On Saturday, July 17, the Armenian Church will observe the Feast of St. Thaddeus the Apostle and St. Sandukht the Virgin. The story of these two saints sheds light on the early days of Christianity in Armenia.
Armenia in the first century was a pagan kingdom ruled by a powerful royal family. It held strongly to its inherited pagan practices—until a man named Thaddeus ventured to Armenia.
He was one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, and preached the Lord’s message in people’s homes, in hidden underground chambers, in the market and the streets. Moved by the Good News, many of the common folk converted to Christianity.
Rumors of this unusual man reached the royal court, and caught the ear of Sandukht, the daughter of Armenia’s king Sanadrouk. Sandukht declared her faith in Christ and was baptized by Thaddeus. But when the king’s spies reported the news to her father, Sandukht was thrown in prison.
The king commanded his daughter to choose between the crown and the sword: either she would renounce Christianity and serve as a pagan princess, or face death. Sandukht chose the sword, and became Armenia’s first Christian martyr. Shortly after Sandukht’s death, Thaddeus was also executed by the king. Their sacrifices planted the seeds of the Christian faith in Armenia—a faith that 300 years later would become the foundation on which to build a new Christian Armenia.
Sandukht’s dramatic story is the subject of a powerful video in the Diocese’s Bread and Salt series: “Crown or Sword.” Click here to view the video.