Saturday, May 16, 2009

Holy Royal Martyr Archil (744 AD)

When the Muslim military leader Marwan bin Muhammad (called “the Deaf”) besieged Georgia early in the 8th century, a certain Mir, the older brother of Archil, was ruling Kartli. The armies of the ruthless invader pillaged everything in their path. Seeing this, the crown-bearing brothers Mir and Archil fled to western Georgia and, praying fervently to God and the Most Holy Theotokos for help, prepared for battle.

The Lord heard the prayers of the faithful brothers: One night the Most Holy Virgin appeared to St. Archil and told him, “Arise and take up your arms against the unbelievers, for the holy angels will be your companions and the Lord God will stand at your side!”

Trusting in the Lord and the grace of the Most Holy Theotokos, Mir and Archil attacked the army's camp with their own small force and succeeded. Then God sent a severe rainstorm, and the river overflowed and drowned the unbelievers as they were crossing it. The few who remained alive made their way to the sea, hoping to reach Constantinople, but the right hand of the Most High drowned them in the waters of the sea.

King Mir, wounded in the battle and declining in health, designated his brother Archil heir to the Georgian kingdom. Archil remained in Kutaisi for twelve years, struggling tirelessly to reunify his country. Having freed Kartli, King Archil began to reunite the regions of Kakheti, Tianeti, Egrisi, Abkhazeti and Samtskhe-Javakheti. During his rule, the Arab-Muslim occupation spread no farther than Tbilisi and Mtskheta.

While the country that Marwan had destroyed was still recovering, a new generation of Muslim invaders, under the leadership of Chichum Asim,[1] ravaged Kartli and began marching toward Kakheti. Still bleeding from its earlier wounds, Georgia had no strength to resist.

The holy king Archil resolved to lay down his life for people, and he journeyed to the Muslim leader to plead for a truce. Chichum Asim received King Archil respectfully, but he soon attempted to deceive him with flattering speeches, and he demanded that the king convert to Islam. Seeing clearly through Chichum's ruse, St. Archil told him, “If I heed your words, I will suffer eternal condemnation. Our God and Savior sacrificed Himself for our redemption, thus I have no reason to fear death. If you choose to kill me, I will rise up like our Lord and glorify Him again!”

The enraged Chichum ordered his servants to cast King Archil in prison and torture him for his uncompromising faith. Soon after, a Muslim man from Armenia arrived. He desired revenge for supposed wrongs done to his family by one of Archil's ancestors. Therefore he sought to betray the righteous king by informing Chichum that Archil was descended from the royal line that included Kings Mirian and Vakhtang Gorgasali. In addition he told Chichum that Archil knew where the Kartlian king Mir and the Byzantine emperor Heraclius had hidden their wealth.

Chichum summoned the king and said to him: “Previously I admired you both for your kindness and your beauty. For I beheld you to be the most comely among men. And now I have been told that you are a descendant of the great Chosroid's dynasty. Therefore, if you will obey me, you will be held in even greater esteem before me than anyone else. Your kingdom will belong to you, and the treasure of your ancestors will be returned once again to you. Just tell me where the treasures of the Greek emperor Heraclius were buried, and then convert to our faith. Then you will be like us, a faithful follower of the great prophet Muhammad.”

St. Archil replied to this deceptive speech: “I know nothing of where the Greek treasure was hidden as I was very young when Heraclius marched through our country. As for my father and brother, they hid their treasure in the fortress that Marwan marched against. Since recent times that treasure has been kept in the land of the Greeks. And in reply to your second request — to convert to your faith—I tell you that I will never deny my Lord, nor will I exchange the future eternal life for this quickly passing one.”

“Were you there when the Arabs were defeated in Abkhazia?” the furious Asim demanded.

With great courage and composure St. Archil answered, “The Life-giving God and Creator of heaven and earth came down from heaven to save mankind and by His death to slay our slayers, granting us immortality. He, the Almighty and Victorious, toppled and crushed them long before my own time.”

The outraged Chichum Asim bellowed, “If you have no desire for life and prosperity and would prefer to hope in one who is dead, then it is fitting for you to die!”

Chichum's servants then escorted the king to his execution. King Archil requested a few minutes to pray. He knelt, lifting up his hands and thanking the Creator, and prayed to our Savior for the protection of Church and the strengthening of the Christian Faith in Georgia. Then he prayed for his family and peacefully bowed his head before the executioners.

At night the king's devoted servants came in secret and stole the body of the holy martyr. With great honor they buried his holy relics at Notkora Church, which he had himself built. This happened in the year 744.

On the road to Notkora St.Archil's monastery.

View from St.Archils Monastery.

Monastery wall.

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