Hundred Thousand Martyrs of Tbilisi

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Hundred Thousand Martyrs of Tbilisi
Metekhi and Peace Bridges in Old Tbilisi.jpg
The Metekhi Bridge in Old Tbilisi, traditionally considered to have been the site of killings of Christians in 1226. The Sioni Cathedral is seen on the left.
Died 9 March 1226
Venerated in Georgian Orthodox Church
Feast 13 November

The Hundred Thousand Martyrs (Georgian: ასი ათასი მოწამე, asi atasi mots'ame; originally, ათნი ბევრნი მოწამენი, at'ni bevrni mots'ameni) are saints of the Georgian Orthodox Church, who were put to death, according to the 14th-century anonymous Georgian source Chronicle of a Hundred Years, for not renouncing Christianity by the Khwarezmid sultan Jalal ad-Din upon his capture of the Georgian capital of Tbilisi in 1226. The Georgian church commemorates them on 13 November (O.S. 31 October).[1]


Jalal ad-Din's first encounter with the Kingdom of Georgia occurred in 1225, when his army inflicted a crushing defeat on the Georgians at Garni, bringing about the end of Georgia's medieval heyday. Next year, Jalal ad-Din marched on to Tbilisi, forcing Queen Rusudan of Georgia and her court into flight. The Georgian forces, left in defense of the capital, put up a fierce resistance, but Jalal's forces eventually broke into the city with the assistance of local Muslims on 9 March 1226. The victorious Khwarezmid soldiers sacked Tbilisi and massacred its Christian population. The anonymous 14th-century Georgian chronicle, conventionally known as the Chronicle of a Hundred Years, laments: "Words are powerless to convey the destruction that the enemy brought: tearing infants from their mothers' breasts, they beat their heads against the bridge, watching as their eyes dropped from their skulls...".[1] The Muslim historians ibn al-Athir and Nasawi, the latter being Jalal's secretary and biographer, confirm the killings of Christians who did not accept Islam at the sultan's order.[2][3]

According to the Georgian source, Jalal had the dome of the Sioni Cathedral torn down and replaced it with a throne for himself. At his order the icons of Christ and Virgin Mary were carried out of the cathedral and placed at the bridge over the Mtkvari river in order to force the Christians to step on them. Those who refused to profane the icons and apostatize to Islam were beheaded.[1][4]

The medieval Georgian chronicler puts the number of those killed at ათნი ბევრნი (at'ni bevrni).[4] The first part of this numeral, at'ni, denotes "ten". The second part, bevrni, in modern Georgian means "much, many", but it also has now-obsolete meaning of "ten thousand", ultimately derived from Old Persian *baiwar/n for "ten thousand".[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Machitadze, Archpriest Zakaria (2006), "The Hundred Thousands Martyrs of Tbilisi (†1227)", in The Lives of the Georgian Saints. Retrieved on 2011-11-13.
  2. Minorsky, Vladimir, "Tiflis", in: M. Th. Houtsma, E. van Donzel (1993), E. J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, p. 756. Brill, ISBN 90-04-08265-4.
  3. Boyle, J. A. (1968), The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 5, p. 328. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-06936-X.
  4. 4.0 4.1 (Georgian) Metreveli, Roin (ed., 2008), Kartlis Tskhovreba, p. 541. Artanuji, ISBN 978-9941-10-086-4.
  5. Gvozdanović, Jadranka (1992), Indo-European numerals, p. 315. Walter de Gruyter, ISBN 3-11-011322-8.