Driving not a long way from the capital city Yerevan, right in the Ararat Plain, there is a breathtaking monastery to stop by. Called the Khor Virap, it’s a treasure of Armenia to be revealed. This monastery is unique not only for being a historical pilgrimage site, but also with its fantastic view that opens from there right to the Mount Ararat, a biblical mount where Noah’s Ark landed according to the Gospel. It’s considered to be a place from where the Christianity was spread all over Armenia. Want to know how? - Keep on reading.
Gregory (later Saint Gregory the Illuminator), who was a religious leader, was about to convert Armenia from the paganism to the Christianity. The king Tiridates III of Armenia (287-330) did not like that anti-paganism movement and imprisoned Gregory in the Khor Virap (which means a deep hole/pit in Armenian) for 13 years. He was kept in the dark and deep hole, with the snakes and insects, but they never hurt him. There was a lady who used to bring him food every day thanks to which he survived.
The King got ill and was suffering from the lycanthropy. This happened to him when he ordered to murder a group of nuns that fled the persecution in Rome. Now you can find the churches dedicated to them in the city of Holy Ejmiadzin (religious center of Armenia). After 13 years, Gregory was given a new lifeline by Tiridates’ sister Khosrovidukht. She had a vision that only Gregory can save him. He cured the king and also became his religious mentor. The Tiridates adopted the Christianity.
In 301, Armenia was converted into the Christianity, thus becoming the first state to officially adopt it. Gregory was and is called an Illuminator and Saint who became the first official head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The monastery complex is located on top of the hill. It is a very impressive place. The first Chapel was built in 642. In 1662, the "St. Astvatsatsin" (Holy Mother of God) was built around the ruins of the old one. Here, you can attend the church ceremonies. What's interesting now is the hole, where Gregory the Illuminator was kept, that is open for exploring by those who want. You can go down by the narrow stairs to see where he lived for 13 years. In the territory of the monastery, there is also a separate hall to put the candles. I have to say that exactly here, you will see one of the most impressive paintings on the wall, that Illustrates Jesus.
After you reveal the treasure of Armenia, you can get on the top of the little hill by the Khor Virap. This is an excellent place to sit and enjoy the view of the monastery complex, since from there you can see it in all its beauty. On the other hand, it's a perfect place to take pictures.
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