File:St. Queen Ketevan.jpg

Ketevan, "the Martyr" (Georgian: ქეთევან წამებული, ketevan ts'amebuli) (1565 – September 13, 1624) was a queen of Kakheti, a kingdom in eastern Georgia. She was killed at Shiraz, Iran, after prolonged tortures for refusing to give up the Christian faith and embrace Islam.

Ketevan was born to Prince Ashotan of Mukhrani (Bagrationi) and married Prince David of Kakheti, the future David I, king of Kakheti from 1601 to 1602. After David’s death, Ketevan engaged in religious building and charity. However, when David’s brother Constantine I killed his reigning father, Alexander II, and usurped the crown with the Safavid Iranian support in 1605, Ketevan rallied the Kakhetian nobles against the patricide and routed Constantine’s loyal force. After the uprising, she negotiated with Shah Abbas I of Iran to confirm her underage son, Teimuraz I, as king of Kakheti, while she assumed the function of a regent.

In 1614, sent by Teimuraz as a negotiator to Abbas I, Ketevan effectively surrendered herself as an honorary hostage in a failed attempt to prevent Kakheti from being attacked by the Iranian armies. She was held in Shiraz for several years until Abbas I, in an act of revenge for the recalcitrance of Teimuraz, ordered the queen to renounce Christianity, and upon her refusal, had her tortured to death with red-hot pincers in 1624. Portions of her relics were clandestinely taken by the St. Augustine Portuguese Catholic missioners, eyewitnesses of her martyrdom, to Georgia where they were interred at the Alaverdi Cathedral.[1] The rest of her remains are reported to have been buried at the St. Augustine Church in Goa, India. Several expeditions from Georgia have arrived in Goa, and searched in vain for the exact location of her grave.[2][3]

Queen Ketevan was canonized by Zachary, Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia (1613-1630) and September 26 was instituted by the Georgian Orthodox Church as the day of her commemoration.

The account of Ketevan's martyrdom related by the Augustinians missioners were exploited by her son, Teimuraz, in his poem The Book and Passion of Queen Ketevan (წიგნი და წამება ქეთევან დედოფლისა, ts'igni da ts'ameba ketevan dedoplisa; 1625) as well as by the German author Andreas Gryphius in his classical tragedy Katharine von Georgien (1657).[4] The Georgian monk Grigol Dodorkeli-Vakhvakhishvili of the David Gareja Monastery was another near-contemporaneous author whose writings, a hagiographic work as well as several hymns, focuse on Ketevan's life and martyrdom.

The Augustinian Friars exhumed her body after four months and took the relics to Georgia and interred them at the Alaverdi Cathedral, and also brought a hand and palm to Goa.

After the Archeological Survey of India started excavations to conserve the site at St Augustine's complex two decades back, in 2004-05, archaeologists found three bones in the chapter chapel in the convent of St Augustine.

Scientists have conducted a DNA analysis on bones believed to have been relics of Georgian queen Ketevan preserved in St Augustine's complex at Old Goa, but the mystery continues as a matching analysis of her other relics in Georgia needs to be done to confirm the findings.


  1. Suny, Ronald Grigor (1994), The Making of the Georgian Nation: 2nd edition, pp. 50-51. Indiana University Press, ISBN 0253209153.
  2. Georgians seek buried bones of martyred queen. The Guardian. June 25, 2000. Cited by The Iranian. Accessed on October 26, 2007.
  3. Georgia - Basic facts. Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. February, 2007. Accessed on October 26, 2007.
  4. Rayfield, Donald (2000), The Literature of Georgia: A History, pp. 105-106. Routledge, ISBN 0-7007-1163-5.


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