Back to home

Garni 7: Sacred Geometry and the Temple at Garni

Sacred Geometry and the Temple at Garni

Ancestral Armenians built their lives around the laws of nature, carefully studying the seasonal ebbs and flows that governed their lives. Predicting the spring thaw and summer's rain was more than a show of magic, it was crucial to the survival of the culture. The elements were believed dictated by the gods, and control of the elements became synonymous with control (or flattery) of the gods, to insure their wrath did not strike against the people with flood, drought or pestilence.

Perfected by the Pythagoreans in ancient Greece, sacred geometry was used to construct buildings throughout the Near East and Rome. The temple at Garni shows an advanced stage of this belief, through the measures and geometric forms used in its construction.

Sacred Geometry

Almost literally, geometry meant contact with the gods. Geometry was also a fundamental tool for making things by hand. You may not be aware of it, but when you shape any object, you are following the laws of geometry, which is based on an even older skill--that of measures, or counting. In the ancient world, this knowledge was considered magic, and as magic, it was kept in the realm of religion, in the realm of priests.

In Sacred Geometry, numbers are combined with shapes to create a harmonious, sacred whole. The idea was to reunite humanity with the cosmic world. Sacred numbers have special symbolic meanings; the number “one” representing the universe, “two” for division, “four” for the seasons, “seven” for completion and “eight” for new life.

Of these the most sacred numbers were “three” (representing trinity and the holy triad, which in Rome would have been Jupiter, Juno and Minerva and in Armenia Aramazd, Anahit and Vahagn), “six” (perfection) and “nine” (three x three or the holiest number). Throughout the temple you will find these measures, or their combinations, illustrating this system of design.

Their importance is rooted in mystical belief—if you used these numbers in measuring, or follow them on certain dates and in combinations, you were appeasing the gods, and affirming yourself as a member of the metaphysical family.

Temple. The structure can be seen as a representation of the cosmos, with a raised platform (the heavens) on top of 9 steps leading to the main entrance (nine as the holiest number would signify the holiest spot, or the temple). The temple has a column to inner column ratio of 1 to 3 (1 representing the indivisible universe and 3 representing the triad)There are 24 columns representing the clouds or vapors (2+4 = 6, the perfect number; 24 = 8 x 3, or in sacred geometry new life x the sacred trinity; god given life) and the ceiling a dome of the heavens. The columns are arranged with 6 in front and back (the perfect number) and 8 on the sides (the first number after seven, the symbol of life).

Figure 1 shows the front of the temple with embedded geometric patterns. A circle can be made beginning with the first step and rising to the top edge of the cornice. Note how the circle is dissected by imaginary lines drawn from key points in the building.

Two perfect equilateral triangles are formed, which draw your attention to another three equilateral triangles inside, which again draw your attention to another set of triangles -six triangles with three sides (six x three equals 18 which in turn has the digits 1+8 that equals 9, the holiest number). Each set of three triangles has a combined 9 sides.

In Figure 2, the sanctuary is drawn with imaginary lines showing a perfect circle (1 = the unifying whole), with a group of 6 circles placed within (3+3, the perfect number). The lower four circles fill the space where the statue and sacred fire were placed. Dissecting the lower circles with angles creates three sets of perfect triangles, reinforcing the number 9 from the outer temple design, the triangles meeting where the idol stood, focusing on her face. The numbers 8 and 5 are repeated in the dimensions of the lines of measurement. Eight is the symbol of new life, the day of resurrection, the day after god rested, and the symbolic day when earth's history really began.

Five is a symbol of misfortune in some cultures, but with the Greeks it was also the sign of the pentagram, the sign of making things (the five fingers). Note that inside the sanctuary, five is always the length of measurement of horizontal lines, while eight is always the length of vertical lines.

The text was edited by ICOMOS/Armenia NGO.