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Garni Temple, Armenia's Last Tie to Hetanism

Garni Temple. Garni, Kotayk Province, Armenia. (Serega Yu / iStock)

As you take a tour through the Armenian countryside, the mountains whiz by. The countryside melts away until suddenly, you see a giant Greek style temple. What is a

Greek style temple doing in the middle of Armenia? The answer comes by looking at Armenia's Hetanist (pre-Christian) past.

Located on a high cliff near a bend of the Azad River, Garni Temple has overlooked the

countryside since the beginning of the first century CE. Believed to have been built between 70 and 80 CE, it was originally dedicated to the Sun God Mher, and later, to the Goddess Anahit. While the temple was destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1679, the rubble was salvaged and the temple was reconstructed on its original foundations between 1969 to 1975.

To this day, visitors looking inside the temple can see graffiti scratched on the stones as far back as 14th century, in languages such as Arabic and Farsi. While the temple itself may not have always been there, archeological evidence was found which shows that the ancient Urartian people lived in the area between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE. While we may never know for sure, it is widely believed that the temple was commissioned by King Tiridiates I between 70 and 80 CE, and this claim can be verified by an

inscription found in 1945, claiming that the temple was commissioned by the King.

The survival of the temple is a miracle in itself, and one that occurred thanks to the intervention of Princess Khosrovidukht, sister of Tiridates the Great. When other temples were being destroyed during the conversion process to Christianity, she felt that the Garni temple was too beautiful to destroy.

Garni Temple in 2013. (Gnvard on wiki)

Architecture of the Temple

The temple is the only remaining classical building in Armenia. It is built in the Ionic order in classical Greek style, and is made of grey basalt stones. It has 24 Ionic columns, each of which are 21.5 feet high. This towering structure also contains rooms that were used by worshippers to bathe themselves before placing their offerings in the temple. There were three known rooms; a cold bath, tepid and warm bath, and an offering chamber. This was very important, as the worshippers needed to be clean before they gave offerings.

In conclusion, the Temple of Garni is one of the oldest sites in Armenia, it is a great symbol of Armenia's heritage, and is certainly worth a visit!



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