Khor Virap

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Khor Virap 9: St. Gevorg Church / Khor Virap.

St. Gevorg Church / Khor Virap

The pit where Grigor languished for 13 years is located to the southwest of the main church, underneath St. Gevorg Chapel, a small basilica with a semicircular apse:

After ascending the patriarchal throne … he [Nerses III] built a sanctuary over the pit where Saint Grigor, the dedicated apostle of God, had been entombed amidst poisonous insects and had crushed the head of the perverse monster, thus transferring the Armenian people from the deadly depths of idololatry to the glorious light of the Sun of God. --Yovhanes Draskhanakertsi XIX 15

Unlike Armenian churches that have an East-West orientation with the altar at the east end, St. Gevorg is oriented northwest-southeast, in the same way as the temple at Garni, which was built over a Urartian worship site. This has led some to suggest there may have been an earlier shrine at the spot, though this is not proved.

A chapel was built in 642 for one of the greatest Catholicos in Armenian history, Nerses III (the Builder), responsible for many of the religious structures of the 7th century. He put an end to the divide between the state and the church. His grave is located near the relics of St. Grigor.

Inside the chapel there are two pits, the farthest of which is the one where Grigor was held for 13 years before meeting King T'rdat and converting him to Christianity. The pit is deep, 6 meters, and 4.4 meters in diameter; in its day located inside the city's castle keep, a prison for those designated for execution. St. Grigor was left to die, and it was only with the help of a kind woman who lowered baskets of food to the prisoner that he survived.

After ordering to kill 37 virgins, among them St Ripsime and Gayane, who had escaped from Rome and come to Armenia to spread Christianity, the king had gone mad. In 301,the king's sister, Khosrovadukht, p repeatedly had the same dream wherein she was told that in order to save the kingdom the king had to bring Grigorout of the pit and submit to his will. to meet her afflicted brother,that they learned he was still alive.

Converting to Christianity, and gaining his sanity The king then issued a decree by which he granted Gregory full rights to carry out the conversion of the nation. The same year Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion. In 302, Gregory was confirmed as Patriarch of Armenia in Caesaria (his childhood home) by Archbishop Leontius.

Fulfilling his mission, and in his late 80s, Gregory withdrew to a small sanctuary near Mount Sebuh (Mt. Sepuh) in the Daranalia province (Manyats Ayr, Upper Armenia) with a small community of monks, where he remained until his death.


The text was edited by Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.