Khor Virap monastery is a living witness of the Armenian Christian religious history. Find the information on the monastery with some photos here.
When roaming along Armenia, stop any passer-by and ask about 301 AD.
There will actually be something to splurge about. Armenians made the first step to adapting Christianity in that year and then the world followed them.
Thus, the heritage of Christian Armenia is very rich in architectural masterpieces that are filled with mysteries and legends. The monastery of Khor Virap comes to prove it. If you have not heard about Khor Virap, then at least you have seen it in many Armenian or Ararat related photos.
Khor Virap: The History of the Monastery
Khor Virap (or “Deep Pit”) is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Armenia. The monastery is located in the Ararat plain near the border with Turkey. It is surrounded by green lands and vineyards of the plain and is in view of Mount Ararat, whereas the Arax River flows very close by.
Once the monastery used to host a theological seminary and was the residence of Armenian Catholicos. Until the chapel was built, Khor Virap served as a royal prison during Artashesid dynasty.
The hill of Khor Virap and those adjoining were the site of the important early Armenian capital of ancient Artashat or Artaxiasata, built by King Artashes I. The famous pit is approached through two holes.
To the right of the altar in the dungeon is the main room. A long ladder from here descends to a large cell of fairly good size, which was St. Gregory’s prison cell. The pit is well lit. The Nerses chapel, built in the 5th century around the famous pit, was of white limestone.
Because of economic and political hardships in the 16th century, the monastery was tangibly damaged. Thus, Davit Virapetsi built the enclosure around Khor Virap. Though plain in appearance, a monastery was built around the enclosure that surrounds the ruins of the old Nerses chapel.
This church is dedicated to S. Astvatsatsin. The St. Astvatsatsin church at Khor Virap was built in the 17th century and is typical of Armenian architecture in design, but there is a lack of any decorative carving, or elements.
To Khor Virap Monastery: Tourist’s Guide
The monastery is located in Pokr Vedi, Ararat Province, which is 4 kilometers away from the main highway. The capital of Armenia Yerevan, is 30km to the north. So, getting to Khor Virap is no longer a painstaking job.
The means of transportation that may come to mind firstly, is public transport or “marshrutka” (mini-van) as locals use to call it.
Visitors are dropped off at a crossroad about 1.5 kilometers away from the monastery. Frowned because have to walk some part of the road before reaching the monastery? Never mind! Just get your camera from your backpack! You are in Armenia!
There are everywhere great sites to take photos of! After reaching your destination and admiring one sites of religious Armenia, just keep in mind that the bus will come back within 50 minutes!
If you don’t like traveling by marshutkas, then a day trip taxis are at your disposal.
Taxi drivers usually agree to wait as long as you wish. You will definitely find cars for rent within Yerevan, but costs are higher.
Visiting Khor Virap: Where to Stay Over Night?
It goes without saying that a day trip will never discover the whole grace of Armenia.
So, if you decided to visit Khor Virap and don’t know where to stay during the night, then look through the list of hotels you can find nearby (most hotels are located in Yerevan though) and enjoy your holidays at Khor Virap Monastery.
Proper deals on hotels/hostels and accommodations guarantee that you will find the hotel suitable to your budget.
This hotel is 2 miles (3 km) away from popular sights, such as Republic Square and National Gallery of Armenia. This is a 12-room, 3-star hotel that welcomes guests with free breakfast, free WiFi, and free valet parking.
It’s in the center of Yerevan and close to Erebuni Fortress and Yerevan Opera House. All 12 individually decorated accommodations feature living rooms. Guests can enjoy TV and always stay connected to free WiFi and wired Internet.
Bathrooms offer bathrobes. Sofa beds, refrigerators, and minibars are other standard amenities. A multilingual staff is on hand to assist with tours or tickets, and luggage storage.
Apricot Studios, located in Kentron administrative district, on the 2nd floor is within a mile (2 km) from National Gallery of Armenia and Republic Square.
The 3-star apartment includes conveniences like an electric kettle. Located centrally in Yerevan, it’s also close to Yerevan Opera House and Cascades Complex.
The apartment is air-conditioned and has an electric kettle. Guests can expect to find free WiFi. The bathroom offers hair dryers, free toiletries, and slippers.
Located in Kentron, Theatre Hostel is near the Republic Square and National Gallery of Armenia.
This 7-room hostel offers guests in-room amenities like kitchens, sitting areas and fridges. The hostel is also near Yerevan Opera House and Cascades Complex.
All 7 individually decorated accommodations feature kitchens and space to spread out with sitting areas. Guests will never get board due to free WiFi. Coffee makers and free local calls are other standard privileges.
Actually, the list can be filled with new hotels and hostels. Take a glimpse of this webpage and find out the prices as well.
What to See on the Way to Khor Virap?
If you decide to visit Khor Virap and turn to a tour agency to arrange your trip, then you will be offered a Yerevan-Khor Virap-Urtsadzor- Areni-Noravank route. These sights are definitely the must-sees in Armenia.
Noravank Monastery is Right at Your Nose
After visiting Khor Virap monastery continue your way with Urtsadzor. It’s a village in Ararat province which has 131 species of butterflies, also a number of bird species.
On the way to Noravank, visit Areni wine factory. By the way, Areni village is the cradle of the oldest winery in the world. After all, you reach Noravank- the pearl of rich architecture of Armenia.
It’s a 13th century monastery located in a narrow gorge made by the Amaghu river. The gorge is famous for its sheer, tall, brick-red cliffs across the monastery. The later attracts attention with its two-storey St. Astvatsatsin church, which has access to the second floor by way of a narrow stone-made staircase.
The complex of Noravank includes the church of S. Karapet, S. Grigor chapel and the church of S. Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God).
Khor Virap: The Legend of St. Gregory the Illuminator
Armenia is a homogeneous country. Armenians make the overwhelming majority within the population and they are Christians that derived their faith from apostles. The religion has accreted with the Armenian culture so closely that it exists in every corner of Armenia.
Christianity was initially introduced to Armenians by the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus in the 1st century AD. At this time, pagan beliefs were widespread and practiced by the kings of Armenia.
Temples overwhelmed in the country, and one example of that era, the temple of Garni, restored in the 1960’s, still stands. However, pagan practices did not keep Christian missionaries from spreading the word of God to Armenians.
The son of Partev Anak Gregory was among them. He was baptized a Christian in Caesaria. Unfortunately, St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 13 years in Khor Virap.
The legend states, that his dungeon was filled with snakes and other poisonous reptiles. However, he survived for 13 years only by the grace of a kind woman, who secretly fed him.
King Trdat fell in love with a Christian nun named Hripsime, who refused to break her vows to God and marry the king. The king ordered to kill her. After her death the king went mad. The king’s sister released Gregory from captivity to heal her brother.
The King survived and converted his kingdom to Christianity in 301AD, making Armenia the first as its nation to adopt Christianity state religion. Gregory became the Illuminator the first Catholicos, the head of the Armenian Church.
He built the mother cathedral of the Armenian church. In future years, churches were built near the Ejmiadzin Cathedral in honor of the martyred nuns Hripsime and Gayane, who were canonized. The church of Khor Virap was built on the place of St. Gregory’s captivity.
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