The Fortress of Garni and the Garni pagan temple are situated on a high cliff that extends over the Azat River Gorge. This site was developed as a fortress as early as the 3rd century BC and is highly defensible in its nature. In around 70 AD a Hellenistic temple was constructed in the same area. Garni temple was destroyed by an earthquake in the late seventeenth century, but was extensively restored in the 1970s as it’s considered to be one of the most iconic sites in Armenia as well as in the entire territory of the former Soviet Union.
The surrounding area of the temple contains a palace complex which comprises a number of buildings over a large area around the main square of the fortress. Palace buildings include the remains of a small temple, throne room, formal hall, residence and a bath house. The site is enclosed by the remains of a fortress wall and gateway, which still serves as the main access to the attraction. Several buildings have been identified within the walled area, including the remains of a two level Royal Summer Palace, a bath complex, a church built in AD 897 AD, a cemetery and the site’s most famous and best preserved monument – the Greco-Roman temple built in the classical Ionic order.
More than six successive layers of human occupation were revealed after numerous archaeological excavations on the site. The earliest traces of human settlement date back to the Neolithic period, followed by Bronze Age and Classical layers, as well as several distinct medieval layers. The fortification circuit consists of massive basalt blocks weighing up to 6 tons and extends over 300 meters in length, punctuated by guard towers and the main entry gate.
Today, the Garni Temple remains as a trace of long forgotten Armenian pagan past. Garni temple is the only pagan temple in the territory of Armenia that survived the 4th century transition to Christianity as a state religion. To this day, the site is the remaining Greco-Roman colonnaded building in the territory of the former Soviet Union.