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Garni Temple

  • Garni, Kotayk
  • From Yerevan 28 km
  • Google Maps
  • Jan - Dec

Garni Temple

The pagan temple of Garni is located in the village of Garni, Kotayk region, on the territory of Garni fortress. Garni fortress was built in BC. III-II centuries on a beautiful cape, protected on three sides by rocks. During the reign of the Artaxiad and Arsacid Dynasty, it also served as a royal summer residence.

On the territory of the castle there are many notable historical and archaeological monuments, but the jewel of the complex is the pagan temple dedicated to the God of the Sun, Mithras. The Garni Temple is the only preserved pagan temple in Armenia and stands out for its beauty and historical and cultural value. It is a Greek style peripteral building surrounded by 24 columns and a Roman style platform (podium) with 9 steps and a height of 2.5 meters. The 24 columns of the temple symbolize the 24 hours of the day, and the number of steps - the 9 social classes accepted in ancient Armenia. The temple had a threshold and an altar, and on the pedestal of the altar stood a statue of the god Mithras fighting a bull. The walls were laid without mortar, and the stones were fastened with iron rivets and molten lead.

Although the temple is a building in the Greco-Roman style, it has such distinctive features as:
- built by local basalt, and basalt is much more difficult to process than marble,
- has a special hole on the roof, thanks to which the rays of the sun at noon illuminated the altar and the statue of the god Mithras,
- decorated with plant and animal ornaments specific to Armenian art.

In 1945, the famous Armenian painter Martiros Saryan noticed by chance a tombstone with a Greek inscription in Garni village cemetery. It immediately attracted the attention of historians. After the study of the inscription, many scientists cаme to the conclusion that the temple was built in AD. 77 by the king Tiridates I (Trdat I) of Armenia.

It is noteworthy that after the adoption of Christianity, all pagan temples in Armenia were destroyed, with the exception of the Garni Temple. It also survived many invasions by the conquerors of Armenia. Unfortunately, in 1679 the temple was destroyed by a powerful earthquake: only the platform remains standing.

Excavations of Garni fortress began in 1909. Fortunately, most of the stones of the temple were remained in place: this allowed the restoration works to begin. Many famous architects tried to restore the original appearance of the temple, and only the architect Alexander Sahinyan managed to reproduce the exact reconstruction project for the Garni temple. In 1968, the government approved the project and in 1969-1976, under the leadership of Alexander Sahinyan, restoration works were being carried out brilliantly.

A royal sauna, palace buildings, a 7th century church, a cuneiform inscription of the king Argishti I of Urartu about the capture of Garni were found in the territory of Garni fortress. There one can find also Greek inscriptions of the temple construction.

The complex is one of the most visited attractions in Armenia. In the evening, the Garni temple is illuminated with colorful lights giving the temple a unique beauty.

Other attractions in Garni