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.
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
Tags: Archaeological Excavation, Archaeology, Architecture, Basilica, C4th, C4th-C5th, Chabukauri, Church, Dolochopi, Georgia, Kakheti, Nekresi, Synthronon, Triple Basilica
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
Tags: Archaeological Excavation, Archaeology, Architecture, Basilica, C12th, C5th, C8th-C9th, Chabukauri, Dolochopi, Georgia, Kakheti, Kvareli, Synthronon, Triple Basilica
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.
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.
The Church of St. Stepane Khirseli is actually located in the modern village of Tibaani, rather than the eponymous Khirsa in Kakheti. This is the easternmost site associated with the Thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers and, as with many other of the sites, has little if any evidence of early Christian occupation with the church dating to the medieval period and having been substantially renovated in the seventeenth century. As with a number of these sites a shrine around the saint's purported grave seems to be a relatively new phenomenon.
Ikalto in Kakheti is nationally revered because of its medieval academy. This institution is linked to the national poet, Shota Rustaveli, the author of "The Man in the Panther's Skin" and the ruins of the academy are medieval. However, they are in a walled complex with three churches; the Sameba (Trinity) church dates from the C6th, the smaller single-naved Kvelatsminda church is C7th and the large, centrally planned Gvtaeba (Transfiguration) church that dominates the group is C8th-C9th. Gvtaeba has recently been the subject of a partial excavation and restoration funded by Geocell, a mobile phone network, but the work has been poorly executed and the church still suffers from major structural instability.
Tags: (As)Syrian Fathers, Academy, Architecture, C6th, C7th, C8th-C9th, Centrally-Planned, Church, Georgia, Gvtaeba, Holy Trinity, Ikalto, Kakheti, Kvelatsminda, Middle Ages, Rustaveli, Sameba, Thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers, Transfiguration
Dzveli Gavazi is the name given to a church dated to the C6th in the village of Alkhalsopeli at the foot of the Caucasus near Dagestan. The church has been changed since the C6th, especially with the addition of an ambulatory that wraps around three-quarters of the building. The church was restored in 1852 and an inscription raised to commemorate this, and has also undergone restoration by the National Agency for the Cultural Preservation of Georgia.
The ruined church outside the village of Akhalsopeli is believed locally to be dedicated to Davit Gareja. It is a ruined single-naved church of uncertain date.
Nekresi is a complex of churches in the foothills of the Caucasus near the border with Dagestan. In the valley beneath, archaeologists have found the remains of a sun temple and it is popularly believed that the early Christians appropriated an earlier sacred site, possibly a Zoroastrian high place, in building a church in the C4th at this location. However this belief has been disproved by archaeological excavation which has found no evidence of pre-Christian occupation at the site and has redated the 'C4th' building to the C6th. This structure has entrances on the north, south and east sides and is open to the elements on all sides. It has an undercroft that was used for burials suggesting that this was possibly built as a funerary chapel. The complex also includes a C6th-C7th basilica, known in Georgia as a triple basilica as the narthex opens onto three aisles, but the south aisle does not communicate with the main body of the church and both the north and south aisles are semi-open to the elements with arched arcades to the north and south. There is also an C8th-C9th centrally-planned church that shows a strong Persian influence in its design. The rest of the monastery complex is medieval and a series of early Georgian inscriptions excavated nearby are displayed within them. Nekresi is also associated with one of the Thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers St. Abibos Nekreseli who was reputedly martyred for his resistance to Zoroastrianism.
Tags: (As)Syrian Fathers, Architecture, C4th, C6th-C7th, C8th-C9th, Centrally-Planned, Church, Funerary Chapel, Georgia, Georgian, Georgian Inscription, Inscription, Kakheti, Middle Ages, Nekresi, Thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers, Triple Basilica, Zoroastrian