Feast of Saint Vartan – February 16, 2023

The Feast of Saint Vartan is observed on the Thursday of the eighth week before Easter and takes place on February 16 this year. It is observed in Armenia and honors the Armenian military leader who led the country’s army in 451 during the Battle of Avarayr. The landmark battle, in which he was martyred, was able to secure the right of Armenians to practice Christianity despite the Sasanian Empire’s attempts to convert the country’s populace to Zoroastrianism. Though it’s an important holiday, the Feast of Saint Vartan is not a public holiday, and remains a normal working day for most of the working population.

History of Feast of Saint Vartan

As per Armenian tradition, Saint Vartan, also known as Vardan Mamikonian, was a descendant of Saint Sahag. His lineage can, reportedly, be traced all the way back to Saint Gregory the Illuminator. However, despite his family history, he did not enter the priesthood and instead decided to become a soldier instead. He eventually rose to the position of the head of the Mamikonian clan and gained the respect of the King of Persia as the commander-in-chief of all of the Armenian armies. He was not only a fierce, disciplined soldier, but also a devout Christian.

Though the Persians initially allowed the Armenians to practice Christianity, they began to reconsider as Armenians displayed increasing zeal for the faith. King Yazdegerd II eventually imposed heavy taxes on the Armenians and pressured them to abandon their faith and convert to Zoroastrianism. This caused what came to be known as the Battle of Avarayr.

The Battle of Avarayr was fought on June 2, 451, on the Avarayr Plain. Saint Vartan led the Armenian forces. Though he was martyred during the battle and the Persian forces won, it was a pyrrhic victory. The battle became known as one of the first battles defending the Christian faith. Saint Vartan’s involvement in the battle rendered him a national hero. According to Arshag Chobanian, “To the Armenian nation, Vartan is the most beloved figure, the most sacred in their history, the symbolical hero who typifies the national spirit.” Statues of the martyr can be found all over the national capital, Yerevan.

Feast of Saint Vartan timeline

387 A.D.
Persian Armenia

Eastern Armenia becomes a vassal state within the Sasanian empire.

393 A.D.
Birth

Vardan Mamikonian is born.

451 A.D.
Battle of Avarayr

The Battle of Avarayr begins, and Mamikonian is martyred.

1968
Sainthood

Mamikonian is officially consecrated into the Catholic Sainthood after more than a millennium.

Feast of Saint Vartan FAQs

Who is the patron saint of Armenia?

Saint Gregory the Illuminator.

Who brought Christianity to Armenia?

Saint Gregory brought Christianity to Armenia when he converted the Arsacid king Tiridates III.

What was Armenia called in biblical times?

Hayk, later called Hayastan.

How to Observe Feast of Saint Vartan

  1. Read about the Battle of Avarayr

    The Battle of Avarayr was an important moment in Armenian history. Use the day to read up on it and its effects on Armenia’s history.

  2. Learn about Armenian history

    St. Vartan represents several Armenian values, and Armenia has a rich cultural history. If you’re so inclined, look it up.

  3. Visit Armenia

    Though the Feast of Saint Vartan is not a public holiday, religious services are held to honor the martyr. If you want to, you should visit the country.

5 Interesting Facts About Armenia

  1. Christianity

    Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official state religion.

  2. Alphabet

    Armenia has its own alphabet.

  3. Yerevan

    The national capital, Yerevan, was founded in 782 B.C.

  4. Chess

    Chess is a compulsory subject in Armenian schools.

  5. Monoethnic

    Armenia is one of the only monoethnic countries in the world.

Why Feast of Saint Vartan is Important

  1. It highlights an important part of Armenian history

    The Battle of Avarayr is an important part of Armenian history. Despite causing heavy losses to Armenian forces, it allowed Armenia to remain Christian, which has become a central part of Armenian culture.

  2. It’s important to Christian Armenians

    The Feast of Saint Vartan is important to Christians in Armenia. The battle was fought to protect their right to practice their faith.

  3. It’s a perfect opportunity to read about Armenian history

    Armenia has a rich cultural history. The Feast of Saint Vartan is a perfect opportunity to look it up.

Feast of Saint Vartan dates

YearDateDay
2022February 24Thursday
2023February 16Thursday
2024February 28Wednesday
2025February 7Friday
2026February 12Thursday

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