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E00117: The correspondence between Armenian and Georgian Church hierarchs (c. 600-608) preserved in the Book of Letters celebrates the service established for Queen *Shushanik (martyr of Georgia and Armenia, S00075) as a symbol of Armenian and Georgian unity.

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posted on 30.10.2014, 00:00 by dlambert
The Book of Letters (correspondence of Katholikos Abraham and Marzpan Smbat Bagratuni with Katholikos Kyrion of Mcxeta)

The Armenian Katholikos Abraham and marzpan Smbat were accusing Georgians, and specifically Katholikos Kyrion, of abandoning traditional ecclesiastical practice and of eventually becoming Chalcedonian. One of the major offences from the Armenian perspective was the substitution of the traditional 'paternal' service instituted by Šušanik.

From the First Letter of Katholikos Abraham to Katholikos Kyron:

պաշտաւնն հայերէն [US: հայրենի] սրբոյ Շուշանկան զկարգաւորեալն' լսեմ, թէ ի բաց փոխեցէք

'We heard that you had replaced the liturgy in the Armenian language instituted by Saint Shushanik.'


From the Letter of Marzpan Smbat to Katholikos Kyron:

'And even though there existed ties of kinship and of parenthood between the nobles of our and your lands, nevertheless the solidity that existed for us as a cement was the martyrium [of Shushanik] established in honour of the Church of C'urtaw and the liturgy and the rules in Armenian that existed among you.'


From the Letter of Katholikos Kyrion to Katholikos Abraham:

Եւ ազատ մարդիկն, որ ի Հայոց ի Վիրս խնամութիւն արարեալ էր, ի սրբոյ Շուշանկայ պաշտաւնն գային, և ի սուրբ Խաչս Մծխիթայի աղաւթել և աւրինաց հաղորդէին: Նոյնպես և որ աստի այդր գային ի սուրբ Կաթուղիկէ և յայլ եկեղեցիսդ աղաւթել. անխիղճ ի միմեանց աւրինաց հաղորդէին:

'The noblemen of Armenia and Iberia established between each other cordial relations. They came to participate in the cult of Saint Shushanik and to pray at the Holy Cross of Mcxeta and they communicated according to the law and religion. And similarly those here went to pray at the Holy Cathedral or your other churches and communicated without obstacle according to the common laws.'


From Katholikos Abraham's encyclical letter:

'Because he had chased away the Bishop of the Church of Curtaw, who was an intermediary between our two countries, for his Orthodoxy and he has suppressed the Armenian liturgy established by Saint Shushanik ...'

Text: Book of Letters 1901. Translation: N. Aleksidze.

History

Evidence ID

E00117

Saint Name

Shushanik, martyr of Georgia and Armenia, 5th c. : S00075

Saint Name in Source

Շուշանիկ

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters

Language

Armenian

Evidence not before

600

Evidence not after

610

Activity not before

600

Activity not after

610

Place of Evidence - Region

Armenia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Dwin

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Dwin Hadamakert Հադամակերտ Hadamakert Başkale

Major author/Major anonymous work

The Book of Letters

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Place of martyrdom of a saint

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Considerations about the validity of cult forms

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Aristocrats

Source

The Book of Letters The Book of Letters is a collection of letters exchanged between the Armenian Church hierarchs and other churches between the 5th and the 8th centuries, on doctrinal and ecclesiastical matters. Gradually the collection was expanded and other documents from the 8th to the 10th century added. The authenticity of many letters (particularly the 5th century documents) is still disputed. The Armeno-Georgian Section The core and the largest part of the Book of Letters is the Armeno-Georgian section, which includes letters exchanged between the Georgian Katholikos Kyrion of Mcxeta and his Armenian colleagues Movsēs II (574-604), the locum tenens of the Armenian Patriarchal throne Vrt'anes Kerdoł (604-607), and Abraham I (607-615). The collection also includes various related letters exchanged between Armenian and Georgian bishops and lay rulers. This section is particularly interesting as it documents the process that led to the so-called Schism between the Armenian and Georgian Churches in the early seventh century. Uxtanēs of Sebasteia's redaction The most important known editor of the Armeno-Georgian correspondence, and the codifier of the narrative of the Caucasian Church Schism, is the 10th century bishop Uxtanēs of Sebasteia. Uxtanēs's history of the Armeno-Georgian separation is entirely constructed on his edition of the correspondence. In many ways, the Uxtanēsian redaction is closer to the possible original texts. Uxtanēs adds his detailed commentary and supplies each important letter with an introduction and explanatory notes. The letters of Movsēs II, Abraham I and marzpan Smbat to Katholikos Kyrion Three letters of Abraham have survived with three responses by Kyrion. Uxtanēs also adduced a letter by Katholikos Movsēs and Kyrion's response, which are absent in the Book of Letters. On one occasion Kyrion also corresponded with marzpan Smbat Bagratuni. The spirit of these letters is identical: the Armenian authorities were accusing Kyrion of various 'crimes': of expelling an Armenian bishop from the Diocese of Curtavi, of bringing Nestorians into Iberia, of changing the century-old service 'established by/for Šušanik' and of eventually becoming Chalcedonian. Kyrion dismissed all of these accusations apart from the final one, as he openly confessed the Chalcedonian faith and accepted the definitions of five ecumenical councils.

Discussion

The service of St Šušanik is one of the most common elements referred to in this Armeno-Georgian polemic of the early 7th century. The controversy was triggered specifically in Curtavi, the centre of the region of Gugark'/Gugareti and the town of Šušanik's martyrdom, where her cult was particularly prominent. The Armenians claimed that the Georgians changed the Armenian service as established by Šušanik. This claim presents two problems: first of all the textual tradition is uncertain on how to render the Armenian word for 'Armenian'. Uxtanēs interprets the word not as Armenian (hayerēn), but rather as 'paternal' (hayreni), similarly some editions and also translations interpret the passage as a 'service established by Šušanik', whereas others refer to the 'service established for Šušanik'. Uxtanēs favours the second interpretation, because this would stress the Georgian betrayal of the tradition established by the great and common saint of both Georgian and Armenian traditions. (For some discussion see Garsoïan 1999, 540-550.)

Bibliography

Editions: Գիրք Թղթոց [Book of Letters] (Tiflis, 1901). Aleksidze, Z. (ed.) ეპისტოლეთა წიგნი, სომხური ტექსტი ქართული თარგმანით, გამოკვლევითა და კომენატრებით გამოსცა ზაზა ალექსიძემ [The Book of Letters: Armenian Text with a Georgian Translation, Study and Commentary] (Tbilisi: Mecniereba, 1968). Translations: Babian, G., The Relations Between the Armenian and Georgian Churches (Antelias: Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, 2001). Garsoïan, N., L’église Arménienne et le grand schisme d’Orient (Louvain: Peeters, 1999). Frivold, L., The Incarnation: A Study of the Doctrine of Incarnation in the Armenian Church in the 5th and 6th Centuries according to the Book of Letters (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1981). Studies: Garsoïan, N., L’église Arménienne et le grand schisme d’Orient (Louvain: Peeters, 1999).

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