Many sources agree that Nino was born in the small town of
Colastri, in the Roman province of Cappadocia, although a smaller number of sources disagree with this. On her family and origin, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church have different traditions.
According to the Eastern Orthodox Church tradition, she was the only child of a famous family. Her father was Roman general
Zabulon and her mother
Sosana (Susan). On her father's side, Nino was related to St. George, and on her mother's, to the patriarch of Jerusalem,
During her childhood, Nino was brought up by the nun
Niofora-Sarah of Bethlehem. Nino’s uncle, who was the patriarch of Jerusalem, oversaw her traditional upbringing. Nino went to Rome with the help of her uncle where she decided to preach the Christian gospel in Iberia, known to her as the resting place of Christ’s tunic. According to the legend, Nino received a vision where the Virgin Mary gave her a grapevine cross and said:
- "Go to Iberia and tell there the Good Tidings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and you will find favour before the Lord; and I will be for you a shield against all visible and invisible enemies. By the strength of this cross, you will erect in that land the saving banner of faith in My beloved Son and Lord."
Saint Nino entered the Iberian Kingdom in Caucasus from the Kingdom of Armenia, where she escaped persecution at the hands of the Armenian King Tiridates III. She had belonged to a community of virgins numbering 35, along with martyr Hripsime, under the leadership of St. Gayane, who preached Christianity in the Armenian Kingdom. They were all, with the exception of Nino, tortured and beheaded by Tiridates. All 35 of the virgins were soon canonised by the Armenian Apostolic Church, including Nino (as St. Nune).
Contrasting with this, the Roman Catholic tradition, as narrated by Rufinus of Aquileia, says Nino was brought to Iberia not by her own will, but as a slave, and that her family tree is obscure.