Khor Virap monasteryKhor Virap monastery

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Khor Virap's notability as a monastery and pilgrimage site is attributed to the fact that Grigor Lusavorich, who later became Saint Gregory the Illuminator, was initially imprisoned here for 13 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.

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Until its chapel was built in 642 AD, Khor Virap was used as royal prison. 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 probably the most visited pilgrimage site in Armenia.

When King Tiridates III ruled over Armenia, his assistant was the Christian Grigor (Gregory) Lusavorich who preached the Christian religion. However, Tiridates, a pagan was not pleased and he subjected Gregory to severe torture. When news reached the king that Gregory's father Anak was responsible for the murder of the king's father, the king ordered that Gregory's hand and legs be tied and that he be thrown into the Khor Virap to die in the dark dungeon located in Artashat. He was then forgotten and the King pursued his wars and persecution of Christians. However, Gregory did not die during his 13 years of imprisonment. His survival was attributed to a Christian widow from the local town who, under the influence of strange dream vision, regularly fed Gregory by dropping a loaf of freshly baked bread into the pit.

Divine punishment was meted out to Tiridates and his people. Tiridates went mad and is said to have behaved like a wild boar while torments fell on his household and demons possessed the people of the city. It was then that Tiridates's sister, Khosrovidhukt, had a vision in the night, where an angel told her about the prisoner Gregory in the city of Artashat who could end the torments with the words "when he comes he will teach you the remedies for all your ills”. People did not place much reliance on this dream vision as they thought that Gregory had probably died within days of his being cast into the pit. But Khosrovidhukt had the same dream repeatedly with a threatening message that if the dream's instructions were not followed, there would be dire consequences. Prince Awtay was deputed to get Gregory from Kirat Virap. He went to the pit and shouted to Gregory saying "Gregory, if you are somewhere down there, come out. The God whom you worship has commanded that you be brought out". Gregory was brought out in a miserable state. He was taken to the king who had gone mad "foraging among the pigs at Valarshapar", tearing his own skin. Gregory cured the king and brought him back to his senses. Gregory knew of all the atrocities that were committed and saw the bodies of the martyrs who were later cremated. The king, accompanied by his court, approached Gregory seeking forgiveness for all the sins they committed. Henceforth, Gregory started preaching Christianity to the king, his court and army.

King Tiridates, who had embraced Christianity as his religion following the miraculous cure effected by Gregory's divine intervention, proclaimed Christianity as the state religion of Armenia in 301 AD.

Text from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khor_Virap
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1 hour

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There is now a ladder to get down and up in the pit :)