Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Thursday 23 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Pio of Pietrelcina
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Pope Francis visits pit where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned

Vatican Insider - published on 06/26/16

Pontiff concludes apostolic visit to Armenia at Khor Virap Monastery

ARMENIA — Two small stairways lead down to the room where St. Gregory’s pit is located. It is here, in one of the Armenian Church’s most sacred places, that Francis concluded his trip. We are less than 50 kilometers from Yerevan, near the (closed) border with Turkey, at the foot of Biblical Mount Ararat. There was once a fortress here, where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned in a pit for thirteen years by King Tiridates III, persecutor of Christians.

St. Gregory the Illuminator Monastery

In 301, having fallen seriously ill and after being cured through the intercession of Gregory, the king converted to Christianity along with his whole family and proclaimed all of Armenia a Christian nation. It was the first nation to become Christian. St. Gregory’s prison was transformed into a monastery, which in the 12th century hosted a renowned seminary and an important study and training center.

St. Gregory the Illuminator Monastery

A church was built above the pit — which runs 6.5 meters deep into the subsoil — becoming a national pilgrimage destination. The complex, which is under the jurisdiction of St. Etchmiadzin, was struck by a violent earthquake in 1679. It had to be rebuilt on a number of occasions, until the structure we see today was built in the 19th century. John Paul II visited it on September 27, 2001 at the end of his three-day trip to Armenia.

Pope Francis welcomed to St. Gregory the Illuminator Monastery

After being welcomed by the monastery’s superior, the Pope and the Catholicos made their way down the small stairs to the room where St. Gregory’s pit is located. There they lit a candle.

Pope Francis at St. Gregory the Illuminator Monastery

They then entered the adjacent chapel in procession and recited a prayer in Armenian and another in Italian. Finally, the Pope and Karekin went out onto the terrace overlooking Ararat and released two doves in the direction of the Biblical mountain which is now beyond the border in Turkey.

Pope Francis at St. Gregory the Illuminator Monastery

From here, Francis went directly to Yerevan airport to board the return flight to Rome.

ArmeniaPope Francis
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
Philip Kosloski
Pray this Psalm when you successfully recover from an illness
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
Philip Kosloski
Why do some Eastern Catholics use spoons for Holy Communion?
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.