“you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” -Mark 13:9-11
Armenians pride themselves in being the first nation to accept Christianity as its official religion. What many people do not know is that it was due to a good looking nun. According to church tradition St. Hrispime was the catalyst in the conversion of the Armenian people in the year A.D. 301.
Emperor Diocletian of Rome, was smittened by the beautiful Hripsime and wanted her for himself. However, Hripisme didn’t want to be the emperor’s property but was on mission to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. Hripsime, with a group of nuns, ended up leaving Rome and continued their mission in Armenia.
Emperor Diocletian sent word to Trdat III, the king of Armenia, that an attractive lady was heading his way (it was some sort of royal bro code). He had the option of sending her back or keeping her for himself. When Trdat saw Hripsime he chose the latter.
Hripsime turned down the pagan king of Armenia. Again, she didn’t want to be the property of any ruler but would only serve her true king, Jesus Christ. Furious at her denial, Trdat came to her chambers and forced himself on her. Hrispime resisted the king’s physical advances and escaped. The king, embarrassed and enraged, ordered the death of Hripsime and her missionary companions.
After the martyrdom of Hripsime, King Trdat went insane and was unable to rule the land. Trdat’s sister had a dream that another missionary, St. Gregory the Illuminator, who was in prison, could help her brother. They brought Greg to Trdat. Greg prayed for a miracle. The mad king was cured. Trdat heard the Gospel. He repented and became a Christian. With King Trdat’s conversion the rest of the kingdom followed suit, making Armenia the first Christian nation.
St. Hripisme’s martyrdom was the seed that planted the church in Armenia. In iconology, King Trdat’s face is drawn below Hripsime’s feet, (see photo) symbolizing that the king did not have his way with Hripsime and that she was a faithful witness to Christ.