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Elisæus of Albania

Elisæus of Albania
Patriarch, Illuminator of Caucasian Albania
Bornc. 1st century AD
Died74 or 79 AD
Gelmets, Rutulsky District, Dagestan
Venerated inChurch of Caucasian Albania
FeastSame day as Ascension Thursday

Saint Elisæus, Ełišay, Yeghishe or Ełišē (Armenian: Եղիշա) was the first patriarch of the Church of Caucasian Albania by local tradition.



First attested in the Classical Armenian work The History of the Caucasian Albanians, he was considered the illuminator of Albania. The legend about Elisæus has two versions. In one version he is presented as one of five disciples of St. Thaddeus (or, of Thaddeus of Edessa, who may have been the same person). According to this version, he returned to Jerusalem after the martyrdom of Thaddeus by Sanatruk, and was appointed as head of the church by James the Just.[1] However, another version which was mentioned in context of a debate with the Armenian Catholicos Abraham I (607–615) recounts Elisæus as "disciple of the Lord" without mentioning Thaddeus and referring to James as "patriarch of Jerusalem". The former version records the apostle's journey from Jerusalem to Maskut lands through Persia, reaching Sahar̄n in Utik along with three disciples. Story follows with martyrdom of one disciple, other two deserting him. Legend is continued with Elisæus reaching Giš, establishing the first mother church of East. Elisæus was later ambushed in Zergoyn plains and his remains was thrown into a pit in Homēnk.[1] Latter version just describes a movement from Jerusalem to Giš and establishing a church there. Albanians believed that Albania was evangelized 270 years before Armenia.[2]

Relics discovery

According to The History of the Caucasian Albanians his relics were rediscovered sometime later by 'pious men'. His relics were first transferred to church of Ur̄ekan, then taken to Jrvshtik monastery which later became Yeghishe Arakyal Monastery during reign of Vachagan III.[3]


Some researchers, including Jean-Pierre Mahe and Zaza Aleksidze considered the latter version to be the original Albanian version of the legend, while earlier one to be gradually Armenized version in order to legitimize the subordination of the Church of Caucasian Albania to the Armenian Apostolic Church.[4] If Elisæus was disciple of Jesus himself and consecrated by James, he would be equal to Thaddeus, thus making the Albanian church of equally apostolic origin.[5] Suggesting that the Elisæus legend was changed under influence of Armenian Church, Mahe and Aleksidze offered that Kish, Khojavend was founded later to transfer the legend from left bank to Armenian populated Artsakh.[4] Several Armenian authors argued that Elisæus was merely an invention by Albanian monks to get rid of Armenian ecclestical dominance. According to Aleksan Hakobyan, the legend was invented by Catholicos of Caucasian Albania, Eghiazar (683–689) in order to establish his own church independent of the Armenian one.[6]


There has been several attempts to identify milestones of Eliseus' trip. Hieromonk Alexy (Nikonorov) suggested to identify Sahar̄n with Zrykh, Zergoyn with Yargun and Homēnk with Gelmets.[7] Zaza Aleksidze identified the latter with Kurmukhi Church, explaining its name as combination of Udi: ḳur, lit.'rock' and Caucasian Albanian -𐕌𐕒𐕡𐕀 (-mux, plural suffix).[4] Makar Barkhudaryants[8] and H. Arakelyan[9] on the other hand, identified Homēnk with formerly Udi populated village of Bum.


Elisæus' cult had a strong following in Udi populated regions. In a letter dated to 20 March 1724 sent to Peter I by the Udi people of Shaki, he was identified as illuminator of "Albanian nation".[10] His disciples Vlas the Martyr (considered to be a localized version of St. Blaise) and Komrad were also revered. According to legend, the Church of Saint Elisæus in Nij was built on the tomb of Vlas in 1823.[11] Other churches named after Elisæus were Church of Kish,[12] Church of Saint Elisæus in Vartashen and St. Eliseus of Khoshkashen (modern Qarabulaq, Oghuz). Respectively, Elisæus' feast was considered to be on same day as Ascension Thursday, Komrad's feast was 3 days later. However, in Bum village, it was a week later.[13]

As opposed to the left bank of the Kura River, the cult of Elisæus was not as widespread in Karabakh. On the right bank, only two Christian holy sites bear his name: Yeghishe Arakyal Monastery and Yeghishe Arakel monastery of Gishi. According to one view, the name for the former is a folk etymology and the monastery in fact is named after a young brave man named Yeghish, who was martyred by a local tyrant while fighting for the honor of his wife.[9]


  • Barkhudaryants, Makar (1893). Agvania and its neighbors (in Armenian). Typography M. Sharadze.


  1. ^ a b "Record | The Cult of Saints". Retrieved 2022-04-28.
  2. ^ Vacca, Alison (2017-09-21). Non-Muslim Provinces under Early Islam: Islamic Rule and Iranian Legitimacy in Armenia and Caucasian Albania. Cambridge University Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-107-18851-8.
  3. ^ "E00130: The History of the Albanians, written in Armenian, recounts the discovery and burial of the relics of *Ełiša (student of Apostle Thaddeus and missionary to Albania, S00594), and the erection of a pillar where the relics were found. Written probably in Caucasian Albania, possibly in the 6th c. or 7th c." figshare. 2014-11-01. Retrieved 2022-04-30.
  4. ^ a b c Aleksidze, Zaza; Gippert, Jost; Schulze, Wolfgang; Mahe, Jean-Pierre (2008–2010). The Caucasian Albanian palimpsests of Mt. Sinai. Turnhout: Brepols. pp. xii–xiii. ISBN 2-503-53116-4. OCLC 319126785.
  5. ^ Rapp, Dr Stephen H. Jr (2014-09-28). The Sasanian World through Georgian Eyes: Caucasia and the Iranian Commonwealth in Late Antique Georgian Literature. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 116. ISBN 978-1-4724-2552-2.
  6. ^ Hakobyan, А.А. (1987). Албания-Алуанк в греко-латинских и древнеармянских источниках [Albania-Aluank in the Greek-Latin and Ancient Greek Sources] (in Russian). Yerevan: Publishing House of the Academy of Sciences of Arm. SSR. pp. 196–199.
  7. ^ Nikonorov, Aleksij (2021). История Церкви Кавказской Албании по Моисею Калантакуйскому [The History of the Caucasian Albanian Church According to Moses Kalankatuatsi] (in Russian). Moscow: Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. pp. 72–84. ISBN 978-5-907384-41-5. OCLC 1303907595.
  8. ^ Barkhudaryants 1893, p. 254-256.
  9. ^ a b Arakelyan, H. "Культ апостола Егише среди удин и к вопросу о провинции Утик" [Yeghishe Apostle's cult among Udis and to the questioո of Utik province]. Вестник общественных наук АН Армянской ССР: 69–86. ISSN 0320-8117.
  10. ^ Schulze, Wolfgang; Sallaberger, Walther (2018), Mumm, Peter-Arnold (ed.), "Caucasian Albanian and the Question of Language and Ethnicity", Sprachen, Völker und Phantome, Sprach- und kulturwissenschaftliche Studien zur Ethnizität (1 ed.), De Gruyter, pp. 275–312, retrieved 2022-04-30
  11. ^ Yeghiazariants, Vardan (1887). "Some Information on the Uti" (PDF). Ardzagank' (in Armenian).
  12. ^ Karapetian, Samvel. "Kish". Research on Armenian Architecture. Retrieved 2009-06-20.
  13. ^ "Nor Dar" (PDF) (in Armenian). 1888. p. 3.
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Elisæus of Albania
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