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July 30, 2019

Saint Tsotne Dadiani the Confessor (+ 1259)

Saint Tsotne Dadiani (Feast Day - July 30)

Saint Tsotne Dadiani, a virtuous military leader and the prince of Egrisi, lived in the middle of the 13th century.

During that time Georgia languished under the yoke of Mongol oppression.

After the death of Queen Rusudan in 1245, the Mongols began to exact exorbitant fees from the Georgian princes, and they established compulsory military service for their Georgian subjects. The situation became unbearable, and the Georgian nobility planned a massive rebellion against the invaders.

Having assembled at the peak of Mount Kokhta (in the Meskheti region of southern Georgia) in around 1246, rulers from all over Georgia agreed to assemble the troops in Kartli and attack on a single front. Tsotne Dadiani and the ruler of Racha were the first to muster their armies. But there were traitors among them, and the Mongols learned of the conspiracy. They surrounded Mount Kokhta, arrested the rebels — save for Tsotne Dadiani and the ruler of Racha — and led them away to the Mongol ruler at Anis-Shirakavan.

St. Tsotne Dadiani as a child with his parents.

The prisoners denied every accusation and asserted that the purpose of the gathering on Mount Kokhta was to collect the tribute that the Mongol authorities had demanded. Infuriated at their insurgency, the Mongols stripped them bare, bound their hands and feet, smeared them with honey to attract insects, threw them under the scorching sun, and interrogated them daily about the gathering on Mount Kokhta.

In the meantime, Tsotne Dadiani arrived with his army to the appointed rendezvous at Rkinis-Juari between Samtskhe and Ghado. Upon hearing what had happened, he dismissed his army and, in the company of two servants, headed to Anis-Shirakavan. Tsotne Dadiani was deeply distressed and took upon himself the blame for this tragic turn of events, so he set out to lay down his life and suffer together with his brothers. Arriving in Anis-Shirakavan and seeing his kinsmen doomed to death, the prince promptly undressed, tied himself up, and lay down next to them under the scorching sun.

The disbelieving Mongols informed their ruler about the strange man who had willingly lain down beside those who were condemned.

St. Tsotne Dadiani willingly suffers with the prisoners.

The ruler summoned him and demanded an explanation. “We gathered with a single goal — to collect the tribute and fulfill your command. If it was for this that my countrymen were punished, I also desire to share in their lot!” answered the courageous prince.

Tsotne’s chivalrous deed made a dramatic impression on the Mongols, and every one of the prisoners was set free.

After David's return to Georgia in 1250 and his accession to rule in Imereti, the western moiety of the Georgian kingdom, Dadiani stood by his side. He was responsible for bringing a relative order and stability to his fiefdom of Odishi.

Tsotne Dadiani is not mentioned in accounts of the next conspiracy against the Mongols, in the year 1259. Historians believe that he had already reposed by that time.

The virtues of Saint Tsotne Dadiani are known to all throughout Georgia. His heroism and integrity are an example of faith, love and devotion to every generation, and the faithful of every era have honored his holy name.

Tsotne Dadiani was numbered among the saints on October 26, 1999, according to a decree of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The principal source on his biography is the early 14th-century anonymous Chronicle of a Hundred Years, which is included in the corpus of Georgian Chronicles and relates the history of Georgia from c. 1213 to c. 1320.

Below is a short Georgian film from 1971 depicting a portion of the life of Saint Tsotne Dadiani: