preaching Christianity in a pagan Armenia. Moreover, King Trdat believed his father was killed by Gregory’s father. And for these reasons, he confined Gregory the Illuminator, bound hand and foot, in the prison. Gregory languished in prison for 13 years, surviving thanks to the generosity of local peasants - particularly poor Christian women who secretly provided him with food every day.

Serendipitously, Gregory was rescued by Trdat's sister Princess Khosrovidukht. Curiously, she is also well-known in Armenia for having saved the Temple of Garni from destruction. In a dream, she saw that Gregory was the only man who could save her brother from madness and other debilitating ailments, which Trdat had after witnessing the massacre of the Christian Martyrs. The dream came to her a fourth and fifth time, and it was only then that they agreed to go to Artashat and lower a rope into the prison pit. Once they lowered the rope they yelled “Gregory! If you are alive, come out! The God to whom you pray has commanded us to free you!”

Gregory then grabbed the rope and they dragged him out into the light of day. The preacher’s skin looked as black as coal—he was then washed, dressed and taken to the king. Gregory was released from Khor Virap, and he shortly thereafter cured the king of his unusual symptoms. From that day Trdat became the most loyal and dedicated supporter of Christianity.

In 301 AD, Armenia became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. This event happened at the exact place where the prison pit had been located and the Khor Virap monastery was built.

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