Saint Nina, Equal to the Apostles, Enlightener of Georgia


[The patron saint of my elder daughter, Sofie]

Troparion of St Nina, Equal-To-The-Apostles Tone 4
O handmaid of the Word of God,/ who in preaching equaled the first-called Apostle Andrew,/ and emulated the other Apostles,/ enlightener of Iberia and reed-pipe of the Holy Spirit,/ holy Nina, pray to Christ our God to save our souls.

Kontakion of St Nina Tone 2
Let us sing praises to the chosen of Christ,/ Equal-to-the-Apostles and preacher of God’s word,/ the bearer of good tidings who brought the people of Katralina/ to the path of life and truth,/ the disciple of the Mother of God,/ our zealous intercessor and unwearing guardian,/ the most praised Nina.

The Life of St. Nina by Karen Rae Keck in The St. Nina Quarterly

From the Prolog:

Nina was a relative of St. George the Great Martyr and Juvenal, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Her parents belonged to the nobility in Cappadocia and since they both were tonsured in the monastic state, Nina was educated under the tutelage of Patriarch Juvenal. Hearing about the people of Georgia, the virgin Nina, from an early age, desired to go to Georgia and to baptize the Georgians. The All-Holy Mother of God appeared to Nina and promised to take her to this land. When our Lord opened the way, the young Nina, indeed, traveled to Georgia where, in a short period of time, she gained the love of the Georgian people. Nina succeeded in baptizing the Georgian Emperor Mirian, his wife Nana and their son Bakar, who, later on, zealously assisted in Nina’s missionary work. During her lifetime, Nina traveled throughout Georgia, mainly to convert the entire nation to the Faith of Christ, exactly at the time of the terrible persecution of the Christians at the hands of Emperor Diocletian. Having rested from her many labors, Nina died in the Lord in the year 335 A.D. Her body is entombed in the Cathedral Church in Mtzkheta. She worked many miracles during her life and after her death.

From the OCA website:

The virgin Nino of Cappadocia was a relative of Great-martyr George and the only daughter of a widely respected and honorable couple. Her father was a Roman army chief by the name of Zabulon, and her mother, Sosana, was the sister of Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem. When Nino reached the age of twelve, her parents sold all their possessions and moved to Jerusalem. Soon after, Nino’s father was tonsured a monk. He bid farewell to his family and went to labor in the wilderness of the Jordan.

After Sosana had been separated from her husband, Patriarch Juvenal ordained her a deaconess. She left her daughter Nino in the care of an old woman, Sara Niaphor, who raised her in the Christian Faith and related to her the stories of Christ’s life and His suffering on earth. It was from Sara that Nino learned how Christ’s Robe had arrived in Georgia, a country of pagans.

Soon Nino began to pray fervently to the Theotokos, asking for her blessing to travel to Georgia and be made worthy to venerate the Sacred Robe that she had woven for her beloved Son. The Most Holy Virgin heard her prayers and appeared to Nino in a dream, saying, “Go to the country that was assigned to me by lot and preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will send down His grace upon you and I will be your protector.”

But the blessed Nino was overwhelmed at the thought of such a great responsibility and answered, “How can I, a fragile woman, perform such a momentous task, and how can I believe that this vision is real?” In response, the Most Holy Theotokos presented her with a cross of grapevines and proclaimed, “Receive this cross as a shield against visible and invisible enemies!”

When she awoke, Nino was holding the cross in her hands. She dampened it with tears of rejoicing and tied it securely with strands of her own hair. (According to another source, the Theotokos bound the grapevine cross with strands of her own hair.)

Nino related the vision to her uncle, Patriarch Juvenal, and revealed to him her desire to preach the Gospel in Georgia. Juvenal led her in front of the Royal Doors, laid his hands on her, and prayed, “O Lord, God of Eternity, I beseech Thee on behalf of my orphaned niece: Grant that, according to Thy will, she may go to preach and proclaim Thy Holy Resurrection. O Christ God, be Thou to her a guide, a refuge, and a spiritual father. And as Thou didst enlighten the Apostles and all those who feared Thy name, do Thou also enlighten her with the wisdom to proclaim Thy glad tidings.”

When Nino arrived in Rome, she met and baptized the princess Rhipsimia and her nurse, Gaiana. At that time the Roman emperor was Diocletian, a ruler infamous for persecuting Christians. Diocletian (284–305) fell in love with Rhipsimia and resolved to marry her, but St. Nino, Rhipsimia, Gaiana, and fifty other virgins escaped to Armenia. The furious Diocletian ordered his soldiers to follow them and sent a messenger to Tiridates, the Armenian king (286–344), to put him on guard.

King Tiridates located the women and, following Diocletian’s example, was charmed by Rhipsimia’s beauty and resolved to marry her. But St. Rhipsimia would not consent to wed him, and in his rage the king had her tortured to death with Gaiana and the fifty other virgins. St. Nino, however, was being prepared for a different, greater task, and she succeeded in escaping King Tiridates’ persecutions by hiding among some rose bushes.

When she finally arrived in Georgia, St. Nino was greeted by a group of Mtskhetan shepherds near Lake Paravani, and she received a blessing from God to preach to the pagans of this region.

With the help of her acquaintances St. Nino soon reached the city of Urbnisi. She remained there a month, then traveled to Mtskheta with a group of Georgians who were making a pilgrimage to venerate the pagan idol Armazi. There she watched with great sadness as the Georgian people trembled before the idols. She was exceedingly sorrowful and prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, send down Thy mercy upon this nation …that all nations may glorify Thee alone, the One True God, through Thy Son, Jesus Christ.”

Suddenly a violent wind began to blow and hail fell from the sky, shattering the pagan statues. The terrified worshipers fled, scattering across the city.

St. Nino made her home beneath a bramble bush in the garden of the king, with the family of the royal gardener. The gardener and his wife were childless, but through St. Nino’s prayers God granted them a child. The couple rejoiced exceedingly, declared Christ to be the True God, and became disciples of St. Nino. Wherever St. Nino went, those who heard her preach converted to the Christian Faith in great numbers. St. Nino even healed the terminally ill Queen Nana after she declared Christ to be the True God.

King Mirian, a pagan, was not at all pleased with the great impression St. Nino’s preaching had made on the Georgian nation. One day while he was out hunting, he resolved to kill all those who followed Christ.

According to his wicked scheme, even his wife, Queen Nana, would face death for failing to renounce the Christian Faith. But in the midst of the hunt, it suddenly became very dark. All alone, King Mirian became greatly afraid and prayed in vain for the help of the pagan gods. When his prayers went unanswered, he finally lost hope and, miraculously, he turned to Christ: “God of Nino, illumine this night for me and guide my footsteps, and I will declare Thy Holy Name. I will erect a cross and venerate it and I will construct for Thee a temple. I vow to be obedient to Nino and to the Faith of the Roman people!”

Suddenly the night was transfigured, the sun shone radiantly, and KingMirian gave great thanks to the Creator. When he returned to the city, he immediately informed St. Nino of his decision. As a result of the unceasing labors of Equal-to-the-Apostles Nino, Georgia was established as a nation solidly rooted in the Christian Faith.

St. Nino reposed in the village of Bodbe in eastern Georgia and, according to her will, she was buried in the place where she took her last breath. King Mirian later erected a church in honor of St. George over her grave.

6 thoughts on “Saint Nina, Equal to the Apostles, Enlightener of Georgia

  1. Shockingly, her saint’s day in the Catholic church is… my birthday, December 15. I always wondered if there was an Orthodox saint who shared my name, Christiana. I googled “St. Christiana”and came up with links to St. Nina / St. Nino / St. Christiana. My parents had no idea about this saint when I was named after my Danish great-grandmother. I am so blessed to share my birthday with the saints day of such an honorable saint. I am privileged to share my name with her.

  2. Greetings, St. Nina Orthodox Church is one of the names we are proposing for our new mission here in Las Cruces NM. I have been looking for St. Nina icons online. The best seems to be from Come and See Icons. Any other ideas? I love the description of her being a “reed pipe of the holy spirit”. I’ve also seen it translated at “instrument” but to me that can easily be taken as scientific instruments or tools. I also like the vine on the cross. It makes it a living cross.

  3. St. Nino (Not “Nina”) is entombed at Bodbe Cathedral in Eastern Georgia (in Khaketi). Legend has it that her remains have not decayed. The Turks destroyed the church but her gravesite was undisturbed. The cathedral was rebuilt around it. I have been to Bodbe twice. She is a Saint to both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. “Christiana” means the “Christian woman.” She certainly was that. Her acts in Georgia were miraculous in themselves, moreover the timing of them was truly miraculous. Also, she came to Georgia, not as nobility, but disguised as a servant. Her father was a Roman military leader. That she was a relative of St. George is a widely held belief, but it is a myth. She did not baptise St. Gaiana, who was the richest woman in Rome, and at least 30 years older than St. Nino.

    Isn’t the more mystifying story the true one, than the “Oh, she was related to all these histoic Church personages.” (?) In truth, we have a half Hebrew, immigrant, servant girl coming to a militant, male dominated, civilized but tribal society, in an extremely beautiful and mountainous region, with enemies on all sides. She proceeds to bring down gods the Georgians had worshiped for at least a thousand years; eliminates the Bacchanal Cult in Kolketi (Colchis), converts the royal family of Western Georgia, converts the whole of Western Georgia in a single day, lives in a small home in the bend of the Silk Road (in Mtskheta). Then, deciding that her work for God in Western Georgia was finished, she went to Eastern Georgia and starts building an Abbey. This was a woman! Around the year 300! A servant girl! A servant of Jesus! Finally, when she made her simple cross out of grape vines (The symbol of Georgia since Egyptian times– all European/North African wines are descended from wild vines growing in the Caucasus), she tied it together with her own long hair. Finally, knowing of her own impending death, she ordered the people not to remove her remains from Bodbe, because her work was not done in Eastern Georgia. The King wanted her to be buried in Mtskheta, in the ancient Capitol of Georgia. Her bier became the weight of a million pounds. She was not going anywhere! They built her tomb and expanded the church around her, which I assume is why she is not in the center of the cathedral, but to the side.

    I love St. Nino and my Georgia. I mention both in the same sentence, because truly they are inseparable. The Georgians are called “Georgians” because they fought in the Crusades under the banner of St. George and at the time, as to this day, there are many people devoted to St. George in Georgia. They fought in the Crusades, however, because of their faith brought by St. Nino.

  4. My name is Nina and I am Lebanese. I did not know that I hold the name of blessed Saint, equal to the apostles….. My spiritual father gave me her Life, and I just finished translating it, as well as the services of Matins and Vespers, into the Arabic language. The Monastery of Our Lady of Hamatoura shall be shortly publishing it.
    I am glad that, with the help of the Lord, Arab speaking christians can now get to know more about this saint, who preached the barbarians and brought them to the light of Christ.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s