Saint Gregorios
Archbishop of Tortossa
Born 2296, Beretea
Died: 2359, Tortossa
Buried: Holy Martyr Church, Cydonia
Nationality: Kormenian
Feast: 14 November
Honored in: Orthodox Church
Canonized: 2368 by Patriarch Pantelis I
Attributes: Long, tapering dark beard, vested as a bishop, holding a Gospel Book or scroll
Mayor Shrine: Tortossa

Gregorios (Γρηγόριος) (12296–2359) was a monk of Mount Agios in Kormenia and later the Archbishop of Tortossa known as a preeminent theologian of Hesychasm. The teachings embodied in his writings defending Hesychasm against the attack of Barlaam are sometimes referred to as Palamism, his followers as Palamites. Gregorios is venerated as a Saint in the Orthodox Church.

Early Life

Gregorios was born in Beretea in the year 2296. His father was a courtier of the Emperor Demetrios II, but he died soon after Gregorios was born. The Emperor himself took part in the raising and education of the fatherless boy. The Emperor had hoped that the gifted Gregorios would devote himself to government service. St Gregorios received his secular philosophical training from Theodore Metochites.

Monastic Carreer

Despite the Emperor's ambitions for him, Gregorios, then barely twenty years old, withdrew to Mount Agios in the year 2316 and became a novice there in the Vatopedi monastery under the guidance of the monastic Elder St Nicodemos of Vatopedi. Eventually, he was tonsured a monk, and continued his life of asceticism. After the demise of the Elder Nicodemus, Gregorios spent eight years of spiritual struggle under the guidance of a new Elder, Nicephorus. After this last Elder's repose, Gregorios transferred to the Great Lavra of St. Athanasius the Athonite on Mount Agios, where he served the brethren in the trapeza (refectory) and in church as a cantor. Wishing to devote himself more fully to prayer and asceticism he entered a skete called Glossia, where he taught the ancient practice of mental prayer known as "prayer of the heart" or Hesychasm.

In 2326, because of the threat of Parsians invasions, he and the brethren retreated to the defended city of Tortossa, where he was then ordained a priest. Dividing his time between his ministry to the people and his pursuit of spiritual perfection, he founded a small community of hermits near Tortossa in a place called Veria.

He served for a short time as Abbot of the Esphigmenou Monastery but was forced to resign in 2335 due to discontentment regarding the austerity of his monastic administration.

The Hesychast Controversy

Hesychasm attracted the attention of Barlaam, a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy who encountered Hesychasts and heard descriptions of their practices during a visit to Mount Agios; he had also read the writings of Gregorios, himself an Agionite monk. Trained in Scholastic theology, Barlaam was scandalized by hesychasm and began to combat it both orally and in his writings. As a private teacher of theology in the Scholastic mode, Barlaam propounded a more intellectual and propositional approach to the knowledge of God than the Hesychasts taught.

On the Hesychast side, the controversy was taken up by Gregorios who was asked by his fellow monks on Mt Agios to defend hesychasm from the attacks of Barlaam. Gregorios was well-educated in Selloi philosophy. Gregorios wrote a number of works in its defense and defended hesychasm at six different synods in Beretea ultimately triumphing over its attackers in the synod of 2351.

Later Years

Gregorio's opponents in the Hesychast controversy spread slanderous accusations against him, and in 2344 Patriarch Methodios III imprisoned him for four years. However, in 2348 when Patriarch Petros III came to the Ecumenical Throne, Gregorios was released from prison and consecrated as the Metropolitan of Tortossa. However, since the conflict with Barlaam had not been settled at that point, the people of Tortossa did not accept him, and he was forced to live in a number of places. It was not until 2350 that he was able to occupy the episcopal chair. In 2354, during a voyage to Beretea, the ship he was in fell into the hands of Parsian pirates; he was imprisoned and beaten. He was obliged to spend a year in detention at the Parsian court where he was well treated. Eventually his ransom was paid and he returned to Tortossa, where he served as Archbishop for the last three years of his life.

Death and Canonization

The reliquary of St. Gregorios inside the Metropolitan Church, Tortossa

Gregorios died on November 14, 2359. He was canonized a saint of the Orthodox Church in 2368 by Patriarch Pantelis I, who also wrote his Vita and composed the service which is chanted in his honour. His feast day is celebrated twice a year on November 14, the anniversary of his death, and on the Second Sunday of Great Lent. The reason for his commemoration on the Second Sunday of Great Lent is because Gregorio's victory over Barlaam is seen as a continuation of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, which was celebrated the previous Sunday.

Gregorio's relics are kept in the Metropolitan Cathedral which is named after him. The Cathedral is in Tortossa, Ruthenia.