Khor Virap Monastery

Khor Virap stands on the left bank of the Arax River, in Ararat Valley, in the shadow of Mt. Ararat (5165 m. and 3925m.). It is located at the site of a pagan temple to goddess Anahit, on hill 6 of the upper city of Artashat.

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St. Gevorg/Khor Virap

St. Gevorg/Khor Virap

The pit where St Gregory the Illuminator languished for 13 years is located to the southwest of St. Gevorg Church (7th c.). According to Yovhanes Draskhanakertsi, Catholicos of All Armenians Nerses III the Builder commissioned a chapel over the pit.  

After ascending the patriarchal throne … he [Nerses III] built a sanctuary over the pit where Saint Grigor, the dedicated apostle of God, had been entombed amidst poisonous insects and had crushed the head of the perverse monster, thus transferring the Armenian people from the deadly depths of idolatry to the glorious light of the Son of God. --Yovhanes Draskhanakertsi XIX 15

Unlike Armenian churches that have an East-West orientation with the altar at the east end, St. Gevorg is oriented northwest-southeast, in the same way as the temple at Garni, which was built over an Urartian worship site. This has led some to suggest there may have been an earlier shrine at the spot.

A chapel was built in 642 for one of the greatest Catholicos in Armenian history, Nerses III (the Builder), responsible for many of the religious structures. He put an end to the divide between the state and religion by introducing Christian practices to the country’s monasteries and churches. The current structure dates to 1662.

Inside the church there are two pits, the farthest of which is the one where Grigor was held for 13 years before meeting King T'rdat and converting him to Christianity. To the right of the main altar there is a hole with vertical stairs leading to the dungeon topped by a concave dome-shaped roof. The pit is deep, 6 meters, and 4.4 meters in diameter, in its day used as a prison for those designated for execution.  St. Grigor was left to die, and it was only with the help of a kind woman who is said to have lowered baskets of food to the prisoner that he survived.

After ordering to kill 37 virgins, among them St Ripsime and Gayane, who had escaped from Rome and come to Armenia to spread Christianity, the king had gone mad. In 301, the king's sister, Khosrovadukht, repeatedly had the same dream wherein she was told that in order to save the kingdom the king had to bring Gregory out of the pit and submit to his will.

Converting to Christianity and recovering from his madness, the king issued a decree by which he granted Gregory full rights to carry out the conversion of the nation to Christianity. The same year Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion. In 302, Gregory was confirmed as Patriarch of Armenia in Caesaria (his childhood home) by Archbishop Leontius. Fulfilling his mission, and in his later years, Gregory withdrew to a sanctuary near Mount Sebuh (Mt. Sepuh) in the Daranalia province (Manea Ayrk, Upper Armenia), where he remained until his death.  


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    How to reach From Yerevan drive 44 km to south. The trip will approximately take 40 minutes.

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