Saint James of Nisibis is a beloved and prominent saint not only to the Syriac, Church but also to the Armenians. He was born, raised, worked and died in the city of Nisibis which today is known as Nusbyien a city in Southeastern Turkey. He was the first cousin of St. Gregory the Illuminator.
St. James passed his early years studying and with spiritual upbringing. In his young adulthood he withdrew to the desert to live and pray as an ascetic. When the bishop of Nisibis died two candidates emerged from two conflicting groups of the population. However, with the advice of the hermit Maroukeh, everyone focused on James the hermit and summoned him from the desert and ordained him bishop in 320 A.D. in Amida.
The life of St. James is filled with incidents of miracles, which simply witnesses the fact of the broad popularity of this spiritual leader. He had been a disciple of the hermit Maroukeh and he in turn had been a teacher of Ephraem the Syrian Priest, a great patristic writer.
St. James was present in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea where according to tradition he enjoyed great respect from the Emperor Constantine and the attendees of the council. He became one of the great champions of the orthodoxy of the Christian Church against Arius and Arianism, which were condemned at the Council of Nicaea. Two or three times he saved his city from Persian invasion with his prayers. Although subjected to persecutions and tortures prior to becoming a cleric during the persecution of Maximianos, nevertheless he died peacefully at an old age in 338 A.D.
St. James is also known for his divine vision on Mount Ararat, where he found the sacred relic of Noah's Ark and brought it to the Armenian people.
According to tradition, while St. James preached in and around Nisibis, he heard that people doubted the story of Noah's Ark. He was determined to provide his flock with evidence, so he set out on a journey to the top of Mount Ararat to find the remains of the ark.
Some time into his journey, before reaching his destination, he felt tired and decided to stop and rest before moving forward. After he continued on his journey, he took a second break. However, when he awoke, he found himself in the spot that he originally chose as his resting place. He continued on his journey, yet he encountered the same phenomenon for seven years. Nevertheless, James carried forward, relying on his faith to see him to the end of his journey.
One day, while he slept, an angel appeared to him in a vision and brought him a piece of the wood from Noah's Ark. The angel told him that he could not see any more of the ark, but that the wooden remnant would be proof enough for the naysayers.
St. James prayed to God to produce an eternal miracle on the spot where he had the vision and immediately afterward a spring gushed forth, which exists to this day. The relic of Noah's Ark received by St. James is currently in possession of Holy Etchmiadzin.