Garni Temple of Armenia
(Photo Credit: www.traveltoarmenia.am)
The Garni Temple is an ancient Pagan Temple located southeast of the city of Yerevan, overlooking the Azat River.
In the first century CE, Tridates, the Armenian King, dedicated this temple to Mihr, also known as Mithra, the Zoroastrian God. The inscription upon the temple reads,
“The Sun God (Helios), uncontested
King of Great Armenia built this temple
and impregnable fortress in the
11th year of his reign”
Helios is the Roman god of the Sun who is loosely connected to Mihr, and to whom, apparently Tridates associated himself with.
Strangely enough, the Armenian Travel Bureau’s website indicates that the temple was actually dedicated to the *Goddess* Mythra and that fire was worshipped as a separate entity, and a gift from the gods. While I personally prefer the temple being dedicated to a Goddess, I can find no other reference to Mythra as a Goddess.
The temple is Greco-Roman in construction and is richly decorated. The inner chamber could have fit several people, but it’s small size indicates that a statue once stood there. The fact that marble sculptures of bull hooves is close by suggests that the statue have been of Mihr, who is closely related to the bull.
The Garni temple was built at the site of an earlier Uratian temple. It was built using the Pythagorean theory of sacred geometry which they believed brought them in contact with the gods.
(Photo credit: www.atm.am)
There were nine stairs to a high pedestal, and the main entrance, which represented heaven and the most sacred. The number nine is 3 X 3 or the Trinity. There were six columns in the front and six columns in the back which represented perfection, while eight columns on each side symbolized new life.
When Tridates III adopted Christianity as the state religion, most of the known Pagan temples were destroyed. His sister requested that the temple not be destroyed, but turned into a summer residence for the royal family, and so a bath complex and a two-story palace was added to the grounds, along with a church. There is also a theory that the Christians may have thought it was a tomb and not a temple, which would have saved it from destruction
The temple was partially destroyed in a 1679 earthquake and restoration began in 1966.
Today, it is a central shrine for Pagans and celebrations are held there for Spring Equinox and the festival of Vardavar, in which people douse strangers, and each other with water.
(Photo Credit: www.atm.am)
While this festival is now Christian in nature, and held three months after Easter, it is firmly rooted in Pagan beginnings as it was associated with Astghik, the Goddess of Water,
The Garni Temple is just one of many Pagan temples that can still be found around the world.