Khor Virap Monastery Complex in Armenia

The Khor Virap is an Armenian monastery located in the Ararat plain in Armenia, near the closed border with Turkey, about 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) south of Artashat, Ararat Province. The monastery was host to a theological seminary and was the residence of Armenian Catholicos.

Located some 30 km from nations capital Yerevan, Khor Virap is best reached by organized tours, personal vehicle or by hiring a taxi. I have kept contacts from good old taxi driver Tom, which we met first when arranged a tour to Etchmiadzin cathedral, Tom wasn't available today but agreed to send his friend Misha. Here is a catch - the reason we decided to visit Kor Virap was to catch an awesome sunset (Golden Hour) photography. Misha picked us up at our Yerevan Park Hotel about an hour before sunset.

Khor Virap monastery and mount Ararat

Khor Virap monastery and mount Ararat

There is a cemetery located just before the monastery complex. As we arrived some 30 minutes earlier, we made a stop here, and I started to install equipment. 

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 by King Tiridates III of Armenia. Saint Gregory subsequently became the king's religious mentor, and they led the proselytizing activity in the country. In the year 301, Armenia was the first country in the world to be declared a Christian nation.

Chapel

Chapel 

A chapel was initially built in 642 at the site of Khor Virap by Nerses III the Builder as a mark of veneration to Saint Gregory. Over the centuries, it was repeatedly rebuilt. 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. Now, regular church services are held in this church. It is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Armenia.

Ararat plain

Ararat plain

There is international boundary between Armenia and Turkey,situated somewhere in the middle.

 It is situated about 100 metres (330 ft) away from the closed Turkish-Armenian border (sealed by barbed wire fencing) and defended by Russian military establishments that guard the troubled border zone

Khor Virap and Mount Ararat

Khor Virap and Mount Ararat

The Golden Hour photography experiments have started.

The monastery is surrounded by green pasture lands and vineyards within the Ararat plainand is in view of Mount Ararat. The Arax (or Arakas) River flows close-by and the monastery is opposite of Aralık, Turkey.

Inside chapel

Inside chapel

The 17th century church built around the pit is a simple structure surrounding a large courtyard which looks like a fort complex.

Archaeological sites were excavated starting in 1970 in the thirteen hills (maximum height 70 metres (230 ft)) around Khor Virap and up to the valley of the river. Excavations in the hills 1 and 4, and sections of hills 5, 7 and 8 and of the neck of the land between Hills 1 and 2 are in progress. Some archaeological excavations have also been carried out outside the walls of the church at the site of Artashat, the capital of the Tiridat dynasty.[20] In addition to ancient coins and potsherds, excavations have unearthed well preserved mud-brick fortifications on the north slope of the third hill from the northeast.

Monk with long moustache

Monk with long mustache

I met both a priest and this monk, we had a nice chat about both monastery complex and politics. The monk in above picture have been growing his mustache for more than 20 years. Unfortunately I forgot the name of monk (I will definitely search for him next time and correct my fault - or you can correct me right now, post in comments)

Another chapel

Another chapel

God, I just love church photography.

Khor Virap and Mount Ararat in Sunset

Khor Virap and Mount Ararat in Sunset

King Artashes I, founder of the Artashesid dynasty, established his Armenian capital at Artashat (also known as Artaxtisata) around 180 BC. It is believed that Hannibal, the Carthaginian General who was persecuted by Rome, was also instrumental in establishing Artashat.Artashat remained the capital of the dynasty till the reign of King Khosrov III (330–339) when it was moved to Dvin. Subsequently, Artashat was destroyed by the Persian King Shapur II.Artashat is close to the hillock of Khor Virap. Until its chapel was built, Khor Virap was used as royal prison.

Armenia
Coordinates: 39.878333 44.576111