(VATICAN CITY)–Pope John-Paul II–along with Armenian Church officials–attended the official inauguration of the statue of Saint Gregory the Illuminator in the Vatican on January 19.
The almost 18 feet high statue was placed in the last remaining empty niche along the walls leading to St. Peter’s Basilica–which house the statues of famous saints. It is situated at the site where visitors wait to climb the cupola.
An almost two-foot gilt bronze Armenian Cross is situated in the right hand of the statue–and a Holy Bible in the left. Two Armenian crosses and Saint Gregory’s adorn the statue’s vestment.
The Latin and Armenian inscription on the pedestal reads–"Saint Gregory Illuminator of Armenia 301."
On his trip to Armenia to mark the 1700th anniversary of the conversion of the Armenian nation to Christianity–Pope John-Paul II became inspired by a visit to Khor-Virab where Saint Gregory was confined–crouched in the dark for 13 years.
Thus–at the urging of the Armenian catholic Patriarch Nerses-Bedros XIX–the Pope pledged to do his utmost to erect–in the Vatican–a statue of the Saint Illuminator of the first Christian nation.
In 2001–the Vatican Launched an international design contest for a marble statue of the Founder of the Armenian Church.
The winner was artist Khachik Kazandjian from Paris–who recently created a 30 feet high monument of Alfred Nobel. That statue is in the center of the city of Sevran where Nobel lived and worked. Kazandjian is also a founding member and the First President of the Society of Armenian Artists of France.