith and to accept the marriage proposal of the king. She chose the love of Christ over the title of queen, and all its pagan trappings.
The king then pressured Gayane, the leader of the sisterhood, to convince Hrispime to marry him. However, instead of advising Hripsime to submit to the demands of the king, she told her to resist and stand firm in her faith. Hripsime and Gayane escaped from the palace and returned to the winery. Because of her refusal, the king ordered his soldiers to pursue and inflicted fiendish tortures upon Hripsime, Gayane, and the other sisters. According to the various accounts, the soldiers cut out their tongues, pierced their eyes, chopped up their bodies, and burned them.
The martyrdom of these women took place in the last year of St. Gregory the Illuminator's imprisonment by King D'rtad at Kor Virab (the deep pit). Upon his delivery from the pit at the start of the 4th century, and D'rtad's subsequent conversion to Christianity, and by royal decree the Armenian Nation, St. Gregory built chapels over the relics of the nuns. Later, during the time of St. Sahag Bartev, these chapels were rebuilt and, during the pontificate of Catholicos Gomidas (7th century), two beautiful cathedrals were erected; one of these, the Cathedral of St. Hripsime, continues to this day as a monument of Armenian architecture. St. Hripsime, along with her companions in martyrdom, is venerated as the first martyrs in Armenian history.
Other Churches also commemorate St. Hripsime and Companions: The Coptic Orthodox call her "St. Arapsima." The Greek Orthodox venerate her as "St. Ripsimia" in Greek, and commemorates with her Companion Virgin Martyrs. The Ethiopian Orthodox call her "St. Arsema" where she is very popular with at least three church buildings named for her. Additionally, she is included in the Ethiopian compendium of martyrs, and a book entitled "The Life of Arsema" can be found in many spiritual bookshops.
In honor of the saint, Hripsime remains a fairly common female name in Armenia, as do its variants; likewise, Arsema is a very popular name among Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians.
Detail of icon located on the southwestern wall at
in loving memory of
Today the Holy Church celebrates the memory
Today Saint Hripsime was called into the Kingdom of Heaven
With new songs of praise, praise Christ the King
Christ God, You opened to Saint Hripsime the door of faith;
She, clad in victory, shines in radiant mansions;
Receive us also who have assembled here, O Savior;
| The Southwestern Wall
The icons located on the southwestern wall of the sanctuary represent saints who played a significant role in Armenian Church history. Spanning over 1,000 years, the lives of these men and women proved influential as they contributed to the developing faith of the Church then, and continue to inspire the faithful today.
The iconography at Saints Vartanantz Armenian Church in Chelmsford, Mass., was the vision of the Very Rev. Fr. Ghevont Samoorian and executed
Available: The hanging vigil lamp - gantegh - at each icon of the southwest wall is available as a gift or memorial for a donation of $150. Symbolically a reminder of the Light of Christ, these brass, gold-plated lamps are lit on various feast days and add their warm glow to the prayerful atmosphere of the sanctuary.
[This page designed and created by Deacon James Magarian]
- Written by James Magarian
- Category: Iconography
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