Temple of Garni

Temple of Garni is an Iconic pagan temple located in the village of Garni in the country of Armenia. The temple of Garni itself was dedicated to the sun goddess Mythra. Armenians shared Zoroastrian entities with Persia (and by the time of Garni Temple, with the Eastern Roman empire, which had adopted Mythra as a patron goddess), and worshipped fire as an ultimate gift from the gods, an entity in itself.

I’ve visited the Temple of Garni last June on my trip to Armenia, I absolutely loved it although I did find it relatively small but it was great to visit one of the main tourist attractions in Armenia as it is considered the central shrine of Armenian neopaganism. I remember the weather was amazing on that day and the nature of the surrounding place was just epic, I will add some of the pictures that I had taken during my visit to the temple.

The temple is the most significant structure in Armenia from the pre-Christian period and has become a symbol of this era, furthermore it is the sole standing Greco-Roman colonnaded building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union.It became a tourist destination even before its reconstruction in the 1970s.Today, it is, along with the nearby medieval monastery of Geghard, one of the main tourist attraction sites in Armenia, Most people visiting Garni also visit Geghard, The two sites are often collectively known as Garni-Geghard (Գառնի-Գեղարդ).


Location

The temple is located exactly at the edge of a triangular cliff which overlooks the ravine of the Azat River and the Gegham mountains in Garni Village, Armenia.



Architectural Style

Garni Temple was designed according to the sacred geometry of the day: It perfectly follows the Pythagorean and Platonic theories of sacred geometry in its design, a design for civilization carved form the wilderness, and then there is the Other Side of Garni, the wilderness itself.

The temple follows the style of classical Ancient Greek architecture which began developing in the seventh century BC. Scholars have variously described the structure as Greek, Roman or Greco-Roman and have usually linked it to Hellenistic art, often pointing out its distinct features and local Armenian influence. Some scholars have emphasized the Armenian influence on its architecture, calling it “Armenian-Hellenic” (Sahinian), while others have completely dismissed this view, calling it a “foreign structure on Armenian soil”.Toros Toramanian, for instance, stressed the singularity of the temple as a Roman-style building on the Armenian Highlands and “remarked that the Garni construction essentially had no influence on contemporary or subsequent Armenian architecture.” Sahinian, on the other hand, called it a “product of the architectural-constructional art of the Hellenistic period” that entirely resembles the 9th century BC Urartian Musasir temple.


The temple is a peripteros (a temple surrounded by a portico with columns) built on an elevated podium. It is constructed of grey basalt quarried locally. The temple is composed of a portico and a cella . The temple is supported by a total of twenty-four 6.54-metre (21.5 ft) high columns of the Ionic order: six in the front and back and eight on the sides (the corner columns are listed twice).

Garni Temple Plan

Structure

The triangular pediment depicts sculptures of plants and geometrical figures.The staircase has nine unusually high steps—30 centimetres (12 in) high, about twice as high as the average height of stairs.Tananyan suggests that the unusually high stairs compel a person ascending the staircase to feel humbled and make physical effort to reach the altar.On the both sides of the staircase there are roughly square pedestals. Atlas, the Greek mythological Titan who held up the earth, is sculpted on both pedestals in a way seemingly trying to hold the entire temple on its shoulders. It is assumed that, originally, pedestals held up altars (sacrificial tables).

The exterior of the temple is richly decorated. The frieze depicts a continuous line of acanthus. Furthermore, there are ornaments on the capital, architrave, and soffit. The stones in the front cornice have projecting sculptures of lion heads. A fragment of the architrave bearing a lion head was removed by Captain J Buchan Telfer in the late nineteenth century and bequeathed by him to the British Museum in 1907.

The Columns are of Iconic Order.

The cella of the temple is 7.132 metres (23.40 ft) high, 7.98 metres (26.2 ft) long, and 5.05 metres (16.6 ft) wide.Up to 20 people can fit inside the cella. Due to the relatively small size of the cella, it has been proposed that a statue once stood inside and the ceremonies were held in the outside. The cella is lit from two sources: the disproportionately large entrance of 2.29 by 4.68 metres (7 ft 6 in by 15 ft 4 in) and the opening in the roof of 1.74 by 1.26 metres (5.7 by 4.1 ft).

When I visited the temple, I went into the cella, there were two men playing an instrument and playing a certain tune, people were gathered around in the cella, the weather was amazing, the whole atmosphere was relaxing and divine in a way. Definitely a place to visit 🙂

Picture taken by me inside the cella
Temple of Garni at night.
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