Garni Temple


icon-mapGarni 2215, Kotayk Region, Republic of Armenia

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The pagan temple of Garni is supposed to be built in 77 AD. It is located in Kotayk region of Armenia at the left bank of Azat River. The temple was dedicated to God Mihr, the Armenian pagan god of light and the Sun. 

According to a Greek inscription, it was founded by Tiridates I of Armenia. In 305 when Armenian King Tiridates III adopted Christianity as a state religion, all the pagan places of worship were destroyed. The Temple of Garni is the only pagan Hellenistic and Greco-Roman structure to have survived. Probably it survived because of its widely recognised status of "masterpiece of art".

The temple is constructed of grey basalt. It is supported by a total of twenty-four 6.54-metre high columns of the Ionic order: six in the front and back and eight on the sides. The 24 columns symbolize the 24 hours.

The staircase of the temple has nine 30-centimetres high steps. There are square pedestals on both sides of the staircase on which the sculpture of Atlas, a titan from Greek mythology, is carved as if he holds the entire temple on its shoulders.

The complex was strategically built upon a promontory above high cliffs and surrounded by walls, making it a powerful fortress. The complex included a Roman bath, a royal summer palace and a 7th-century church. The Roman bath contains a mosaic crafted from fifteen different colours of natural stone that bears the inscription. “We worked but received nothing”.

An earthquake in 1679 completely destroyed the temple and strew the ruins across the site and into the gorge. It took the archaeologists more than 20 years to put the pieces together. The reconstruction was completed by 1975, almost 300 years after it was destroyed in an earthquake. The temple was entirely rebuilt using original stones. The missing pieces were replaced by blank stones to make them easily recognizable. 

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