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Stop At: Garni Temple, Geghard Monastery Road H3, Garni Armenia
Founded in I c B.C.
The fortress of Garni is situated in the village of the same name in the Kotayk District. That was a mighty fortress well known from chronicles (Cornelius Tacitus, Movses Khorenatsi, etc.). The structures of Garni combine elements of Hellenistic and national culture, which are evidences of antique influences and the distinctive building traditions of the Armenian people. Artistic merits and uniqueness of its monuments place Garni among outstanding creations of architecture of world importance. The temple was built in the second half of the first century B.C. and dedicated to Mitra, the god of the sun, whose figure stood in the depth of the sanctuary. After Christianity had been proclaimed the state religion in Armenia in 301, the temple was probably used as a summer residence of the kings. A chronicle describes it as ‘‘a house of coolness‘‘. Its architecture is very similar to the former Musasir temple in Armenia which had been destroyed. But it also has some influences from Hellenistic style. One of the most interesting phenomena of the temple is its bath- house which is situated in the northern part of the temple, at an angle to the residential block. Built in the third century, it comprised no less than five premises serving various purposes. The first room from the east was a dressing room; the second one was a cold-water bathroom, the third and fourth ones, warm and hot water bathrooms respectively. Of special interest is the soft-colour mosaic of the dressing room floor dating back to the 3rd-4th centuries, an outstanding example of monumental painting in central Armenia. Ocean and sea have been painted in the mosaic. Ocean symbolized the man and sea symbolized the woman. The mosaic has been preserved till our days. Garni Temple is the only monument which has been preserved from the pagan times of Armenia.
Duration: 2 hours
Stop At: The Monastery of Geghard, Geghard Armenia
Founded in the IV c., main church - 1215 y.
To north-east of Garni, higher up the gorge of the Azat River, there is a magnificent monument of medieval Armenian architecture - Geghard monastery. The specific character of this monument reflects, no doubt, the peculiarities of the austere and majestic scenery around it. The picturesque gorge of Gegharda-dzor with its high and precipitous cliffs is extremely winding, and the monastery opens to view unexpectedly behind a turn of a steep path leading to it. In the 1950s a road sign was put up near this turn - a lioness on a high pedestal, with its head turned as if showing the way. Its figure is stylistically connected with the decoration of the monastery. The exact date of the foundation Geghard monastery is unknown but it was built at the 4th century and formerly was called Ayrivank which means “cave monastery” because the half part of it is in the rock. The present name is to be traced back to the 13th century when, as a legend says, the legendary spear – “geghard” - was brought there. This spear is believed to be used to pierce Christ’s body during crucifixion. Nothing has remained of the structures of Ayrivank. According to Armenian historians of the 4th, 8th and 10th centuries the monastery had not only religious buildings but also well-appointed residential and service installations. Ayrivank suffered greatly in 923 from Nasr, a vice-regent of an Arabian caliph in Armenia, who plundered its valuable property, including unique manuscripts, and burned down the magnificent structures of the monastery. Earthquakes also did it no small damage. The existing ensemble dates back to the 12th-13th centuries, the period of the flourishing of national culture, especially architecture. Under the princes of Zakharia and Ivane the chapels of Grigory the Еnlightener - the most ancient structure of the monastery - its main temple and its vestibule, as well as the first cave church have been built.
Duration: 2 hours