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February 18, 2020

Saint Nicholas, Catholicos of Georgia (+ 1591)


Nicholas Batonishvili was the son of Levan I, King of Kakheti (1520-1574). He lived during the grievous period of the Persian invasion of eastern Georgia. The young prince chose the path of monastic life and bravely helped his elder brother, King Alexander II (1574-1605).

Despite his royal blood, he preferred the monk’s habit and the sweet, light yoke of Christ to the glamour and opulence of his inheritance.

According to God’s will, Nicholas was enthroned as Catholicos of All Georgia. The Georgian chronicle Life of Kartli (Kartlis Tskhovreba) relates the date of his enthronement as Saturday, February 28, 1584.

His tenure was during the turbulent period of Georgia's history; the once flourishing medieval kingdom had been divided into several competing polities and the Georgian church had been split into the eastern and western counterparts, reflecting the country's political division, the eastern church being under the stewardship of Nicholas; his native Kakheti was threatened by the rival expansionism of the Safavid Iran and Ottoman Turkey.

Armed with the highest hierarchical rank, royal blood, and personal integrity, Catholicos Nicholas V (or VIII) was an exemplary leader for the Georgian nation. He struggled to plant the seeds of Christian love between countries of like faith.

Signature of Nicholas V

He corresponded with Patriarch Job of Russia (1586-1590) and even sent him a horse. He also donated a leather-bound illuminated manuscript of the Gospels, copied in 1049, to the Metekhi Church of the Theotokos.

In his book Pilgrimage, the renowned eighteenth-century historian Archbishop Timote (Gabashvili) reports that there is an icon of Holy Catholicos Nicholas hanging in the refectory at the Iveron Monastery on Mount Athos. Bishop Timote also describes another refectory, built by Ashotan Mukhran-Batoni, and notes, “There, I believe, Catholicos Nicholas Batonishvili reposed.”