This Monday and Tuesday, June 20 and 21, the Armenian Church commemorates the virgin saints Hripsime and Kayane and their companions. Thirty-three nuns, led by Kayane, left Rome and sought refuge in Armenia hoping to escape the Roman Emperor who desired one of the nuns, the beautiful Hripsime. In Armenia King Drtad became captivated by Hripsime’s beauty and sought to wed her. She refused. Enraged, the king had Hripsime (and the other nuns) imprisoned and tortured to death.
When Gregory was released from his imprisonment in the deep pit (khor virab) he built chapels over the relics of the nuns, which Catholicos Sahag Bartev later renovated. During the 7th century churches were built over both sites. The church dedicated to Saint Hripsime, built by Catholicos Gomidas, is considered to be an architectural masterpiece and was a great influence on the future course of Armenian architecture. Catholicos Gomidas also wrote a sharagan (hymn) in their memory—the famous Antsink Nviryalk (Dedicated Beings).
The two churches, as well as a third (Shoghogat) are in the city of Etchmiadzin (Vagharshabad), not far from the complex of buildings that comprise the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, which UNESCO recognizes as a World Heritage site.