June 21, 2019

Holy Martyr Luarsab II, King of Georgia (+ 1622)

St. Luarsab of Georgia (Feast Day - June 21)

The Holy Martyr Luarsab II, Emperor of Georgia, was born in 1587. He was the son of George X (1600-1603), poisoned by the Persian shah Abbas I (1584-1628). After the death of his father Luarsab remained with his two sisters, Choreshan and Helen. He was still a child, but distinguished himself by his intellect and piety. Despite his youthful age, he was crowned with the name Luarsab II at the age of fourteen. In 1609 Georgia suffered invasion by a Turkish army under the leadership of Deli-Mamad-khan. The young emperor gave decisive battle to the Turks near the village of Kvenadkotsi (between Gori and Surami). On the eve of battle the 14,000 Georgians spent all night in prayer. In the morning after Divine Liturgy and having received the Holy Mysteries, the Georgian forces put 60,000 enemy soldiers to flight in a heroic battle.

The Persian shah Abbas I, alarmed over this victory by the Georgians, and bearing enmity towards Luarsab II, sought for an opportunity to destroy him. Because he saved Kartli (Central Georgia) from destruction Saint Luarsab was forced to give his sister Helen in marriage to the Muslim shah Abbas. But even this did not stop the shah. Several times he entered Georgia with a large army. Because of the treachery of several feudal lords, the emperor Luarsab and the Kakhetian emperor Teimuraz I were compelled at the end of 1615 to withdraw to Imeretia (Western Georgia) to the Imeretian emperor George III (1605-1639).

Shah Abbas I laid waste to Kakhetia and, threatening Kartli with ruin, he demanded that he should have Luarsab II, promising that if he came, he would conclude a peace. The emperor Luarsab II, trying to preserve the churches of Kartli from devastation, set out to shah Abbas with the words, “I place all my hope in Christ, and whatever fate awaits me, life or death, blessed be the Lord God!”

Shah Abbas I received Saint Luarsab II amicably and, it would seem, was prepared to fulfill his promise. After a hunt together Shah Abbas invited him to Mazandaran, but Luarsab II refused to eat fish (since it was Great Lent), despite the threats and demands of the shah. The enraged shah began to insist that the Georgian emperor accept Islam, in return for which he promised to let him go with great treasures to Kartli, threatening death by torture if he did not. The emperor Luarsab II, having from his youth kept strict fast and constantly at prayer, without hesitation refused the demands of the shah. They seized him and imprisoned him in the impenetrable fortress of Gulab-Kala, near Shiraz. The Mrovel Bishop Nicholas relates, that the emperor Luarsab spent seven years imprisoned in chains, undergoing cruel torments and frequent beatings to force him to accept Islam. But the holy confessor remained faithful to the Holy Church of Christ and accepted a martyr’s death in the year 1622 at 35 years of age. He was strangled with a bow string on the orders of the shah at the fortress of Qal‘eh-ye Golāb in southwest Iran. Two of his faithful retainers were martyred with him.

By night the bodies of the holy martyrs were cast out of the prison without burial, but on the next day Christians committed them to earth in a common grave.