This tile, part of a series of some 50 pieces, was commissioned in 1718 from the studios of Kütahya to decorate the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, during a major restoration process. But after squabbling between the Greek, Latin and Armenian Churches that maintained the Holy Sepulchre, the tile was eventually installed in the Armenian Cathedral of St. James in Jerusalem between 1727 and 1737.
Its decoration depicts the Three Hierarchs of Byzantine Christianity, but replacing Gregory of Nazianzus with Gregory the Illuminator, who converted Armenia, seated between St. Basil of Caesarea and St. John Chrysostom. The image is a condensed history of the conversion of Armenia, as recounted by the historian Agathangelos in the 5th century. King Tiridates had Gregory tortured when he refused to make sacrifices to pagan idols. At the same time, he fell in love with St. Hripsime, shown here at the feet of the saint. But after she refused him, the king had her tortured in turn. Heaven then punished him by turning him into a boar, which is why he is portrayed here with the head of that animal. Only Gregory’s prayers were able to lift the curse, and Tiridates then converted to Christianity.