Razhden the Protomartyr
The holy protomartyr Razhden of Georgia was a Persian of noble birth who came to Georgia in the fifth century with the daughter of Persian king when she was married to the Georgian king, Vakhtang Gorgasali. After Razhden’s conversion to Christianity King Vakhtang appointed him a military commander. During an invasion of Georgia by the Persian heathen king Peroz, Razhden was captured. When he refused to reject his Christian faith he was tortured and martyred. He is remembered on August 3.
Razhden was from a noble Persian family. Nothing is known of his birth or youth. He apparently was associated with the court of the Persian king, Hormuzd III Balunducht, as when Hormuzd’s daughter married the Georgian king Vakhtang Gorgasali, Razhden accompanied the new queen to Kartli in Georgia.
Soon Razhden accepted the Christian faith. With his conversion King Vakhtang gave him an estate and appointed Razhden as his military advisor and a commander. By the 450s Georgia was pressured heavily by Persia. In 457, the new Persian king Peroz, being a foe of Christianity, openly attacked Georgia. Razhden’s leadership and accomplishments in battle earned him fame as a brave and virtuous warrior. Razhden’s accomplishments came to the attention of Peroz who ordered that a “certain Persian aristocrat who had become a Christian” must be taken prisoner. After being surrounded in battle by Persian warriors, Razhden was taken prisoner and delivered to Peroz.
After Peroz failed to lure Razhden into deserting Christianity by “friendly” cunning, Razhden was turned over to expert executioners who tortured him. The Georgian nobility, upon learning of Razhden’s suffering under torture, came to Peroz and asked for Razhden’s freedom and his return to Georgia. Peroz agreed, although Razhden agreed reluctantly and said he would return to Persia. Upon arriving in Mtskheta, Razhden bid his family and king Vakhtang farewell and returned to Peroz.
Again Razhden refused Peroz’s efforts to turn him from Christianity. In a final effort to make Razhden return to the Persian religion, Peroz sent Razhden to a remote military camp in central Georgia, whose commander was directed to convert Razhden or else to execute him if he refused. Razhden continued to stand firmly for Christ. In the end, Razhden was placed on a cross and crucified. He died in 457, with his last words being: "Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commit my spirit.”
A group of Christians on the night after his crucifixion took his body down from the cross, and with the cross, secretly buried him, Several years later king Vakhtang moved his relics to Nikozi, in central Georgia, and interred them in a newly built cathedral. Vakhtang later built churches in Ujarma and Samgori, in eastern Georgia, in honor of Georgia’s first martyr.