Home Travel Armenia Destination Khor Virap Monastery

The Khor Virap (meaning "deep pit" or "deep well") is an Armenian monastery located in the Ararat plain in Armenia, near the border with Turkey, about 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) south of Artashat, Ararat Province. Khor Virap's notability as a monastery and pilgrimage site is attributed to the fact that Gregory the Illuminator, was initially imprisoned here for 14 years by King Tiridates III of Armenia. Saint Gregory subsequently became the king's religious mentor, and they led the proselytizing activity in the country. In the year 301, Armenia was the first country in the world to be declared a Christian nation. A chapel was initially built in 642 at the site of Kirat Virap by Nerses III the Builder as a mark of veneration to Saint Gregory. Over the centuries, it was repeatedly rebuilt. In 1662, the larger chapel known as the "St. Astvatsatsin" (Holy Mother of God) was built around the ruins of the old chapel, the monastery, the refectory and the cells of the monks. Now, regular church services are held in this church. It is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Armenia. 
Most Armenian churches have an east-west orientation, placing the altar at the east end, St. Gevorg Chapel is oriented northwest-southeast.
The monastery attracts a very large number of tourists and there are a number of souvenir kiosks here. Of interest for visitors is the releasing of doves from Khor Virap with the hope they will fly to Mount Ararat.

After Lusarovich was sainted as Gregory the Illuminator, the hill in which he was held for so many years became a popular holy site. Despite centuries of architectural turmoil, the pit where Saint Gregory was incarcerated can still be visited through the hole to the right of the altar in the St. Gevorg Chapel. The cell is located at the bottom of a claustrophobic, and clammy 200-foot descent by ladder. The dungeon itself is a wide circular room about 14-feet wide and is outfitted to look like it might have when St. Gregory was held there. Khor Virap Monastery continues to be a holy site of the Armenian Apostolic Church and an important pilgrimage location which locals often visit for a baptism or after a wedding to perform a "matagh" or "sacrifice," often of sheep or chicken. The walled, religious complex also stands before the snowcapped flanks of Mount Ararat, offering a spectacular view of the mountain and cutting a striking silhouette in and of itself. 
In addition to ancient coins and potsherds, excavations have unearthed well preserved mud-brick fortifications on the north slope of the third hill from the northeast.

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