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Khor virap is an Armenian monastery located in the Ararat Plain in Armenia. The fact that Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned here for approximately 14 years by King Tiridates III of Armenia is responsible for Khor Virap’s fame as a monastery and pilgrimage site. Following that, Saint Gregory became the king’s religious mentor, and the two of them oversaw the country’s preaching efforts.

 When King Tiridates III ruled over Armenia, the Christian Grigor (Gregory) Lusavorich served as his personal assistant and preached the Christian faith. Tiridates, a pagan, was not pleased with having a counselor of a foreign religion, and he tortured Gregory severely. When the king learned that Gregory’s father, Anak the Parthian, was responsible for the king’s father’s murder, he ordered Gregory’s hands and legs to be bound and thrown into the Khor Virap, where he would die in the gloomy prison of Artashat. Gregory’s unwillingness to offer sacrifice to the goddess Anahit also led to the king torturing him and imprisoning him in the Khor Virap. After that, he was forgotten, and the King went on to conduct wars and persecute Christian minorities. Gregory, on the other hand, did not die during his 13 years in prison. Gregory’s survival was credited to a Christian widow from the nearby town who, under the influence of a bizarre dream vision, would drop a loaf of freshly made bread into the pit on a daily basis. During this time, Diocletian, the Roman Emperor, desired to marry a charming female and dispatched agents to find the most beautiful woman. They tracked out a girl named Rhipsime in Rome, who was studying in a Christian nunnery under the guidance of Abbess Gayane. Rhipsime fled to Armenia to avoid the king’s marriage proposal. Tiridates tracked down Rhipsime and forcibly brought her to his palace after launching a quest to find her and punish those who had aided her flee. After failing to charm her, he ordered that she be brought into his presence by a collar around her neck in the hopes of convincing Rhipsime to marry him. Rhipsime, Gaiane, and many other Christians were persecuted and killed as a result. Tiridates went insane, “behaving like a wild boar while torments fell on his household and demons possessed the people of the city,” according to legend. Khosrovidhukt, Tiridates’ sister, had a vision in the middle of the night in which an angel told her about a prisoner named Gregory in the city of Artashat who could heal her brother. After that, Gregory was brought to king to cure him and eventually freed. In 301 AD, King Tiridates, who had converted to Christianity after receiving a miraculous healing from Gregory, declared Christianity to be the state religion of Armenia. Gregory was appointed Bishop of Caesarea and stayed in the King’s service until around 314 AD.

Armenia was the first country in the world to be recognized a Christian nation in the year 301. Nerses III the Builder constructed a chapel on the site of Khor Virap in 642 as a symbol of respect to Saint Gregory. It has been renovated many times over the years. Around the ruins of the ancient chapel, the monastery, the refectory, and the monks’ cells, the larger chapel known as “St. Astvatsin” (Holy Mother of God) was built in 1662. This church now has regular church services. It is one of Armenia’s most popular pilgrimage locations.

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