Armenian saint venerated in the Armenian Apostolic Church, Roman Catholic Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Church and others, She and her companions are venerated as amongst one of the first Christian martyrs of Armenia.
Hripsime was born in Rome in ca. 280 A.D and belonged the community of virgins led under the leadership of Saint Gaiane. As she was known to be very beautiful she attracted the attention of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. To avoid the emperor she and her community fled Rome first going to Alexandria before settling in Armenia, Vagharshapat.
It did not take a long time before Saint Hripsime was noticed by the king Tiridates III of Armenia, Two different historical accounts are given about what followed after. One story says Hripsime was burned alive for rejecting the king and Saint Gaiane was put to death togheter with everyone else in the community by Armenian soldiers. Only Saint Nune who later fled to the Kingdom Of Iberia and later became one of the biggest figures in the Georgian Orthodox Church where she is called Saint Nino.
The other version says that the Roman Emperor Diocletian sent a letter to Tiridates telling him about Saint Hripsimes beauty and that she fled to Armenia. The kings servants tracked her down and found her among her companies where they are described as “nuns”. When she was urged to obey the kings wishes. Hripsime responded she could not marry him as she was betrothed to Jesus Christ, As were the other women. As she said this, a voice from heaven was heard saying “Be brave and fear not, I am with you”
Upon hearing her answer The king of Armenia ordered that Hripsime to be tortured, her tounge was cut out and she was blindfolded before being killed and later her body was desecrated and thrown to wild beasts. Gaiane and two other nuns gave themselves over to similar treatment before being beheaded. The rest of the community was put to the sword and their bodies thrown to the beasts to be eaten.
According to the story, immediately after their actions the soldiers of Tiridates were beset by devils and began to act like wild animals, running through the forests, gnawing at themselves, and tearing their clothes.The legend states that the King was turned into a wild pig for his actions. These different stories are most likely to be fictionalized and romanticized, One thing certain about Hrhipsime’s story is that she and her companions were, in fact, martyred in Armenia in about 290 AD.
Saint Hripsimé Church Սուրբ Հռիփսիմե եկեղեցի is one of the oldest surviving churches in the world and a UNESCO world heritage site built in her honour in 618, and contains her tomb in the catacombs beneath the Church. She remains one of the most influential women of the Armenian Apostolic Church, She sparked a fire that burned away the remaning pagan Armenia and a few years after her death Armenia became the first christian nation on earth.
Ethiopian Orthodox christians call her Arsema. There are three churches in ethiopia named after her
There are also many old paintings portraying how she was killed by Tiridates III (named as Dirtados by Ethiopians) and how the cruel king was changed into a bear after killing her. There is annual pilgrimage by Ethiopian Christians to this church in January. There are also Christian songs that praise her name. The book entitled Gedle Arsema meaning “The Life of Arsema” is found almost in every spiritual bookshop throughout Ethiopia.