Khor Virap Monastery
No site is more closely intertwined with the story of Armenian Christianity than Khor Virap, nestled in the Ararat Valley with the gorgeous backdrop of Biblical Mount Ararat. (It is one of the closest beauty.) While the site itself is breathtaking, the story behind Khor Virap makes it all the more awe-inspiring.
In the late 3rd century, while Christianity was beginning to spread in Armenia, King Tiridates III ruthlessly persecuted Christians, sentencing them to torturous imprisonment and sometimes, to death. St. Gregory the Illuminator, a devoted evangelist, was sentenced to die in a deep pit at the site of Khor Virap (which actually means “deep dungeon” in Armenian). But St. Gregory miraculously lived there for 13 years, after which he was released to cure King Tiridates of his insanity. Out of awe and reverence, the king converted to Christianity and in 301 AD, declared it Armenia’s official religion, making Armenia the first nation to officially adopt Christianity (79 years before the Roman Empire).
Today, the pit in which St. Gregory the Illuminator lay for 13 years can still be visited. It is located in the nondescript St. Gevorg Chapel, apart from the main church of the Khor Virap complex.
Wedding bells and baptisms…
Khor Virap’s historic significance as the birthplace of Armenian Christianity and its proximity to Mount Ararat – the landing point of Noah’s Ark and a national Armenian symbol – make it a popular destination for weddings and baptisms. In fact, there is a good chance you will catch one on any given visit. Moreover, at Armenian special occasions, you will be pleased to find that even unexpected guests are welcome to participate!