Garni Remained Standing – How the Pagan Temple Was Saved from Destruction

Garni Remained StandingEveryone knows how and when the pre-Christian culture of Armenia was destroyed. Only Garni did not submit, and to this day, there is no answer to the question of how the pagan temple has been saved from destruction.

Some believe that Garni remained standing due to its greatness and beauty. But in Armenia, there had been even bigger and more magnificent temples – including the temples of Aramazd, Anahit, Vahagn, Astghik, Gregory the Illuminator, and King Trdat III – that were demolished.

According to other researchers, the preservation of the temple was due to the exceptional attitude to Garni of the sister of King Trdat Princess Khosrovidukht who spent the summer months here and where she would along with Queen Ashkhen complete her earthly life.

There is another possible reason for the preservation of the temple. It is known that in Mtsbin in 298, a 40-year peace treaty was concluded between Rome and Persia. Rome, an ally of Armenia, established military strongholds in Armenia, one of which was stationed in Garni.

The fact that the Romans in Garni performed religious ceremonies is beyond doubt since the deities were identical in the Greco-Roman world and in the countries with Hellenistic traditions.

For Armenia which accepted Christianity in 301, war with Rome was not desirable, especially in conditions of mistrust and hostility between Armenia and the powerful Sassanid state.

The destruction of Garni would mean a manifestation of hostility towards the allied Rome. Moreover, Rome did not view its ally who had adopted Christianity particularly favorably.

10 years after the adoption of Christianity, the Roman legions invaded Greater Armenia. Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 260 – 340), an outstanding Greek theologian who is considered the father of church history, writes that “Emperor Maximinus II Daza declared war on Armenia which had initially been a friend to Rome. And since they were Christians and fervently worshiped God, the God-hater tried to force them to return to idolatry. ”

However, why exactly Garni was preserved in the territory of Greater Armenia after the expulsion of the Roman legions from Armenia and especially after the victorious procession of Christianity in Rome in 313 is unknown.

Garni was nonetheless ruined by a devastating earthquake in 1679. Fragments of columns with delicate and exquisite carvings, stones from the walls, and capitals remained to lie around the temple, which made the restoration of the temple to its original form possible.

The question of the restoration of Garni was raised in 1880 when archaeologist Count Uvarov proposed to transport Garni’s stones to Tiflis and rebuild the temple there. The transportation of the fragments was entrusted to the governor of Yerevan who refused to comply with the order. The restoration works of Garni would eventually begin in 1969 and lasted 6 years.

Arshaluis Zurabyan




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