In Garni village of Kotayk marz and in the deep gorge of Azat River, a majestically soaring Garni pagan complex, towering over a triangular cape, is protected by two 100-meter-high cliffs that join by 180-meter enclosure. According to the traditions, the father of the Armenian History Movses Khorenatsi ascribed the foundation of Garni fortress to Hayk’s great-grandson Gegham, whose grandson was also named Garni after the temple. The exact date of the foundation of the fortress is unknown. A manuscript of the 14th century dated the year of the 2166 of BC as the fortress foundation year. It is believed that the temple was dedicated to the sun god Mithras and 24 columns represent 24 hours of the day.
Although Garni Temple reminds of the Hellenistic era monuments, however, it remains as an unsurpassed example of the high-class architecture of the ancient times. After the spreading of Christianity, Garni Temple was used for secular purposes. It was used by Khosrovadukht, the sister of King Tiridates III, as a summer villa, and it is the reason that Garni was also called “Tiridates canopy” in BC. It was destroyed by Romans in the first century. Tiridates King I restored Garni in the 70s of the first century and the inscriptions left in Greek, describe it as an impeccable fortress. During the reign of Artashesyan and Arshakunyats kings Garni Temple was an important fortress, military post and a summer villa, and it was the Episcopal residence in the 4th century.
The fortress, having been destroyed by Arabic invasions, however, revitalized and became a town in the 2nd half of the 9th century and Ashot II Bagratuni restored this magnificent temple in the 10th century, which stood until the 17th century. Unfortunately it was razed to the ground and was buried under the ruins in the result of the devastating 1679 earthquake in Armenia. Delicately shaped columns, their chapiters and stones of the Temple were fragmented and laid around the temple. Due to Professor Bouniatyan’s efforts the Temple was restored only in 1939. Its model prepared by Gurgen Arevshatyan is kept in History Museum of Armenia. We are indebted to Alexander Sahinyan for the present look of Garni Temple and for his painstaking efforts to put every stone in its original place. Nowadays, we can see a cold and warm water 4-room bath with beautiful mosaic floor depicting nautical scenes embellished with natural stones of 15 colors
In May 24, 2011 Garni historical and cultural museum and reserve was awarded with the international UNESCO-Greece of Melina Mercury’s conservation and management of cultural landscapes prestigious award.