Garni Temple and Geghard Monastery

The pagan temple of Garni was built in the 1st century during the reconstruction of the fortress (77 AD). After the adoption of Christianity it became the summer residence of Khosorovdukht, the sister of King Trdat III. It was destroyed in 1679 by the earthquake. The parts, fragments of graceful columns and wall stones were spread all around the temple. This circumstance made possible the restoration of the temple which took place in 1930s. Taking into account the sayings Movses Khorenatsi ascribes the foundation of Garni to Hayk Nahapet’s grand-grandson Gegham, in the name of whose grandson – Garnik – was named the temple of Garni. With its general structure the construction is peripteral, the spatial-dimensional structure of which rising from high pedestal is crowned with luxuriously designed façade. It is supposed that the temple was dedicated to Mitra, the God of Sun.

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Near the temple a hoof of a bull, was discovered, which used to belong to the pagan idol destroyed during the adoption of Christianity. Today, the marvelous monument, in a restored state, continues delighting people and is considered one of the gorgeous diamonds of pagan-time intangible culture of Armenian people, at the same time representing a world value.It is supposed that the temple was built in the 2nd century BC. In the 1st century AD it was ruined by Roman armies. In the 70’s of the 1st century Garni was reconstructed by Trdat I. During the reign of Artashesyan and Arshakunyac kings Garni was a remarkable temple, army station and summer residence, and in the 4th century – also a bishop-residence. The temple was ruined during the Arab invasions, but the township survived and in the second half of the 9th century developed into a township.

In the south-western part of Geghama Mountain Range, оn the slope of the gorge of the Goght brook of the Azat River, within the embrace of picturesque mountains one of the all-Armenian shrines – St. Geghard Monastery is sheltered.

Geghard is a medieval monastery in the Kotayk province of Armenia, being partially carved out of the adjacent mountain, surrounded by cliffs. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

While the main chapel was built in 1215, the monastery complex was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator at the site of a sacred spring inside a cave. The monastery had thus been originally named Ayrivank , meaning “the Monastery of the Cave”. The name commonly used for the monastery today, Geghard, or more fully Geghardavank meaning “the Monastery of the Spear”, originates from the spear which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, called here Thaddeus, and stored amongst many other relics. Now it is displayed in the Echmiadzin treasury.

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The spectacular towering cliffs surrounding the monastery are part of the Azat River gorge, and are included together with the monastery in the World Heritage Site listing. Some of the churches within the monastery complex are entirely dug out of the cliff rocks, others are little more than caves, while others are elaborate structures, with both architecturally complex walled sections and rooms deep inside the cliff. The combination, together with numerous engraved and free-standing khachkars is a unique sight, being one of the most frequented tourist destinations in Armenia.

Most visitors to Geghard also choose to visit the nearby the pagan Temple of Garni, located further down the Azat River. Visiting both sites in one trip is so common that they are often referred to in unison as Garni-Geghard.

You can make your own tour to Garni-Geghard by renting a car.

 

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