Hovhannes Vorotnetsi was an Armenian philosopher, scholar, teacher, religious and political figure, the founder of the University of Tatev, and a major contributor to the culture of Armenia.
Vorotnetsi was born in 1315 in the village of Vagandi (Syunik region) in Armenia. Upon taking holy orders in the Armenian Church in his youth, he devoted himself entirely to science. At Gladzor University, he was educated in philosophy and theology under the guidance of its rector and thinker Yesayi Nchetsi.
Gladzor University at that time was a major educational center of medieval Armenia. After the passing of Nchetsi in 1338, the University of Gladzor was shut down. However, Vorotnetsi would undertake to restore the Syunik training center.
In 1345, he founded a school in Vorotnavank, thereby reviving the activities of the old Tatev monastic school and founding a major scientific and cultural center of Armenia of the Middle Ages.
Thereafter, he lived for some time in Western Armenia. During those years, he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem together with his disciple and future philosopher and theologian Grigor Tatevatsi. After completing the pilgrimage, Vorotnetsi returned to Syunik.
There, he would lead the struggle against the Uniates – Catholics to preserve the independence of the Armenian Church. To support this cause, he temporarily transferred Tatev University to Aprakunis in Nakhichevan.
He would return to Tatev in 2 years. He resumed his teaching and research activities and appointed his disciple Grigor Tatevatsi – who had already developed his own religious and philosophical doctrines – as the head of the Aprakunis school.
Vorotnetsi was developing Aristotelian traditions in Armenia. He was a supporter of nominalism as well. For his great knowledge, as well as for his great achievements in science, he was awarded the title of “thrice great Armenian philosopher and teacher.”
Vorotnetsi has left a huge written legacy. Many philosophical and theological works belong to his pen. These include “Analysis of the categories of Aristotle”, “A brief analysis of the Introduction of Porphyry“, “Commentary on the book ‘On Interpretation’”, as well as various sermons.
For Vorotnetsi, the truth was that the world, matter, and nature were created by God. Vorotnetsi dedicated his essay “On the Elements” to ontological problems, rejecting all known materialistic teachings. According to him, philosophy only complements theology.
He superbly interpreted the difficult writings of ancient philosophers. He was a champion of truth, preaching righteous faith, comforting the mourners, and feeding the poor. Of great importance was also his pedagogical activity which gave the Armenian culture a number of magnificent writers, religious-political figures, and scholars.
Vorotnetsi died on January 6, 1386, in the monastery of Aprakunis. He was buried in the nearby monastery of Yernjak in Nakhichevan. The Armenian Apostolic Church would posthumously proclaim him a saint of the Armenian Church.