Written by Monica Mikhail ~During the reign of Diocletian, Saints Rhipsimia and 70 other nuns lived in a convent in Rome that was headed by Mother Gaïane.
There came a time that Emperor Diocletian was looking to take a wife. Once Rhipsimia’s beauty and allure was made known to him, he sent some of his men to the convent to speak on his behalf concerning marriage to her. She knew she could not deny the emperor’s request so she and the virgins fled to Armenia.
When they came to Armenia, they hid in a vineyard. Diocletian refused to forget about Rhipsimia so, when he figured out where she fled, he informed King Tiridates about the situation and told him to send Rhipsimia to Rome, but if he was enamored by her beauty, he told the King he could keep her for himself.
After the King heard about Rhipsimia’s beauty, he became infatuated with her. He sent expensive apparel to her so that she could wear them before him but she did not want to accept any of his gifts, let alone hear from him.
After the King heard of her response, in anger, he sent his men to the virgins. When the men approached the virgins, thunder stuck and the nuns heard a divine voice that gave them strength. The men fell from their horses and ended up being trampled upon in all the chaos.
When the King heard of this disaster, he did not understand the magnitude of it because he was so enveloped with desire for St. Rhipsimia; he would not let her go. He commanded she be brought to him and forced into his bedchamber but she refused to give up her virginity.
He then commanded that Abbess Gaïane be brought so that she may convince St. Rhipsimia to lay with him but she instead told her to remain strong and to be brave. This infuriated the king so, to punish her, Abbess Gaïane’s teeth were broken with rocks. The King was maddened to the point that he started rolling on the floor because he was kept from what he desired. St. Rhipsimia left the palace as he was on the floor and escaped and hid with the other nuns.
When St. Rhipsimia was found, her tongue was cut off and she was placed against a stake and burned with torches. They tore open her stomach, entrails pouring out. Since the virgin was convulsing, they plucked out her eyes and then cut her body into small pieces. The saint then went to meet her heavenly Bridegroom.
As to the other virgins, 30 of the nuns were beheaded for gathering the relics of St. Rhipsimia. Mother Gaïane and two other virgins had their joints shattered and their tongues plucked out and their inner stomachs exposed and finally beheaded. This happened in 312 A.D.
Three churches were built where the nuns were martyred by St. Gregory as well as many others throughout Armenia. However, the most prominent is the Monastery of Echmiazdin that was built on their relics and is the spiritual center in Armenia.
May the Lord grant us the bravery these holy virgins had to suffer any tribulation and hardship for the sake of Christ.
The Lives of the Spiritual Mothers. Holy Apostles Convent, 1991
When hearing of the severe torture Christians had to go through in times of persecution, we cringe with horror. The courage that these saints had is unimaginable. It provokes the thought of whether or not we would be able to stand before the rulers of the world and claim our allegiance to the King of Kings. It is a scary thought, but a very real one. May the Lord grant us ultimate faith in Him that when we are called daily to adhere to the ways of the world, we may stand with boldness and confidence in defiance no matter the earthly consequences for our hearts have set out to finish the race and attain, with all unworthiness, the heavenly reward.