Khor Virap, "the deep pitt", is the point of origin of the first Christian kingdom in the world. Standing in the middle of the plain at the bottom of Mount Ararat, with the mountains on the horizon, the thousand-year-old monastery is an unmissable place of pilgrimage.
The story begins in 298 AD, when Tiridate IV become King of Armenia. He wants to honour the pagan gods. One of his subjects, Gregory, a Christian, opposes this decision, provoking the king’s anger, who throws him into a pit where he would remain for thirteen years. But the sovereign falls ill and no one is able to cure him. He decides to appeal to his prisoner: in exchange for his cure, Tiridate will free Gregory and convert with all his people. The miraculous cure is obtained and Armenia becomes the first country with Christianity as its state religion as early as 301 AD. Gregory becomes the first patriarch of Armenia and he is later known as Saint Gregory I the Enlightener.
Founded in the 7th century, the monastery was rebuilt in the 13th century together with a university, which was established in 1225 by the religious Vardan Areveltsi. The site of Khor Virap is made up of several small reddish buildings that huddle together, as if to keep warm in the icy wind. It is overhung by a large rocky promontory at the top of which the cross and the flag are enthroned, giving a view of the plain, with the mountains in the distance, and from which Yerevan, the recent capital of Armenia, can be seen.
At the foot of the small hill that houses the monastery, a barbed wire fence indicates the border with Turkey, guarded by the Russian army. A little further on, a few kilometres behind these fences, stands the immense Mount Ararat: a biblical high place on which Noah took refuge with his ark, the Armenian national pride, today surrounded by Turkish minarets.
The old ramparts surrounding the buildings echo the determination of the Armenians who proudly defend their land as the "first Christian country in the world", which should not be allowed to fall under the blows of its Turkish and Azeri neighbours. Despite ancient hardships such as the genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the last century or the new outbreak of violence in Artsakh, Armenians continue to come in large numbers on pilgrimage to Khor Virap, full of faith and hope!
Source : Armenica