Feast Day of December 15
Saint Nino (Georgian: ?, Greek: ? ?),(sometimes Nina or Ninny) Equal to the Apostles and the Enlightener of Georgia, (c. 296 - c. 338 or 340) was a woman who preached and introduced Christianity in Georgia.
According to most widely traditional accounts, she was from Kolastra, Cappadocia (Greek: ?), was a relative of Saint George, and came to Georgia (ancient Iberia) from Constantinople. Other sources claim she was from Rome, Jerusalem or Gaul (modern France). She performed miraculous healings and converted the Georgian queen, Nana, and eventually the pagan king Mirian III of Iberia, who, lost in darkness and blinded on a hunting trip, found his way only after he prayed to "Nino's God". Mirian declared Christianity an official religion (c. 327) and Nino continued her missionary activities among Georgians until her death.
Many sources agree that Nino was born in the small town of Colastri, in the Roman province of Cappadocia. On her family and origin, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church have different traditions.
According to the Eastern Orthodox Church tradition, she was the only child of the famous Roman general Zabulon. On her father's side, Nino was related to St. George, and on her mother's, to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Houbnal I.
During her childhood Nino was brought up by her relative and the nun named Sarah Bethlehemlianka. Nino's uncle who served as the Patriarch of Jerusalem oversaw her traditional upbringing. Nino went to Rome with the help of her uncle where she decided to preach the Christian gospel in Iberia, known to her as the resting place of the Christ's tunic. According to the legend, Nino received a vision where the Virgin Mary gave her a grapevine cross and ordered her to go to Iberia. While on her way to Iberia, passing through Anatolia into Caucasus, Nino managed to convert some villages to Christianity in Northern Anatolia and Armenia.
Contrasting with this, the Roman Catholic tradition says Nino was brought to Iberia not fully from her own intent, but as a slave, and that her family tree is obscure.
Nino reached the borders of ancient Georgian Kingdom of Iberia in about 320 A.D. There, she placed a Christian cross in the small town of Akhalkalaki and started preaching the Christian faith in Urbnis and finally reaching Mtskheta (the capital of Iberia). Iberian Kingdom has been influenced by the neighbouring Persian Empire which played an important role as the regional power in the Caucasus. The Iberian King Mirian III and his nation worshiped the syncretic gods of Armazi and Zaden.
Queen Nana, who suffered from severe illness, had some knowledge of Christianity but not yet converted to it. Nino having restored her health, won to herself disciples from the Queen's attendants, including a Jewish priest and his daughter, Abiathar and Sidonia. Queen officially converted to Christianity and was baptized by Nino herself. According to the legend, while on the hunting trip, the King was suddenly struck blind as the total darkness emerged in the woods. In a desperate state, King Mirian uttered the prayer to the God of St Nino: If indeed that Christ whom the Captive had preached to his Wife was God, then let Him now deliver him from this darkness, that he too might forsake all other gods to worship Him. As soon as he finished his prayer, the light appeared and the King hastily returned to his palace in Mtskheta. As the results of this miracle, the King of Iberia renounced idolatry under the teaching of St Nino and was baptized as the first Christian King of Iberia. Soon whole of his household and the inhabitants of Mtskheta adopted Christianity. In 327 A.D King Mirian made Christianity as the state religion of his kingdom, making Iberia the second Christian state after Armenia.
Nino, having witnessed the conversion of Iberia to Christianity, withdrew to the mountain pass in Bodbe, Kakheti and died soon after.