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A Christmas Story:
Hripsime or How Christianity Came to Armenia

Trevor Pateman

Though we have little Latin and less Greek some names, some myths, some shards of history still lodge in our collective memory and irritate the imagination.

If I say ‘Diocletian’ the chances are that you can respond with ‘Emperor, Roman’ and, perhaps, ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ and, possibly, ‘AD 282 – 305’.

But ‘Hripsime’? (or, occasionally, ‘Ripsime’?).

She refused to be Diocletian’s wife:

(1) He was a Pagan


(2) She was a Nun

Thus bravely spoken, she and all her companions fled - it was hardly cause for martyrdom - and sought asylum in far Armenia, a country of mystery ruled then by Tiridates, who shortly - this will come as no surprise - took a fancy to this fiesty Hripsime.

But he was a Pagan and she was a Nun and when he did not see that No meant No, she threw him down and broke his crown.

For this offence, she - and all her companions - were executed.

Then Tiridates was seized with remorse and fled to the woods, abandoning all his kingly duties. Despairing, his nobles urged him to try Gregory - hated, persecuted, already fifteen years in solitary for preaching the forbidden Christian faith.

The result? Gregory the Illuminator converted Tiridates and Tiridates declared Armenia a Christian state, the first ever and one that continues to this day with churches named for St Hripsime.

But, Dear Reader, might it not have been better for all if, instead of the women dying and the men continuing to rule, she had married him and they had lived happily ever after?

First published on this website 2005.

Source for the story: Noel and Harold Buxton, Travel and Politics in Armenia. London: Smith. Elder and Co 1914, pages 71 - 72