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: Itineraries | : admin | 15.03.2007, 04:45

In Garny there is an architectural complex - a monument of culture of Armenia of antique epoch of its history (IV century BC - III century AD). The fortress of Garny was picturesquely settled down on a high rocky gorge. From three sides it is surrounded with deep canyons the walls of which are vertical rocks with steep and freakish stones. From the fourth, flat side, a 26 meters high powerful fortification, which was constructed from the large basalt blocks, connected with each other by the iron brackets filled with lead. 14 towers with loopholes were located on fortifications which communicated with each other.
GARNY in IV-III centuries B.C. served as a residence of Armenian kings. Palace buildings were situated in the southern part of the fortress. Here there were also front doors apartments for the kings, both palace church, and premises, and a bath. The imperial Palace was two-storey. It occupied the area of 1540 meters. Its smart hall (1020 m), was decorated with numerous columns. Walls of the premise were richly painted by color plaster. As the result of excavation, in the territory of the palace, fragments of various sculptures, subjects of a palace life, and details of architectural ornaments were found. Not far from the palace there was a front door hall where solemn ceremonies were carried out. The visitors were received here. Nearby a bath dating from the III century was located. It consisted of five rooms: cloak room, bathing hut, both with hot and cold water, furnace premises with the tank for heating water. Up to now has survived the mosaic containing various plots by which floors of premises were covered. For example, the plot of a mosaic in the cloakroom was taken from the Greek mythology. The gods of Ocean and Sea accompanied with Nereids and fishes were represented. The inscriptions in the Greek were kept as well.To the north of the constructions the garrison was placed. Here there were also premises for the servants. A unique monument of the fortress is the antique pagan temple devoted to the god of the Sun, and constructed in I century AD in the highest part of the fortress. But it was destroyed (as many pagan temples) after the acceptance of Christianity in Armenia.
The temple dominates over other constructions. It is far seen from different directions, amazing with the proportionality and harmony of its parts. The temple is erected on a high platform, the sizes of which are 1511 meters. To the northern side of the building rises a wide ladder consisting of 9 powerful steps. The roof of the construction is based on 24 majestic columns. The temple has a rich architectural finishing. Ladders of array acting on the sides are decorated with bas-reliefs of genuflecting atlants with hands lifted up. The capitals of columns were decorated with openwork deciduous ornaments with a low relief. The eaves of lateral facades were crowned with lion's heads. The doorway was decorated with a carved platband. Inside the temple the idol of the Sun being a subject of worship of ancient Armenians was established.
During the Christian period the kings used the temple of GARNY as a summer residence - "houses of cool".
The temple was destroyed during the earthquake of 1679. But in the 60-s of XX century the temple was restored.
Not far from GARNY there is a well-known cave monastery AYRIVANK or GEGHARD. It is located on the slope of the mountain. It is surrounded with majestic steep rocks.
According to historians, a cave monastery-AYRIVANK was already situated in the gorge in IV century. However no construction of this monastery was kept. Only chronicles preserved data on majestic temples of the monastery, convenient dwellings monastic brotherhood and numerous economic constructions where the travelers always found refuge. However in X and XI centuries the monastery repeatedly was exposed to an attack of aggressors, and in 923 it was plundered and burnt. All initial structures of the monastery were destroyed. Only at the entrance there was a semi cave chapel of the ILLUMINATOR carved in XII century.
Existing ensemble of GEGHARD relates to II-XIII centuries. The name Geghard, church legends connect with a spear stored here, with which the Christ was pierced on the cross. Now the tip of this spear is preserved in EDCHMIADZIN museum.
The main church of the complex KATOGHIKE was constructed in 1215. Katoghike is a dome hall typical of the Middle Ages the plan of which constitutes a cross entered into a rectangular. On the corners of the hall four two-storeyed chapels of the aisle are located. The cantilever stairs lead to the second floor. The usual architectural composition here is finished with perfection. It is notable for its proportionality and grace of furnish. The vertical dominates in the composition of the monument. The upwards tendency is emphasized with the extended form of a drum with narrow and long niches which are covered with graceful lacy furnish, and the arrangement of the main ornaments of the temple on a vertical. The dome of the building looks smart enough. The drum of the dome is framed with paired semi columns, connected with graceful arches among each other. Walls are decorated with a thin carving. Here vegetative and geometrical ornaments are combined with volumetric images of birds and animals, human masks. Transition from twilight of the bottom part of the premise to the saturated light of the space high under the dome is especially expressive. Continuation of the main church is vestibule or chapel, constructed in 1225. It is a big rectangular hall in the center of which there are four powerful columns passing the eight arches, supporting the dome of the building. The dome consists of nine different vaults. All parts of the dome are decorated with various ornaments. Special grace of furnish is lent by the overlapping at the central part of the construction, ending up in a light window, which is called yerdik.
In the northern wall of vestibule, which is replaced with a rock, there are two entrances. The left door of the vestibule leads to the main rocky temple. Though it is entirely cut in a rock, but is well illuminated through the light window which was cut on the ceiling. The church has a precise architectural shape. Here the semi columns and intersected arches, deep vaulted niches bordered by figured arches are cut down as well. Walls are covered with graceful carving. Both the dome of church and the ceiling of the vestibule are richly decorated with an ornament. On the floor cold spring splashes. At the edge of a light aperture the name of the builder was carved, presenting this masterpiece of mason arts.
Through the right door you can find yourself in a cave construction, which consists of two premises. The front premise was the burial vault of prince's family- the Prosheys. Here above the arch their arm is carved: the head of bull to which two lions are tied; between the lions there was an eagle with a lamb in claws. The western wall is decorated by semi columns with arches, the eastern wall - with big ornamented cross between a door and a small chapel. Other premise is the church ASTVATSATSIN (VIRGIN). The church is well illuminated with light from an aperture on the top of the dome. The drum is especially graceful. It was broken by small arches into twelve parts and passes in four arches, covered beside carved trefoils, going in chessboard order, like bee honeycombs. Arches lean on harmonious half -columns with which internal corners of the church walls form a cross . The altar niche is on an eminence and is decorated with an ornament from rhombuses, half- columns with arches and excellent eaves. On its sides, in the walls, two cross stones were cut out. The whole church is richly decorated with carving.
Church Asvatsatsin has three side chapels, two - near the altar and the third is in the northern wing. From them only the southern wing is located so close to the surface, that builders cut a window there through which church Katoghike is visible.
Along the rock the abrupt external ladder is cut through, which leads to the various constructions inside the rocks. In 1288 ten-meter corridor was cut through in a rock, the walls of which had been spotted out with cross stones cut on its walls. The corridor ends in a big rectangular hall. This is a spacious premise with four columns in the middle, joined with arches both among themselves and with the walls. It is illuminated through an aperture in a dome. However it is bright there only in summertime, and only when the sun stands high above head. Obviously such illumination speaks that the premise served as burial vault.

It remains unclear till now, how these underground constructions were cut through. Here it was necessary to make very difficult calculations, and importantly, to work without defect: in fact any careless movement of a hand of the mason could lead to defect which in ground construction could be removed by replacement of a stone that could not be made in cave premises. And in fact, here everything was thought over, weighed and accurately executed. As all carved premises have a light aperture in the top of the central arch, it is possible to assume, that all works began with it by carving these unique constructions in rocks.
Monastery of Geghard was a well known spiritual center of medieval Armenia for long years. It was also one of the centers of writing. Here numerous manuscripts were written, copied, decorated with miniatures. In the monastery there was also a rich library. There was also a school here. Cave cells are located on both sides of monastic walls. Already for 700 years the churches of Geghard monastery have stood. Very recently dwellings for monks, a monastic yard have been well-equipped, refectory was constructed.
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