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Mar 7, 2013

An Armenian Saint in St. Peter's


Leaving the Sistine Chapel on the way to St. Peter's Basilica our attention is called by a huge marble statue located in one of the external niches of the church (side wall of St. Peter's onto the right). At the base we read: S. Gregorius Armeniae Illuminator. 
It is brand new compared to the others.  The statue was added in 2005 and blessed by John Paul II on January 19th just before one of his traditional Audiences (a few months before his death). It's more than 15 Ft tall, 18 tons of pure Carrara marble, it was sculpted in 2 years and it costed 250.000 euros. Its author: the Armenian-Lebanese sculptor Kazan Khatchick won an international contest for the project.
It is the first statue portraying an Eastern rite saint placed here.
This great Saint, more than 17 centuries ago, converted the Armenians to Christianity:  Armenia thus being the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301.
A conversion that has profoundly marked Armenian identity. The term "Illuminator", with which this Saint is called underlines the passage from darkness to the light of Christ but it also refers to the the light that comes from the spreading of culture through teaching, alluding to the mission of those monk-teachers who followed the example of St Gregory.
Interesting to know that Gregory before his monastic life married Miriam, a devout Christian,  the daughter of a Christian Armenian Prince in Cappadocia and had 2 sons.

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