Royal Prison Turned Into Touristic Destination
Deep well which has 20 ft (6 meters) depth and a diameter of 14 ft (4.4 meters): place for prisoners to try to survive during their punishment. Nowadays, you can be the lucky visitor to such weird place that has became one of the most popular pilgrimage sites and visited destination for tourists to Armenia. You might have postcards with Khor Virap pictures long before you get here, as this is a legendary place far beyond the borders of this small country. The place is also notable for having an iconic location at the foot of Mount Ararat.
When talking about Khor Virap as a must-visit destination in Armenia, Khor Virap monastery and the area around is meant. A chapel was initially built in 7th century at the site of Kirat Virap respecting the memory of St. Gregory. Over the centuries, it was repeatedly rebuilt. In 17th century, 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.
Khor Virap (in Armenian, means “deep well”) is surrounded by several true legends. It is said that in 3rd century, Armenian pagan King Tiridates 2nd imprisoned St Gregory the Illuminator (Surp Grigor Lusavorich) in this well for 13 years, because St. Gregory was trying to spread Christianity in pagan Armenia at that time. It was impossible to survive in that well at least because it was impossible to get out, and that “deep prison” was full of dirty water, waters swarm and snakes. During whole time of imprisonment of St. Gregory an old woman was bringing water and bread every day to help him, because she “was told by God to do so in her dreams”. Some time passed, and king Tiridates went mad and is “said to have behaved like a wild boar ….” It was then that King’s sister had a vision in the night, where an angel told her about the prisoner Gregory in the city of Artashat who could end King’s torments. That’s why after so many years St.Gregory was set free and cured the king.
Gregory started preaching Christianity to the king, his court and army and spread all over the nation. King Tiridates proclaimed Christianity as the state religion of Armenia in 301 AD. Therefore, Armenians became the first nation on the world who adopted Christianity as their state religion.
For visitors there is a long ladder installed to a large cell of fairly good size, which was Grigor Lusavorich’s prison cell. The pit is well lit, but the climb down the metal ladder requires being comfortable in a narrow spaces and having appropriate shoes. It is also rather humid down in the pit during summer months so don’t bring candles down as this adds to the heat.
Want more legends ? Visit the place!