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Full text of Rev. Father Virap Ghazaryan’s (Pastor of St. Etchmiadzin Church in Tbilisi, the Armenian Diocese in Georgia) interview with The Tbilisi Times newspaper PDF Print E-mail


  • We know that the Feast of the Holy Cross of Varague is celebrated only by the Armenian Church. Tell us, please, about the origin and definition of the feast. Why it is known as a purely national holiday?

The Feast of the Holy Cross of Varague is one of the most special and beloved feasts. The Armenian Apostolic Church, in difference to the other Christian Churches, celebrates another purely national feast dedicated to the Holy Cross, which is famous as the Holy Cross of Varague. According to legend, the feast originates from St. Virgins Hripsime and Gayane. And if we dig deep into history, we will see that the story starts when James, brother of the Lord, gifts to the Queen Patronike the relic of the Lord’s Wooden Cross. The sacred relic was passed on from generation to generation and was inherited by St. Hripsime, who was descended from the Queen Patronike and the Emperor Claudius.

St. Hripsime underwent tortures from the Roman Emperor Dioklethianos, who had started persecutions against Christians. St. Hripsime attracted the notice of Dioklethianos, but didn’t accept his marriage proposal, because she had already become a Christian. The Emperor Dioklethianos became even more furious and subjected Hripsime to severe suffering. As a result of which Hripsime, Gayane and their 70 companions run away and reach to Armenia.

They stop at the Mountain Varague, which is to the southeast from the Lake Van. Taking off from her neck the relic of the Lord’s Wooden Cross, St. Hripsime preserves it in one of the caves of the mountain, and continues her journey.

  • Please, tell us the story of the Holy Cross of Varague. As is well known, the sacred relic remained in the Surb Nshan Church (Church of Holy Sign) till 1915. Where is it now?

Subsequently, the monk Todik and his disciple Hovel, discovering the approximate location of the relic, pray at the Mountain Varague and make a vow not to go back until God would show the place of the relic. This event took place in the mid 7th century AD.

Long fasting and prayer resulted in a miracle - 12 bright columns appeared around the mountain and the sign of the Cross was seen among the columns, which showed the place of the sacred relic. The news reached the Catholicos. Nerses the Creator Catholicos was the Catholicos of All Armenians of that period. The Catholicos and the Prince Rshtuni go the Mountain Varague to personally witness it. When the location of the relic was discovered, they built two churches of Surb Nshan (the Holy Sign) at the Mountain Varague. These are the origins of the Feast of the Holy Cross of Varague, it is included in the Armenian Church Calendar and is celebrated only by the Armenian Church.

Indeed, till 1915, the sacred relic remained in the Surb Nshan Church (Church of Holy Sign), its current location however, remains unknown.

One can assume that the churches of Holy Sign might contain the relics of the Lord’s Wooden Cross.

  • Are there any traditions related to the feast? How do you celebrate this feast?

Divine Liturgy is solemnly celebrated in the churches on the occasion of the feast. And as this story took place in Van, the people call it the feast of the inhabitants of Van and there it was celebrated most solemnly. Certainly, the feast had its customs and traditions, which however had by now been forgotten.

  •  What would you wish for the faithful of the Armenian Apostolic Church on this occasion?

I would wish for them to feel more trepidation about the Lord’s Cross that brings salvation to everyone, because everything related to the Holy Cross is very important and worthy of worship. It is worth mentioning that every time we look at the cross, we see the Crucified Christ.

Every relic of the Cross is a part of the Lord’s Cross, where He shed His blood for us and paid for our sins. Many churches were founded on the relics of the Lord’s Wooden Cross and were named - the Holy Cross Church, thus Christians emphasized their love and respect for the Holy Cross.


Rev. Father Virap Ghazaryan

Pastor of St. Etchmiadzin Church in Tbilisi, the Armenian Diocese in Georgia 

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