If you have started traveling to spiritual places in Armenia, then after Ejmiatsin you should go to Khor Virap, which literally means a deep (pit) dungeon. This is a place which has a direct connection with adopting Christianity as a state religion, and where on June 26, 2016, the Catholicos of All Armenians and the Pope of Rome, as a sign of peace, released doves towards Mount Ararat.
In order to reach the famous pilgrimage place, you should go south from Yerevan. It is approximately 40 km away from the capital city, less than 1 hour will be required to reach there.
The Armenian historians testify that here is where the first spiritual father of the Armenian people, Gregory the Illuminator was tortured. The pagan king of the 4th century, Trdat the Great, punished with the harshest methods those who spread Christianity. And the most terrible punishment was given to Gregory the Illuminator. The king threw him to the royal prison of the city Artashat known as “Virap Artashatu”. The Illuminator spent 14 years there with poisonous reptiles and insects. A widow secretly fed him; due to her help Gregory the Illuminator survived and continued his mission. By the way, after he left his pit, St. Gregory cured the repentant and converted king and his family, and in 301 the Armenian people adopted Christianity as a state religion.
In the 5th century, a monastery was built in that same place and a congregation was established. From the 8th century, Khor Virap also becomes the center of education and science. Later on, the monastery opened a 9-years school, and people would come to study there even from remote places.
Khor Virap was also a center of literature. The evidence is the manuscripts that are kept with care in Yerevan, Matenadaran. By the way, we have already told you about Matenadaran, so you will find the biggest depository of Armenian manuscripts in the capital city without difficulty.
Near Khor Virap, you can also see the Holy Cross Church, where, according to a legend, the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew met.
We briefly mentioned in the beginning, Bishop of Catholic Church (world) also has visited Khor Virap. By the way, Virap was the last stop of the Pope Francis’ Armenian pilgrimage. Religious fathers of the Catholic and Apostolic Church burned their candles from the light taken from Illuminator’s pit, and also the lamp that the Pope Francis had dedicated to the monastery.
If you come to Khor Virap do not forget to finish your visit with the scene of Biblical Mount Ararat. The view is unforgettable. Pope Francis also testified it.