Kim Kardashian was there. World leaders visited this Greek temple. Armenian Americans of the Holy Martyrs Apostolic Church of Bayside before Covid-19 visited. I was part of a summer “Pilgrimage to Armenia” with Rev. FR. Dr. Abraham Malkhasyan, President Aram Ciamician organizer in coordination with the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR ), of the Holy Martyrs Church, Bayside, New York. Garush, a brilliant native-born Armenian father of a young son, spoke perfect English. Armenia is a land trilingual in Armenian/Russian/ English.
“Garni, reminds you of a somewhat plain Parthenon. It was built in the first century A.D. by the Armenian King Tiridates with the money he received after visiting Emperor Nero in Rome. The temple was destroyed in 1679 in an earthquake but was reconstructed in Soviet times.”1
“Villagers used pieces of Garni in the building of their homes,” explained Garush.
“Archaeologists had to convince them to give up the stones for the reconstruction project.”
“The structures of Garni combine elements of Hellenistic and national culture, which is an evidence of antique influences and the distinctive building traditions of the Armenian people. The artistic merit 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 a heathen god, probably to Mithra (Mihr in Armenian), the god of the sun whose figure stood in the depth of the sanctuary (naos). 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’. In its style, the temple, a six-column periptere, resembles similar structures in Asia Minor (baths at Sagala and Pergamum), Syria (Baalbek) and Rome. Its architectural shapes are basically-Hellenistic, but local traditions also show in it.”2
The group climbed up the top of a hill with enthusiasm. Father Abraham led the group singing Armenian Orthodox religious hymns. We had a great view of the countryside from the back of Garni.
“You are joining a group whose families were destroyed by the Armenian Genocide 100 years ago,” said Rev. Father Abraham Malkhasyan. at Echmiadzin, Armenia.”3 Seeing the soul of Armenia, at Garni opened my eyes to the unique Armenian-Greek relationship. Why did I join this pilgrimage? The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic says on its website that “Greece was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia upon independence (21/9/1991). There is a Greek Embassy in Yerevan (since 1993) and an Armenian Embassy in Athens. Relations between Greece and Armenia are very strong both emotionally and historically, due to the co-existence of Greeks and Armenians during the Byzantine period and under the Ottoman Empire.
An Armenian Festival to-Go will be held on Saturday, September 19th at the church grounds 209-15 Horace Harding Expressway, New York, NY 11364. All orders must be paid in advance. Call 718) 225-0235 or visit Facebook Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs.
All photos by Lara Ciamician