On the hallowed day of October 26th, we commemorate the life of Saint Anton of Chqondidi, born into the noble family of Otia Dadiani, the prince of Egrisi (now Samegrelo). His mother, Gulkan, was the daughter of Prince Shoshita III of Racha. Within this blessed family, there were six children, five boys, and one girl. Anton’s sister, Mariam, later entered into matrimony with King Solomon the Great of Imereti.
Their primary education was imparted by their mother, a devout Christian who instilled the Faith within her children. Her unwavering faith and virtuous endeavors served as a beacon for all who surrounded her. Following his father’s passing, young Anton was entrusted to the care of his older brother, Katsia. His family had aspirations for Anton to pursue a diplomatic career, dedicating significant attention to his education in philosophy, literature, poetry, art, and foreign languages, including Turkish and Persian.
During the early 17th century, the rulers of Egrisi reserved the Chqondidi diocese exclusively for their kin. Anton’s older brother, Nikoloz, was being groomed for the episcopate, but his attachment to worldly pursuits deterred him from embracing the ascetic life. Conversely, young Anton ardently sought monastic life and was subsequently tonsured.
Upon realizing the limitations of his spiritual education, Monk Anton sought assistance from the monks of Martvili Monastery in Egrisi to deepen his knowledge. To further his studies, a group of French missionaries arrived, intending to instruct him in the Scholastic philosophy that was prevalent in Europe at the time. However, Anton discerned that these foreign tutors had introduced heretical teachings into Orthodox doctrine. At a meal with the missionaries, he posed a simple yet profound question: “Can you pour wine into this cup filled with water and prevent them from mixing?” When the Catholic priest admitted it was impossible, Anton declared, “Just as it is impossible to mix water and wine in one vessel, so it is impossible to reconcile Orthodox doctrine with heresy!” From that day, Anton parted ways with the French missionaries.
His thirst for knowledge remained unquenchable, prompting St. Anton to travel to Tbilisi, the court of King Erekle II. Queen Darejan, the king’s wife, happened to be Anton’s cousin, being a child of his uncle, Katsia Dadiani.
In 1761, St. Anton was consecrated as the bishop of Tsageri in lower Svaneti. His eloquent sermons quickly gained fame, even inspiring the Catholicos of Georgia himself.
As St. Anton’s asceticism deepened, his countenance began to mirror that of an angel. He initiated a daily meal for the poor at the Chqondidi residence, in accordance with his directive, a practice continued by every subsequent bishop of Chqondidi.
During the 18th century, western Georgian feudal lords, particularly in Egrisi, engaged in the reprehensible trade of slaves for profit. Bishop Anton fearlessly opposed this immoral practice and convened a series of Church councils from 1792 to 1794 to publicly denounce slave traders.
In 1788, Anton, now a metropolitan, left Chqondidi for Nakharebou Monastery, which he had constructed. He enriched the monastery with sacred relics, ancient icons, and extensive lands, where he spent the remainder of his earthly days.
St. Anton of Chqondidi peacefully departed this world in 1815 at an advanced age and found his resting place at Nakharebou Monastery.
St. Anton’s spiritual son, devoted friend, and helper, Hieromonk Iakob, also walked as a saint in this world before ascending to the Heavenly Kingdom.
Radiating like the sun in their holiness, O Holy Hierarch Anton and Iakob the Elder, intercede before the Sun of Righteousness, beseeching Him to illuminate our souls!