Mechitar (or Mekhitar), DA PETRO, the founder of the Order of Mechitarists (q.v.), was born at Sebaste, a town of Armenia Minor, Feb. 7, 1676. His father's name was Peter Mauukean (i.e. son of Manug), but he exchanged his family name (Manug) for that of Mechitar, or " Consoler," on entering into ecclesiastical orders. His early education had been intrusted to monastics; they, no doubt, influenced him to devote himself to the service of the Church. At the age of fifteen he became an inmate of the Convent of the Holy Cross, near Sebaste; and a few years after, being made secretary of the archbishop Michael, who took him to Erzerum, he became acquainted with a fellow-countryman who had travelled in Europe, and wholenthim an Armenian work by Galanus, an Italian missionary, On the Reconciliation of the Armenian Church with that of Rome (published at Rome in 1650). Though Mechitar still continued professedly a member of the Armenian priesthood, he appears from this time to have become in secret a proselyte to the Church of Rome but the exact date of his passing over seems to have been unknown to all his biographers. He was anxious to make himself acquainted with the civilization of the West, it is urged by some; others believe that Mechitar had fallen into the hands of Romish priests, and was induced, as early as 1693, to accept the Romish interpretation of the sacred writings, and, consequently, of the doctrines and faith of the hierarchy, and that he determined on a visit to Rome to enjoy an interview with the holy father and the great dignitaries of the Latin Church. There is some reason also for the belief that Mechitar was at once, after his entry into the Latin Church, made a member of the Society of Jesus, and that he secretly worked for the good of the order. On his way to Rome he was attacked by severe illness in the island of Cyprus, and compelled to return, begging his way as he went. In 1696 he reentered the convent, determined to become a worker for higher religious and literary culture among his countrymen, and to further this undertaking effectually he sought to gather about him young men desiring to work as missionaries. In 1699 he was made DD., and shortly after he removed to the Byzantine capital. In 1700, when he was a preacher at Constantinople, some dissensions between the partisans of two rival patriarchs divided the Armenian community into two hostile parties. Mechitar at first advised reconciliation, and afterwards, to their surprise, preached submission to the Church of Rome, and this roused such a storm against him that he was obliged to claim the protection of the French ambassador, which was readily afforded.
Thenceforth Mechitar appeared openly as a Roman Catholic. To escape from the animosity of his country. men he still found it necessary to remove in disguise to Smyrna, and finally he settled at Modon, in theMorea under the protection of the Venetian government, to whom it then belonged. As early as Sept. 8, 1701, he had founded at Constantinople a new religious community, in which ten other persons joined with him; at Modon, on Sept. 8, 1703, he took possession of an estate given him by the Venetians, to build a convent of the new order, which was called after his own name. The war between the Turks and the Venetians drove Mechitar in 1715 'to Venice, where he remained until after the conquest of the Morea by the Mussulman. His petition for a place instead of Modon found a willing ear at the Venetian Senate in 1717, and he was presented with the little island of San Lazaro, near the Lido, and there Mechitar built the convent which still attracts the attention of every visitor to Venice. It was opened on the day of the Virgin Mary's birth, Sept. 8. Thenceforth Mechitar labored assiduously for the good of the Church of Rome and the elevation of his countrymen. He is acknowledged even by his opponents of the Armenian Church to have revived the high literary attainments of his country in former days. He not only contributed to this by his own efforts as a voluminous writer, but in a still more important degree by establishing printing presses. He died April 27, 1749. His own productions are, besides many hymns, which are still sung in the Armenian churches, because they were written before his apostasy, a translation of Thomas B Kempis's Imitation of Christ, and of Thomas Aquinas's Theology, and many philological works of value. The fullest account of Mechitar, of his work, and of his followers, in English, is to be found in Brief Account of the Mechitaristican Society,:by Alexander Gorde (Venice, 1835). SEE MECHITARISTS.