Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Amazing Architecture # 1 - Garni Temple, Armenia

This Greco-Roman temple sits near the edge of a cliff above a deep canyon in Garni, a small village 32km east of Yerevan. The stunning mountainous landscape which surrounds it greatly enhances the beauty of the temple itself. Most likely it was originally constructed in the 1st century AD by King Tiridates I of Armenia using funds he received from the Roman Emperor Nero, and was dedicated to the heathen God Mithra.
The temple was sacked when the region was conquered by Timur Lenk in 1386, and in 1679 the temple was levelled by an earthquake. Most of the original columns and building blocks remained at the site until the 20th century, and the temple was reconstructed under the guidance of Soviet archeologists between 1969 and 1975. The sloped roof of the temple is supported by 24 Ionic columns which sit on an elevated podium.
The blocks of the temple are made of basalt, and it is possible to distinguish between the original bocks and the modern replacements by the lack of carving on the newer stones. Several Christian churches, a palace and a bathhouse were built around the temple after the adoption of Christianity in Armenia in the year 301 AD. These buildings are now in ruins, but floor mosaics can still be seen in the bathhouse. A series of fortification walls made of huge basalt blocks protected the temple complex, and together with its location on a triangular outcrop above the valley, the site had superb defensive capabilities.
Garni can be reached by bus or marshrutka from Yerevan and makes a great daytrip from the capital. Many people go to see the temple in Garni while on the way to or from a visit to the Geghard Monastery. While in Garni village, another worthwhile sight that few tourists visit is the ruins of the fortified monastery of Havuts Tar.

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