On the Feast of the Annunciation in 1625, the Georgians annihilated the army of Persian Shah Abbas in the Battle of Martqopi. The victory unified Georgia’s eastern provinces of Kartli and Kakheti. It also instilled hope in other enslaved peoples of the Transcaucasus, and rebellions began to break out everywhere.
Soon the enraged Shah marched his largest army toward Georgia under the leadership of Isa-Khan Qurchibash. A Georgian army of some twenty thousand men encamped near Kojori-Tabakhmela to prepare for the attack, while the enemy’s army, which numbered in excess of fifty thousand men, encamped at Marabda. According to tradition, the Georgian soldiers received Holy Communion at dawn before the battle.
Bishop Domenti (Avalishvili) of Ruisi prepared to serve the Holy Gifts to the soldiers but they cried out with a single voice: “If you will join us and take up your sword and fight, then do so. We can receive Holy Communion from another!”
Inspired by these words, the bishop joined in, proclaiming, “Today we will fight a battle for faith and for Christ; therefore my blood must be spilled before yours!” With his vestments as armor, the bishop blessed the soldiers and took his place in the front line.
The banner of the Georgian army was entrusted to the nine Kherkheulidze brothers.
The Persians panicked upon coming face-to-face with the courage and fortitude of the Georgian soldiers, but the experienced commander Isa-Khan Qurchibash would not yield. Help arrived from Beglerbeg Shaybani-Khan, and with the extra forces the Persians soon gained the advantage over the Georgian army. The Georgian colonel, Teimuraz Mukhranbatoni, was fatally wounded, and rumors of his death threw the soldiers into a panic, since they mistakenly believed that the dead man was King Teimuraz I of Kakheti, their commander.
Believing that their leader had fallen, the Georgian soldiers became anxious. Before long, they recognized their mistake, but it was too late, as the fate of the battle had already been decided.
The military leaders and the bishops of Rustavi and Kharchasho all were killed in the battle at Marabda. The nine banner-bearing Kherkheulidze brothers were also killed. When the banner that had led their army through the battles at Didgori and Basiani fell from the hands of the youngest brother, their sister grabbed hold of it immediately, and when she also fell, the banner and symbol of Georgian invincibility was raised up again by their mother.
King Teimuraz fought until sunset, when every sword he had held in his hands had been broken. Even the rings on his fingers were broken in the combat. The uniform of the brilliant military leader Giorgi Saakadze was stained with blood from top to bottom.
Utterly exhausted and debilitated by the heat, the Georgians fought heroically to the last moment. The battle that had begun at dawn finally ended late that night with the defeat of the Georgian army. Nine thousand Georgians gave their lives for Christ and their motherland on the battlefield at Marabda.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org )