Every Armenian has heard above this unique architectural monument. This fortified monastery is the place of pilgrimage and one of the most worshipped ones in Armenia and the holy site for the Armenian Apostolic Church .
The monastery was erected in the 6 th – 17 th centuries above the dungeon where St. Gregory the Illuminator, the Baptist of Armenia, had been kept for the disseminating of Christianity until tsar Trdat decided to adopt this religion. The dungeon where the holy elder was tortured used to be the tsars dungeon “Khor Virap” – “deep pit”. The pit swarming with poisonous snakes and scorpions served as a prison. According to the legend St. Gregory the Illuminator stayed I that pit for 13 years.
The monastery is located in the close proximity to the border between Armenia and Turkey on the hill near the village of Pokr Vedi . Long time ago it was the site where Artashat, the ancient Armenian capital, was located. In 642 Catholicos Nerses built a white limestone chapel above the dungeon. It looked like Zvartnots temple destroyed by the earthquake. The chapel was destroyed later, though. The site was used for construction of the existing St. Astvatsatsin church (17 th century) in 1662 with the belfry on it western side. The pit dungeon is still there. It is 4.4 m in diameter and 6 deep.
The tourists can descend down there using a narrow ladder in order to experience the atmosphere. Khor Virap monastery hosted the theological seminary and the residence of Armenian Catholicoses. There is the most beautiful view on the biblical Mount Ararat and entire Ararat Valley from the monastery.
photo: Vigen Hakhverdyan / Travl-Armenia