Saint John Chrysostom was Patriarch of Constantinople in the th century and one of Orthodox Christianity’s greatest theologians, liturgists and orators. For this reason, he received the moniker “Golden-Mouth” (Chrysostomos in Greek). He died in the Gagra district of Georgia.
Of Greco-Syrian background, Saint John Chrysostom was born in Antioch and ordained as a deacon there in . In he became a priest and was famed for over a decade as an eloquent orator. His homilies are still widely recited at Orthodox churches during the sermon. His particular passions were compassion for the poor, for Christians to lead simple lives, and straightforward interpretation of Holy Scriptures that common people could comprehend.
Against his wishes, he was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople in , where he continued to preach against extravagance, which created hostility amongst the gentry and the Imperial family. The Eastern Roman empress, Eudoxia, in particular developed a grudge against him. Concurrently, the Patriarch of Alexandria, Theophilus, at the time wanted to depose John and control Constantinople himself.
As a result, a rigged Synod was called; Saint John Chrysostom was deposed for heresy and banished to Armenia. He continued to write letters to his flock in Constantinople, for which he was further banished to Georgia. He died near Bichvinta (Pitsunda in the Abkhaz language) in the Gagra district of Georgia’s Abkhazeti region in . A cathedral in his memory was commissioned by King Bagrat III of Georgia in the th century in Bichvinta, which still stands.
Saint John Chrystostom was declared a saint not long after his death and his remains were eventually repatriated to Constantinople. They were looted as trophies by Roman Catholic Crusaders in and taken to Rome where they were installed in the Vatican. As a gesture of goodwill, the Pope of Rome returned these relics to Constantinople in 2004.
Saint John Chrysostom has great significance in Georgia. His Divine Liturgy was translated into Georgian soon after his death and is now the standard service performed on Sunday mornings throughout the country. His Paschal Homily is recited at every Orthodox church in Georgia at Easter. The place of his repose in Abkhazeti was a place of pilgrimage for Georgian Orthodox Christians for centuries, a tradition sadly impeded by Russian occupation now. His coffin, no longer in use, is still on display.