Khor Virap

Ararat mountain has the best panorama from Khor Virap, a monastery located in the distance of 40 km from Yerevan. It is right in front of biblical Ararat mountain. The monastery was host to a theological seminary and was the residence of Armenian Catholicos. Khor Virap's notability as a monastery and pilgrimage site is attributed to the fact that Gregory the Illuminator was initially imprisoned here for 14 years. A chapel was initially built in 642 at the site of Khor Virap, as a mark of veneration to Saint Gregory. In 1662, 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. It is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Armenia.

Mount Ararat is right in front of Khor Virap monastery. It consists of two major volcanic cones: Greater Ararat or Masis, the highest peak in Turkey and the Armenian plateau with an elevation of 5,165 m, and Little Ararat or Sis (3,925 m). The mountains consist of basaltic lava, and no rivers are flowing from it. Mount Ararat has been widely accepted in Christianity as the resting place of Noah's Ark. It is the principal national symbol of Armenia and has been considered a sacred mountain by Armenians. Ararat plain is located in front of the mountain. It is divided into two sections by the Arax River, the natural border of Armenia and Turkey. It is not only agricultural centre, but also the cradle of the Armenian civilization: 6 of 12 capitals of historical Armenia were built here, since it was on the Silk road. It was connected to Artsakh via 
Selim Pass.

Artaxata, capital of ancient Armenia, located not far from modern Artashat town. Until its chapel was built, Khor Virap was used as royal prison there. The citadel of Artaxata was built on the seven hills in 180 BC. The layout was drawn by king of Armenia Artashes I and Hannibal, the Carthaginian General who was persecuted by Rome. Artaxata was in the centre of Ararat plain, becoming a center of bustling economic activity and thriving international trade. It remained the capital of the kingdom for more than 500 years. A focal point of Hellenistic culture, Armenia's first theatre was built here. Subsequently, it was destroyed by the Persian King Shapur II. During the archaeological excavations the ruins of the city were found.

One of the preachers of Christianity was Gregory, whose father was responsible for the murder of the king's father. Gregory refused to sacrifice to the goddess Anahit, which provoked the king to torture him and condemn him to imprisonment in the Khor Virap (Deep Pit) to die in the dark dungeon. During 13 years of imprisonment Gregory survived due to a Christian widow from the local town who regularly fed him by dropping bread into the pit. During this period, the Roman Emperor Diocletian wanted to marry a beautiful Christian girl named Rhipsime. She fled to Armenia to avoid the marriage, but here Rhipsime, Gaiane and other nuns were killed. King Tiridates went mad, and the only person, who could heal him was Gregory. Henceforth, Christianity was adopted as a state religion of Armenia in 301 AD.

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