The Apostle Matthias was selected by lottery from the seventy close followers of Christ after Christ’s Resurrection to replace Judas Iscariot, who had hanged himself. The Apostle Matthias is reputed to be buried near Batumi, being the second of the Twelve Apostles to have been martyred in the service of the Church in Georgia (the other is the Apostle Simon the Zealot, martyred in Abkhazia).
The four Gospels mention him only in passing, but there is a wealth of information on his life preserved through Church Tradition. Because he was already middle-aged at the time of his elevation, icons usually show him as an elderly man.
“The Holy Apostle Matthias was born at Bethlehem, and was a descendent of the Tribe of Judah. From his early childhood he studied the Law of God in accord with the Books of Scripture under the guidance of Saint Simeon the God-Receiver.
When the Lord Jesus Christ revealed Himself to the world, Saint Matthias believed in Him as the Messiah, followed constantly after Him and was numbered amongst the Seventy Disciples, whom the Lord “did send by twos before His face” (Lk. 10: 1).
After the Ascension of the Saviour, Saint Matthias was chosen by lot to replace amongst the 12 Apostles the fallen-away Judas Iscariot (Acts 1: 15-26). After the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Matthias preached the Gospel at Jerusalem and in Judea together with the other Apostles (Acts 6: 2, 8: 14). From Jerusalem he went with the Apostles Peter and Andrew to Syrian Antioch, and was in the Cappadocian city of Tianum and Sinope. Here the Apostle Matthias was locked into prison, from which he was miraculously freed by the Apostle Andrew the First-Called.
The Apostle Matthias journeyed after this to Amasia, a city on the shore of the sea. During a three year journey of the Apostle Andrew, Saint Matthias was with him at Edessa and Sebasteia. According to Church tradition, he was preaching at Pontine AEthiopia (presently Western Georgia) and Macedonia.
He was frequently subjected to deadly peril, but the Lord preserved him alive to further preach the Gospel. One time pagans forced the apostle to drink a poison potion. The apostle drank it and not only did he himself remain unharmed, but he also healed other prisoners which had been blinded by the potion. When Saint Matthias left the prison, the pagans searched for him in vain – since he had become invisible to them. Another time, when the pagans had become enraged intending to kill the apostle, the earth opened up and engulfed them.”
From “The Lives of the Saints”
Historians suggest that the Apostle Matthias was crucified at Gonio, near Batumi in Ajara, and buried there. Saint Dorotheus, the Bishop of Tyre in Lebanon during the reigns of Diocletian, Saint Constantine the Great and Julian the Apostate, wrote a detailed account of the lives of the saints, including the Apostle Matthias. He mentions, “Matthias preached the Gospel to barbarians and meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia, where the sea harbor of Hyssus is, at the mouth of the river Phasis. He died at Sebastopolis, and was buried there, near the Temple of the Sun.”
The Roman fortress of Gonio is still standing, and his grave is marked within.