It is the only existing eco-Roman colonnaded building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union. Built-in the Ionic order.
It's located in the village of Garni, in Kotayk Province, Central Armenia, at the edge of a triangular cliff that overlooks the ravine of the Azat River and the Gegham mountains. It is a part of the fortress of Garni, one of the oldest fortresses in Armenia, that was strategically significant for the defense of the major cities in the Ararat plain.
It was built probably by king Tiridates I in the first century AD as a temple to the sun god Mihr. After Armenia's conversion to Christianity in the early fourth century, it was converted into a royal summer house of Khosrovidukht, the sister of Tiridates III.
Renewing it in the 19th century, led to excavations at the site in the early and mid-20th century, after its collapse in a 1679 earthquake. It was reconstructed between 1969 and 1975, using the anastylosis method. It is considered one of the main tourist attractions in Armenia and the central shrine of Hetanism (Armenian neopaganism).
The temple follows the general style of classical Ancient Greek architecture that appeared in the seventh century BC.
It is a peripteros built on an elevated podium. It is built using grey basalt quarried locally without the use of mortar. The blocks are bound together by iron and bronze clamps. The temple is composed of a portico (pronaos) and a cella (naos). It is supported by a total of twenty-four 6.54-meter (21.5 ft) high columns of the Ionic order: six in the front and back and eight on the sides (the corner columns are listed twice).
Based on a comparative analysis, Sahinian proposed that the design of the columns has its origins in Asia Minor.
It is the best-known structure and symbol of pre-Christian Armenia.
Current state and use
It became a tourist destination even before its reconstruction in the 1970s. Today, the nearby medieval monastery of Geghard, they are considered part of the main tourist attraction sites in Armenia.
Since 1990, the temple has been the central shrine of the small number of followers of Armenian neopaganism (close to Zoroastrianism) who hold annual ceremonies at the temple, especially on March 21—the pagan New Year. On that day, which coincides with Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, Armenian neopagans celebrate the birthday of the god of fire, Vahagn. Celebrations by neopagans also are held during the summer festival of Vardavar, which has pre-Christian (pagan) origins.
Most people visit the two sites together. They are collectively known as Garni–Geghard. In 2013 some 200,000 people visited the temple.
The celebrities who visited the temple include presidents of Greece (Karolos Papoulias), Cyprus (Demetris Christofias), and Austria (Heinz Fischer), the Spanish opera singer Montserrat Caballé, American TV personalities Khloé and Kim Kardashian, and Conan O'Brien, Michaëlle Jean, Secretary-General of the Francophonie, Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono.