Abo of Tiflis
|Saint Abo of Tiflis|
Saint Abo of Tiflis
|Patron Saint of Tbilisi|
|Born||Unknown (8th century)
|Died||About January 6, 786
|Honored in||Eastern Orthodoxy,
Roman Catholic Church
Iraqi by origin, Abo grew up Muslim in Baghdad. At the age of seventeen or eighteen, he found himself in Tbilisi, having followed Georgian Prince Nerses, the ruler of Kartli. Nerses, having been slandered before the Caliph, spent three years in confinement; freed by a new Caliph, he took Abo with him.
Abo's profession in Baghdad was that of a perfumer, in which he excelled as maker of fine perfumes and ointments, the art evidently implying knowledge of chemistry. He was well educated having gained good mastery of "all the Muslim lore",[clarification needed] which must have included both religious and philosophic texts. On his arrival to the Eastern Georgia (Kartli) he became convinced of Christianity, which didn't happen immediately, but only after a committed soul-searching that involved heated quarrels even with Christian priests and bishops over the finer religious matters; those quarrels only consolidated him in his conviction that the truth was in Christianity. However, initially Abo was afraid to convert openly as eastern Georgia was under Arab rule; he only abandoned the Muslim habit of five-times prayers per-day and started praying in a Christian manner. For political reasons, his prince had to seek shelter in Khazaria north of the Caspian Sea, an area free of Muslim control; Abo accompanied him, and was baptized there. From Khazaria Nerses moved to Abkhazia, that was also free from the Arab dominion, taking Abo with him. There in Abkhazia Abo zealously followed the Christian life of prayers and ascetic struggles, preparing himself for future mission. Prince Nerses and his party returned to Tbilisi in 782, and Abo, notwithstanding the warning that it was not safe for him to go to Tbilisi, followed him. For about three years Abo openly confessed his Christian faith in Tbilisi streets - both fortifying by his example the staggering Christians who suffered under the Arab rule and trying to convert to Christianity his Arab compatriots. A series of threats and warnings failed to dampen his zeal. In 786 he was denounced as a Christian to the Arab officials in Tbilisi, arrested and tried for being a renegade from Islam. He confessed his faith at trial, was imprisoned, and martyred on January 6, 786. On his way to the execution he thanked God for having transformed his earthly profession of a perfumer to a heavenly calling of following the "sweet fragrance of Christ's commandments".
Ioane Sabanisdze, Georgian religious writer and St. Abo's contemporary, compiled the martyr's life in his hagiographic novel "The Martyrdom of Saint Abo".
- Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-14-051312-4.
- Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co. 1924.