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  • Tags: Georgia

86 Items

The Bolnisi Stela

Stelae and carved stone crosses are a common phenomenon in early Christian Kartli. They are believed to date between the C5th and C10th. One of the earliest and most well-known is the stela from Bolnisi in Kvemo Kartli which has been ascribed a date of the C5th-C6th and which is now housed in the Shalva Amiranashvili State Museum of Art in Tbilisi.

Type: Museum Exhibit
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Gremi

Gremi in Kakheti is best known today for its extremely well-preserved complex of seventeenth century buildings, preserved from the time when the city was the regional capital. However beside the citadel lie the remains of an older city at the site and this includes three adjoining small early churches that have been built abutting each other and clumsily linked physically and given additional elements such as a dome in later periods.

Type: Architecture
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Chabukauri

Chabukauri is located to the west of Nekresi monastery and lies in the modern territory of that foundation. As at Dolochopi, the large three-church basilica found on the site was once the centre of a substantial settlement that has since been overtaken by forest, although in this case the growth is not as dense as it is in Dolochopi. Also as at Dolochopi, there are various phases to the building. In this case the large church is believed to date to the fourth to fifth centuries and, after the main church was damaged in an earthquake, part of the north-eastern sector of the building was adapted to become the south aisle of a new, smaller building. This smaller church was constructed with two distinctive horseshoe-shaped apses, the larger of which had a synthronon - as at the main church in nearby Dolochopi. Also as at Dolochopi there are medieval kist burials scattered across the site. Finally to the north west of the main church there is a small apses structure, believed to date to the fourth century, that boasts a high quality terracotta tiled floor, suggesting that this too could have been an early church. The main building was roofed by timber beams and terracotta tiles held in place with nails and ante fixes as at Dolochopi and here there was evidence that the walls of the structure were once plastered and painted red.

Type: Archaeological Excavation
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Dolochopi

Excavations at Dolochopi, across the river from the modern town of Kvareli have revealed a large "three-church basilica" that is believed to date to the mid fifth century. The site stands in the centre of what was once a substantial settlement, which appears to have declined steadily after earthquakes and attacks by the Arabs and other invaders, fading into obscurity and being overtaken by the forest by the late middle ages. The basilica is built over an earlier church and, although it declined for the reasons outlined above, the nave and immediate vicinity of the church remained in use for burials. In particular the north-eastern corner of the church which was adapted in the eighth to ninth centuries as a mortuary chapel and seems to have been utilised until at least the twelfth of thirteenth centuries. The church was roofed by wooden beams supporting terracotta tiles that were held in place with iron nails and antefixes - a typically Byzantine design, as were the lighting fixtures discovered at the site. In many other respects, including in the numismatic finds, the complex looks east to the Persian Empire, but the overwhelming evidence suggests that the church is an early example of Georgian vernacular ecclesiastical architecture. One element that stands out is the inclusion of a synthronon, an element of ecclesiastical furnishing hitherto unknown in Georgia except at the nearby archaeological site of Chabukauri.

Type: Archaeological Excavation
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Zegaani

At Zegaani in Kakheti there is a complex of three early churches. The fifth-century church of St. Marina is exceptionally small and its nearest comparable building in terms of design seems to be the tiny church of St. Nino in Samtavro, Mtskheta. The interior of the space is richly frescoed with an (unpublished) sixteenth to seventeenth century fresco cycle, that is currently open to the elements given the lack of windows and doors on the church. There is a simple, single naved church dedicated to the Archangels of an inter determinate date and a large three-church basilica dedicated to the Virgin and of an architectural type very similar to the basilica to the north of the valley at Nekresi. Like the Nekresi basilica, this church is believed to date to the sixth to seventh century. This basilica was in the process of being resorted at the time of the visit as the site was being re-established as a working monastery.

Type: Architecture
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Kvelatsminda Gurjaani

The church of Kvelatsminda (All Saints) in Gurjaani, located in the Kakheti region of east Georgia is an architectural anomaly that does not have any parallel elsewhere in Georgia. The church dates back to the eighth to ninth centuries and uniquely boasts two small domes as well as a gallery level entry at the west end of the building. This first floor gallery leads to passageways that run to the north and south of the main nave and terminate in chambers of indeterminate function. Due to these passages the exterior windows of the church do not communicate with the nave below. Some questions remain as to how the church would have originally looked as it was extensively restored in the seventeenth century and this could have led to some changes in the interior disposition of the building.

Type: Architecture
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Mutso

Mutso, like Shatili, has a perfectly preserved complex of medieval tower dwellings. Unlike Shatili the village is not UNESCO listed and so there is more freedom open to the restorers who at the time of this visit were conserving the village. Mutso marks the end of the road - beyond this point there are only trails to other settlements and to the Atsunta Pass into Tusheti. The ancient village is located on a pinnacle of rock overlooking a bend in the river below and the climb to the settlement passes several tomb vaults (akeldama) of the same type found at Anatori on the Shatili-Mutso road.

Type: Architecture
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Khakhmati

Khakhmati is the last village before the Datvisjvari (Bear-Cross) pass and as the road leaves the village there is an extensive sacred enclosure (nishi) that encompasses a number of shrines and sacred trees. It is unclear how widely used this enclosure remains, but it is clear that some ritual practice continues at the site.

Type: Ethnographic information/Social History
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Anatori

The Anatori burial vaults lie several kilometres north of Shatili below the Georgian-Chechen border post on the other side of the river. The vaults are called akeldama in Georgian and the people of Shatili have a tradition that when a plague came to the town in the middle ages, those affilcted by the disease walked to the akeldama and sat and patiently waited to die in the vaults rather than infect their healthy families and friends.

Type: Architecture
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Shatili

Shatili is the capital of Khevsureti and lies several kilometres south of the Georgian-Chechen border. The medieval heart of the village is now UNESCO listed meaning that all restoration must be undertaken under rigid guidelines and modern additions such as electricity are forbidden. Partially for this reason the modern inhabitants of the village live in a series of houses around the ancient heart of the settlement that date from the Soviet period onwards. The site was forcibly cleared in the twentieth century because it was used as a Soviet airbase, but the local population has returned since the fall of communism and taken up residence in the well-built houses left behind by the soldiers as well as having adapted items such as abandoned railway carriages and storage containers for use as homes. Khevsur towers are distinct from those of Svaneti and Tusheti by clustering together and interlocking to form one fortified village rather than being divided into distinct family units. This type of village is closer to the architecture of peoples like the Chechens and the Daghestanis to the north, and indeed Chechen-style towers are interspersed with native forms across both Khevsureti and Tusheti. As with the rest of Khevsureti, Shatili is still largely pagan with a number of sacred enclosures and smaller shrines dotted around the settlement, however there is a new church and a small monastery in the village that witness to the growing influence of the Georgian Orthodox Church in even the remoter regions of the country.

Type: Architecture
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