You won’t be able to find a person who doesn’t know about Mount Ararat, not only because the mountain is visible from any part of Yerevan, but, also, because it’s the most worshipped place in the country. Just like Mount Ararat, Khor Virap is the most sacred Armenian monastery in the country. Why? It’s a place, where in 301 AD King Trdat III converted to Christianity, making it a state religion.
The history of the monastery goes back to 180 BC, when King Artaxias I established the capital of the country – Artaxata. Later, Dvin became the new capital and Khor Virap was turned into a prison. The name of this Armenian monastery translates as “deep dungeon”. The most famous prisoner was Gregory the Illuminator; he refused to convert paganism and spent 15 years imprisoned in a deep pit filled with snakes and scorpions. King Trdat III heard about the prisoner whose survival in imprisonment was a true miracle; at the same time the kings suffered from unknown illness. Saint Gregory the Illuminator was freed and brought to the palace. He claimed that all sufferings came from paganism. After King Trdat’s conversion to Christianity, his illness went away. The kings made Saint Gregory a state counsel; this is how Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as state religion.
Today Khor Virap is the most esteemed among Armenian monasteries. Apart from historical significance, travelers come here for to admire its beautiful temple architecture, which blends with picturesque landscapes that surround the monastery. Saint Gregory’s dungeon is open for visitors. It’s easily accessible by metallic ladder. Anniversary Saint Gregory’s release is celebrated by ceremony of releasing white pigeons. This monastery isn’t, only, a famous pilgrimage place, but an amazing treasury of national history and a beautiful example of classic Armenian temple architecture.