Armenia’s Divine Underground Museum is a legacy of love – travel

Filled with stairways, grottoes and secret rooms, Levon Arkelyan’s underground museum is one of Armenia’s biggest tourist attractions .

The Armenian village of Arinj isn’t notably simple on the attention. Dreary-looking Soviet-era condo blocks dominate the panorama. Gnarly, winter-ready bushes poke lethargically up on the sky.


  • Perched atop a small hill in Armenia’s Ararat plain, near the Turkish-Armenian border, is the Khor Virap monastery, actually ‘deep dungeon’ in Armenian.
  • It derives its identify from a dungeon accessed by climbing via a slim gap within the now-chapel’s stone ground, down a steep iron ladder (it isn’t for the faint-hearted and even mildly claustrophobic).
  • It was on this dungeon that the saint Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 14 years by the pagan King Tiridates III.
  • In 301 CE, the story goes, the king was cured of dementia by Gregory, who claimed to have been aided by divine forces. He was lastly let out, Armenia was declared a Christian nation (the world’s first), and Gregory turned the primary head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

However then, they’re not the rationale most individuals make the 20-minute drive right here from Armenia’s capital metropolis of Yerevan. The explanation any vacationers come right here is to see a labyrinth nicknamed ‘Armenia’s Taj Mahal’, formally, Levon’s Divine Underground Museum.

Hidden beneath an ordinary-looking dwelling, on the finish of a meandering alley, is a collection of underground chambers, all carved out by one man — Levon Arkelyan. It began when his spouse Tosya requested for a potato storage cellar for winter. Levon began digging in 1985, and didn’t cease until his dying in 2008. Right this moment, the caves, stairways, grottoes and secret rooms he created are one in all Armenia’s greatest vacationer points of interest.

Over 23 years — utilizing solely rudimentary instruments like a chisel and hammer — Levon (who was a builder by coaching), created a 3,000-sq-ft house, 21 metres deep.

Working alone, typically for 20 hours a day, he managed to dig via the powerful basalt layer and attain the softer, easy-to-carve tuff, recognised by its delicate pink hue.

Levon was a builder by training. Using only rudimentary tools like a chisel and hammer , he created a 3,000-sq-ft space, 21 metres deep, and also carved out decorative pillars in the walls.

Levon was a builder by coaching. Utilizing solely rudimentary instruments like a chisel and hammer , he created a 3,000-sq-ft house, 21 metres deep, and likewise carved out ornamental pillars within the partitions.

It was from the tuff that Levon’s creations began to take form. These included the principle stepped pathway main down to 6 small chambers and ribbed-roofed vestibules, all elaborately embellished with Doric columns, conventional Armenian carved crosses referred to as khachkars and gorgeous bas-reliefs.

The unique plan was for an underground maze of 74 rooms. Levon stated he noticed the plans in his goals, and believed he was being guided by the divine.

Since his sudden dying at age 67, Tosya has run the power as a ‘pay-as-you-please’ non-public museum the place she and her daughters take turns to behave as guides.

The caves are actually a part of authorities brochures too. And all over the place you look in Arinj, indicators level to this distinctive attraction.

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