Saint Sarkis the Warrior

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Saint Sarkis the Warrior
Святой Саркис - покровитель влюблённых.jpg
Sarkis is usually depicted on a white horse.
Born4th century
Died362 or 363
Venerated inArmenian Apostolic Church
Oriental Orthodoxy
Armenian Catholic Church
Major shrineSaint Sarkis Monastery of Ushi
Feast63 days before Easter
(Moveable feast)
PatronageYouth and love

Saint Sarkis the Warrior (Armenian: Սուրբ Սարգիս Զորավար, c. 4th century, died 362-363) [1] is revered as a martyr and military saint in the Armenian Apostolic Church. He is described as a centurion in the Roman Empire, and a contemporary of the ruling Constantinian dynasty and the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia. The name Sarkis is the Armenian form of Sergius.

Sarkis is the Armenian counterpart to Saint Valentine.


Little is known of the origins and early life of Sarkis. He lived during the 4th century and was a Greek from Cappadocia.[2][3] Sarkis was appointed by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great as General in Chief of the region of Cappadocia bordering Armenia.[4] He was reputed to possess the characteristics of piety, faith, and valour, and used his position to promote spiritual growth, teaching the gospel and encouraging church building.[5]

Constantine’s nephew Julian the Apostate became emperor in 361 and set about persecuting Christians throughout the Roman Empire.[6] Sarkis was deeply concerned about these events and prayed for a solution. Jesus is said to have appeared to Sarkis and uttered the words: "It is time for you to leave your country and your clan, as did Abraham the Patriarch, and go to a country which I will show you. There you will receive the crown of righteousness prepared for you." Sarkis then left his military position and authority and, with his son Saint Martiros (or Mardiros), sought refuge in Armenia under the protection of King Tiran (Tigranes VII).[6] As Julian and his army advanced towards Antioch, Syria, slaughtering Christians, Tiran urged Sarkis and Mardiros to leave Armenia for the Sassanid Empire.

Sassanid emperor Shapur II, hearing of Sarkis' reputation as a skilled military commander, appointed him to command the Sassanid army. Sarkis credited God for his military victories, which included fending off Julian’s troops, preventing their entry into Shapur’s kingdom.[5] Sarkis urged troops serving with him to believe in the Creator of Heaven and earth, that their hearts might never be shaken.

Some of Sarkis’ soldiers were baptized by travelling priests with the Sassanid army, but some who were not baptized went to Shapur II and told him about the religious beliefs of Sarkis.[5] Having realised that Sarkis was a Christian, Shapur summoned Sarkis, his son Martiros, and their 14 soldier companions who were newly baptized back to his palace,[7] with the intention of testing their faith.


Saint Sarkis and his son, Saint Martiros, on horseback.

Shapur ordered Sarkis, Martiros, and their 14 companions to participate in a Zoroastrian ceremony in a fire temple,[8] and offer sacrifices there. Sarkis refused Shapur’s orders and said: ‘We should worship one God – the Holy Trinity, which has created the earth and the heaven. Whereas fire or idols are not gods and the human being may destroy them’.[8]

After Sarkis had responded to the Sassanid King, he destroyed all the items in the fire temple. This annoyed the surrounding crowd who fell upon him and his son. Shapur, outraged by Sarkis’ actions, had his son Martiros killed before his eyes and had their 14 companion soldiers beheaded.[7][5] Sarkis was put in prison, but when Shapur heard that Sarkis was strengthened by his relationship with his Lord in prison, he was outraged and ordered Sarkis’ execution.

At his execution Sarkis began to pray and an angel descended from heaven and told him, ‘Be strong. Do not fear the killers of your body; for the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven is open for you’. Sarkis, understanding the vision of the angel and the meaning of everlasting life, made one last passionate plea for people to accept Jesus, and was then killed.[5] When he died, a mysterious light appeared over his body.[8]

His remaining loyal followers retrieved Sarkis’ body, wrapped him in clean linen, and eventually sent his body to Assyria where it remained until the 5th century. Saint Mesrob took Sarkis’ relics back to Armenia to the village of Ushi where Saint Sargis Monastery of Ushi was built over the relics.[9] The museums of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin have now taken into their collection the relics of St. Sarkis, after they were uncovered during the excavation of St Sarkis church of Ushi village in 1999.[10][11]


Saint Sarkis is one of the most beloved Saints within modern Armenian culture, as he is the Armenian patron saint of love and youth, similar to Saint Valentine.[3] His feast day is a moveable feast, held anywhere between January 11 and February 15.[2] Each year, just prior to his feast day, there occurs the five-day Fast of Catechumens, which was established by Saint Gregory the Illuminator.

On the feast day of Sarkis, Divine Liturgy is celebrated in all churches dedicated to him,[12] and a special liturgical ceremony of the blessing of youth is offered.

Saint Sarkis Cathedral, Yerevan is dedicated to him.


On the night preceding his feast day, faithful people place a tray full of flour or porridge before their door, believing that while passing by their door at dawn, Sarkis will leave the footprint of his horse in the flour symbolizing the fulfilment of their dreams.

On the eve of the feast young people eat salty biscuits and refrain from drinking water, so as to induce the appearance of their future bride or bridegroom in their dreams, bringing them water. These salty biscuits are named St Sarkis Aghablit.[13] Traditionally eaten by girls, the practice is also now followed by boys.[14]

On the feast day itself St Sarkis Halva, a sweet pastry stuffed with fruit and nuts, is widely eaten in Armenian communities to symbolise the blessings brought by the saint.[15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ St. Sarkis the Warrior and His son, St. Mardiros Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b "St. Sarkis the Warrior", A1 Plus, Yerevan, February 2, 2007
  3. ^ a b Aleksanyan, Narek. "Yerevan Celebrates St. Sargis the Warrior: Now a Holiday for Lovers",
  4. ^ St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic the Church
  5. ^ a b c d e "Sarkis the Warrior". The Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. Archived from the original on 2013-01-26. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  6. ^ a b St. Sarkis Armenian Church Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b Feast of St. Sarkis the Warrior Archived 2014-01-12 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b c "Who is St. Sarkis?". St Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church, Charlotte, North Carolina. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  9. ^ St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church
  10. ^
  11. ^ Relics of St Sarkis
  12. ^ "Charlotte Parish Observes Name Day", Organization of Istanbul Armenians, February 26, 2014
  13. ^ Kalajian, Robyn. "St Sarkis Day – The Armenian version of Valentine’s Day", The Armenian Kitchen, February 11, 2014
  14. ^ See The Daily Meal website.
  15. ^ Recipe at The Daily Meal website.
  16. ^ Recipe at The Armenian Kitchen website.