Khor-Virap

place

icon-mapH11, 0612, Republic of Armenia

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Khor Virap monastery is located in the north-western part of Lusarat village, on the left bank of Araks River, Ararat region. The 17th-century church- fortress was once in the region of Vostan which was a state of Ayrarat in Great Hayk. Lusarat's area was one of the cities of historical Artashat. It is considered to be Armenian famous sanctuary and pilgrimage. 

In the ancient period, the territory of a monastery was also included in the historical Artashat city and Khor Virap was situated in one of the high hills as a citadel. The nowadays church area was a royal prison. Virap was a deep hole with snakes, poisonous insects and used for punishing the prisoners. Gregory Enlightener was one of the prisoners who spent here long 14 years in that hole surrounded by snakes and scorpions.

According to the historian Agatangeghos, the Armenian king Trdat 3rd ordered to imprison him in that deep and dangerous hole for spreading the Christianity during the persecution of Christians. In that period 37 nuns escaped Armenia from Rome, among them were Gayane and Hripsime.

When they came here, Trdat wanted to marry one of the nuns but getting the rejection, he ordered to kill them. But their death tormented the King and soon after, he got sick. One day his sister saw a dream in which only Gregory healed him. After long years, the King ordered to free him, and that time, Armenia adopted Christianity as a state religion in 301 and thus became the first country in the world that adopted as a state religion.

In 642 Nerses G  Catholicos, on the basis of the saint hole built a chapel which constructed with white limestone and was a circular building with 8 columns inside. According to the historians, the chapel looked like a Zvartnots Cathedral in its construction and design. Unfortunately, the church was destroyed but in 1662, on the basis of the old chapel was built a new church with an arched roof which is still standing.

The right side of the Great Altar is a narrow hall through straight steps leading the ground floor. There is half ruined cone-shaped gates, along the walls of are placed refectory, cells, and other buildings. Inside the gates, in the middle is located the main church Saint Astvatsatsin, in the western part is the bell-tower.

In the south-eastern part of the church is located a hole in 4x4 diameters and 6m depth, with a domed roof. Here was the above mentioned Gregory's prison. According to the history, he survived only with the help of a kind woman who during 14 every day brought him bread and water.

Started in the 13th century, besides being important sanctuary it became the pan-Armenian educational center which had more than 40 students. In 1255 Vardan Areveltsi founded a school and had many prominent graduates who enriched and developed the educational level of Armenia. In 1669 on the basis of the old chapel was built Saint Grigor church. Saint Astvatsatsin was renovated at the end of 1703.  Two centuries later was built a columnated belltower near the western part of the church.

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