Gregory of NarekThursday, August 19, 2021
Grigor Narekatsi (c. 950 – 1003/1011) was an Armenian mystical and lyrical poet, monk, and theologian. He is venerated as a saint in the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic Churches and was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Francis in 2015.
The son of a bishop, Narekatsi was educated by a relative based at the Narekavank, the monastery of Narek, on the southern shores of Lake Van (modern Turkey). He was based there almost all his life. He is best known for his Book of Lamentations, a major piece of mystical literature.
Narekatsi was born c. 945–951 and died in the early 11th century: 1003 or 1010–11. He lived in the semi-independent Kingdom of Vaspurakan, a part of the larger Bagratid Armenia, with its capital, first, in Kars, then in Ani.
Little is known about his life. He was born in a village on the southern shores of Lake Van, in what is now eastern Turkey, to Khosrov Andzevatsi, a relative of the Artsruni royal family. Khosrov was ordained a bishop after being widowed and was appointed primate of the diocese of Andzevatsik. His father was suspected of pro-Byzantine Chalcedonian beliefs and was eventually excommunicated by Catholicos Anania Mokatsi for his interpretation of the rank of Catholicos as being equivalent to that of a bishop, based on the works of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Grigor and his elder brother Hovhannes were sent to the Narekavank, the monastery of Narek, where he was given religious education by Anania Narekatsi (Ananias of Narek). The latter was his maternal great-uncle and a celebrated scholar who had elevated the status of Narekavank to new heights. Being raised in an intellectual and religious fervor, Grigor was ordained priest in 977 and taught others theology at the monastery school until his death.
Whether Narekatsi led a secluded life or not has become a matter of debate. Arshag Chobanian and Manuk Abeghian believe he did, while Hrant Tamrazian argued that Narekatsi was very well aware of the secular world and his time, had deep knowledge of both peasants and princes and the complexities of the world. Tamrazian believes Narekatsi could not have lived solely on literary ecstasy.
Narekatsi was buried inside the walls of the monastery of Narek. A rectangular-shaped chapel-mausoleum was built on his tomb, which survived until the mid-20th century, when the monastery was destroyed by the Turkish authorities, and later replaced with a mosque.