Holy Martyr Luarsab II, Emperor of Georgia was born in 1587. He was the
son of George X (1600-1603), poisoned by the Persian shah Abbas I
(1584-1628). After the death of his father Luarsab remained with his two
sisters, Choreshan and Helen. He was still a child, but distinguished
himself by his intellect and piety. Despite his youthful age, he was
crowned with the name Luarsab II. In 1609 Georgia suffered invasion by a
Turkish army under the leadership of Deli-Mamad-khan. The young emperor
gave decisive battle to the Turks near the village of Kvenadkotsi
(between Gori and Surami). On the eve of battle the 14,000 Georgians
spent all night in prayer. In the morning after Divine Liturgy and
having received the Holy Mysteries, the Georgian forces put 60,000 enemy
soldiers to flight in a heroic battle.
The Persian shah Abbas I, alarmed over this victory by the Georgians,
and bearing enmity towards Luarsab II, sought for an opportunity to
destroy him. Because he saved Kartli (Central Georgia) from destruction
St Luarsab was forced to give his sister Helen in marriage to the Moslem
shah Abbas. But even this did not stop the shah. Several times he
entered Georgia with a large army. Because of the treachery of several
feudal lords, the emperor Luarsab and the Kakhetian emperor Teimuraz I
were compelled at the end of 1615 to withdraw to Imeretia (Western
Georgia) to the Imeretian emperor George III (1605-1639).
Shah Abbas I laid waste to Kakhetia and, threatening Kartli with ruin,
he demanded that he should have Luarsab II, promising that if he came,
he would conclude a peace. The emperor Luarsab II, trying to preserve
the churches of Kartli from devastation, set out to shah Abbas with the
words, "I place all my hope in Christ, and whatever fate awaits me, life
or death, blessed be the Lord God!"
Shah Abbas I received St Luarsab II amicably and, it would seem, was
prepared to fulfill his promise. After a hunt together Shah Abbas
invited him to Mazandaran, but Luarsab II refused to eat fish (since it
was Great Lent), despite the threats and demands of the shah. The
enraged shah began to insist that the Georgian emperor accept Islam, in
return for which he promised to let him go with great treasures to
Kartli, threatening death by torture if he did not. The emperor Luarsab
II, having from his youth kept strict fasts and constantly at prayer,
without hesitation refused the demands of the shah. They seized him and
imprisoned him in the impenetrable fortress of Gulab-Kala, near Shiraz.
The Mrovel Bishop Nicholas relates that the emperor Luarsab spent seven
years imprisoned in chains undergoing cruel torments and frequent
beatings to force him to accept Islam. But the holy confessor remained
faithful to the Holy Church of Christ and accepted a martyr's death in
the year 1622 at 35 years of age. Two of his faithful retainers were
martyred with him.
By night the bodies of the holy martyrs were cast out of the prison
without burial, but on the next day Christians committed them to earth
in a common grave.