Khor Virap Monastery (Խոր Վիրապ)

Khor Virap Monastery


Location: Lusarat, Ararat Province Map

Found: 642


History of Khor Virap Monastery

Khor Virap Monastery was originally found in 642 near Lusarat in the Armenian Ararat Province. It offers a great view of the mountain Ararat. According to Old Testament this was the mountain where Noah's Ark have landed after the Great Flood.  The hill of Khor Virap where the monastery stands today is located on the site of the ancient Armenian capital of Artashat that was found here circa 180 BC by king Artashes I, the founder of the Artashesid dynasty. Armenian king Tiridates III arrested Saint Gregory, Christian missionary that preached Christianity in the region. Famous saint spent 13 years in the underground dungeon. This prison cell is still preserved in its original condition. Khor Vrap Monastery dungeon is basically a stone blackened vault with small slit windows. It is opened to tourists and pilgrims. In 301 Tiridates III accepted Christianity as an official religion of the state and gave Gregory the Educator his freedom, but the prison was preserved for generations. In fact monastery complex of "Khor Virap" in Armenian means "deep hole".


Khor Virap Monastery is dominated by an ensemble of two churches. The first church is dedicated to Saint Gevorg or Saint Gregory. It was built by Catholicos Nerses III in 642 on a former ancient prison where Saint Gregory was held as a prisoner.  The second church is dedicated to Saint Astvatsatsin that was constructed in the late 17th century. It is crowned by a coned dome with a bell tower adjacent to it.


The monastery is located above an underground prison, in which, according to legend, the Armenian king Trdat III kept in prison for about 14 years. Gregory the Illuminator before he was converted to Christianity, according to the traditional date, about 301 years. All of Armenia was converted to Christianity in 301, thus becoming the first country to adopt Christianity as the state religion.

The monastery served as the spiritual center of the Armenian Apostolic Church, where the residence of the Catholicos of all Armenians was located.

Khor Virap Hill is located on the site of the ancient capital of Armenia, Artashat, built about 180 BC. e. King Artashes I, founder of the Artashesid dynasty. Initially, in 642, Nerses III the Builder built a chapel above the dungeon, where Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned. She was rebuilt several times. The entrance to the underground prison, preserved to this day, is located in the chapel of St. Gregory, built in 1661. The depth of the underground prison is from 3 to 6 meters.

On the territory of the monastery, in its central part, there is also a large church of Surb Astvatsatsin (Blessed Virgin Mary), built in the middle of the XVII century. At the same time, the cells of the monks and the monastery itself were built. Now it is one of the most famous pilgrimage sites of Armenians from around the world. The church holds regular worship services.

The chapel was built in the V century around the cave of St. Gregory the Illuminator of white limestone. Then a monastery was built around the ruins of the chapel. At the top of the church is a twelve-sided drum on which the dome rests. The altar apse is richly decorated. Although in many Armenian churches the altar is in the east, and the churches themselves are orientated from east to west, the chapel is oriented from northwest to southeast.

The dungeon where Gregory the Illuminator languished is located in the southwest of the main church, under the chapel of St. Gregory. The chapel is a small basilica with a semicircular apse. Of the two dungeons, the dungeon where Gregory the Illuminator was kept is distant. Depth - 6 meters, width - 4.4 meters. A small room and a spiral staircase lead to the dungeon.