The ecclesiastical complex at Martvili is considered one of the most important groups of Christian architecture in Georgia and is believed to date back to the seventh century. One element of this group is a 'stylite' dwelling. However, as mentioned elsewhere on this site, in Georgia 'stylites' lived in tower houses rather than standing on exposed columns as in Syria and these houses were often in the vicinity of monasteries or churches.
Katskhi pillar is the most well-known 'stylite' site in Georgia. In fact rather than being a column, as in Syria, in this case the 'pillar' is a pinnacle of rock that houses a chapel and some monastic cells on its summit. Although originally believed to date back to the sixth century, archaeological exploration suggests that it was inhabited no earlier than the ninth century and it has been pointed out that this manner of monasticism is closer to the monasteries of Meteora in Greece than it is to the Stylites of Syria. However, Katskhi remains fixed in Georgian opinion as the home of an ancient Stylite and there has thus far been little discussion as to the exact relationship between these variant interpretations of the practice of Stylitism.
Type: Archaeological Excavation
The Cardo Maximus was the main thoroughfare of the Emperor Hadiran’s 2nd Century CE Aelia Capitolina. It was a wide, stone-paved and colonnaded road that led through the heart of the city from the north at the Damascus Gate to the south with an unknown end point.
The southern end of the road was excavated in the 1970s during the reconstruction of the city’s Jewish Quarter. Excavators uncovered a section of the road, now located below ground level and accessible for visitors to walk upon today. This section of road was dated to the Emperor Justinian’s rebuilding programme of the 6th Century CE to link the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the newly constructed Nea Church. It should therefore be viewed as a later addition to the original Roman road as no evidence of an earlier pavement was excavated below.
This domed basilica stands in the hills north of Shilda on a track that leads ultimately up into the Caucasus mountains and Dagestan. Although the modern border is now difficult to negotiate, in the past there was a steady traffic of traders and animal herders across the mountains making the now abandoned village of Bartsana, on the open area south of the forest where Sarbela church is located, a prosperous local centre up until the nineteenth century. The church itself has horseshoe arches and the support of the dome is difficult to confirm as the dome has collapsed and within the last 30 years a corrugated metal pyramid has been constructed to protect the building. There are traces of medieval frescoes on the north wall and the north wall of the apse. There is a narthex added to the west side and an additional arcade was appended to the south. The apse is flanked by two pastophoria, the southern of which has ceramics embedded to aid the acoustics. The dome was supported by two piers on the west side and this two-pier disposition was reported by Chubinashvili as being a late development - the same arrangement can be seen at the sixteenth century royal church at Gremi. However this appears to be a late antique foundation, suggesting that the use of piers to support a dome may be earlier in Georgia than previously accepted. Two red crosses were found painted beneath the medieval plaster on the west side of the south pier and in the middle of the north wall. There is an extensive open air marani north of the church.
The basilica at Shilda is a relatively large example of the "three church" type and represents a simple variant of the form. It has three windows on the east end and the north aisle is truncated because the eastern end forms a pastophorion only accessible from the central nave of the building, as encountered elsewhere in places such as Eniseli and Dubi. The central nave is a great deal higher than normal and this is the result of a substantial rebuilding in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, almost certainly as the result of a Lezghin (Dagestani) raid. At the same time as the roof was raised, windows were added at the clerestory level to the north, south and west and doors were added from the central nave to the aisles and from the aisles to the exterior on both the north and south sides. The only two slight departures from this common form of basilica type that are original are the fact that the whole building is tied together - the aisles are tied into the central nave - rather than separate as a precaution against seismic activity and both the north and south aisles are considerably wider than is standard.
This small three church basilica follows the same pattern as elsewhere in Kakheti and was once at the centre of a (now lost) village. It is believed to date from the sixth or seventh centuries and has the same disposition on the north aisle as Dubi and Eniseli by having a pastophorion entered from the central nave at the east end of the aisle. However the shortened western section of this aisle terminates in a flat wall rather than an apse. On the south side the aisle terminates in an apse and, as at the Areshi large basilica, there is an open colonnade on this side. In this case there are two columns and three arches open to the outside. The north and south aisles were not built tied in to the central nave and, rather than interpreting this to mean that they were built later, it is more likely that this construction technique was intended to protect against the seismic activity in the region in late antiquity. Today the church stands in a small copse on a wooded island amidst the vineyards of the Kindzmareuli wine corporation, which is why it is referred to as Kindzmareuli church.
Dubi Monastery on the eastern edge of the town of Kvareli lies south of the road out to Kvareli Lake. The church is a standard Kakhetian three church basilica that was excavated some years ago and dated to the seventh century. Today the church is the heart of a modern convent which has led to a few changes being made, but these have generally been sympathetic to the monument's original state. The most obvious alteration has been the extension of the small east window in the central nave to allow a great deal more light into the main body of the church. Interestingly in this case the north and south aisles are asymmetric with the south aisle being significantly narrower than that of the north side. As at Eniseli, the north aisle is truncated so that a pastophorion, entered from the central nave of the church occupies the eastern part of the northern aisle. However in this case the remainder of the aisle was apsed at the east end - and this segment of the building is now ruined. On the south side the aisle was originally barrel vaulted, but this has now been lost and most of the aisle is open to the elements although a small chapel with a flat east wall is enclosed at the eastern end. Originally the building functioned as a parish church but today is primarily the preserve of the nuns, although they are well integrated within the local community and are welcoming to all visitors. Dubi remains a relatively small example of the three church basilica.