The walled monastery complex, which sits on a rocky outcrop above the river plan, offers magnificent views of Mount Ararat as well as a fine example of early Armenian ecclesiastic architecture, the ruins of nearby Ancient Artashat and the Khor Virap State Nature Reserve. The monastery site, which has been extensively restored, is well presented. The hill of Khor Virap and the territory adjoining it were the site of the important early Armenian capital city of ancient Artashat, built by King Artashes I, founder of the Artashesid dynasty around 180 BC, can be found.
Khor Virap plays an integral role in the history of Armenia due to the legend of St. Gregory the Illuminator, the first Armenian Catholicos, who was imprisoned there for 13 years. During the reign of King Tiridates III the Great, Gregory the Illuminator was trying to spread Christianity in Armenia, which was not approved by the pagan ruler. Gregory refused to worship pagan Gods, thus, the king ordered his guards to tie the Christian’s hands and throw him into a deep well. King Tiridates left Gregory to die in the dark dungeon where he was imprisoned. He spent 13 years in that dark, damp and small place, but survived due to the kindness of a woman’s tender heart. Meanwhile, Tiridates enthusiastically followed the lead of his friend, the Emperor Diocletian, in savagely persecuting Christians.