[ Autumn, 2005 ] Garni Temple outside of Yerevan is one of the main tourist spots in Armenia. This is a Hellenism building originally built in the first century. It was a summer resort of…
Garni is located in the province of Kotayk in Armenia and is a city of around 8,000 inhabitants.
It is about 30 kilometres away from the capital, Yerevan.
Thanks to this area’s favourable situation, in the 3rd century B.C., a large fortress was built in the bend of the Azat river.
In the 8th century B.C., King Argishti of Urartu conquered the fortress and chose it as both his military headquarters and his summer residence.
Since then, over the centuries, the site has been enlarged and numerous different buildings have been erected in this location, amongst which are: The Royal Palace, the thermal baths, and, undoubtedly the most famous of all, a temple dedicated to Mithras.
The construction was made possible by funding provided by Nero to King Tiridate I of Armenia during a visit that was made by the latter to Rome in the first century A.D. The building incorporates the same architectural style as the Parthenon.
Unlike other Greco-Roman temples, the upper part of the temple was supported by 24 ionic columns on a basalt base.
Another place worthy of special interest is the thermal baths which are located near the site of the original fortress and where you can see a well-preserved heating system with intricate decorative mosaics on the floor with depictions of figures from Greek mythology.
These representations were made with natural stone of 15 different colours.
Tragically, as a result of a strong earthquake in 1679, the temple was destroyed, unlike other historic buildings nearby.
Fortunately, the fallen stones weren’t reused in other building projects which meant that, between 1949 and 1979, it was possible to rebuild the temple using the actual original materials.
The churches and the Palace of Katholikos which were built inside the fortress were not as lucky and so, now only their ruins remain.
The churches were built inside the fortifications during the 7th century after Armenia’s conversion to Christianity which occurred in the fourth century and as stated above, of these, nothing but ruins remain.
Outside the walls of the fortress, it is possible to visit a church which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and a church which is dedicated to St. Mashtots, the monk and theologian who was allegedly the inventor of the Armenian alphabet. There are also the ruins of the Monastery of Hayuts Tar nearby.
The temple at Garni is the only one that was built in the Hellenic architectural style in the area of present day Armenia or the Caucasus which makes this fabulous construction even more magical along with its wonderful location where visitors are entranced by the stunning panorama of the gorge as they look out from Garni .