This Saturday, July 17, the Armenian Church commemorates Saint Thaddeus, one of two apostles who preached in Armenia, and Saint Sandukht, daughter of King Sanadrouk, and the first saint of the Armenian Church.
Princess Sandukht was converted to Christianity by Thaddeus, and she in turn converted many others. Her father tried to have her renounce her conversion and finally gave her a choice of the crown or the sword. She chose the sword and became the first witness for Christianity in Armenia and the first saint of the Armenian Church. Shortly after her martyrdom, Thaddeus was martyred at Artaz (in present day northern Iran). The Armenian monastery of St. Thaddeus is built on the apostle’s tomb. During the early 20th century the monastery was an important crossroads for travelers and pilgrims. A popular annual pilgrimage by Armenians from around the world takes place in July to coincide with this feast day. During the four-day festival, thousands gather in tents pitched on the vast monastery grounds.