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.
As mentioned in the entry on the large basilica in Areshi, the site was a huge city in late antiquity/middle ages and it was believed to have a church in every quarter. This small three church basilica was excavated under the direction of the Academican Levan Chilashvili in the 1970s and 1980s but was not subject to conservation and so has deteriorated severely in the intervening period.
This late antique basilica of the three church type is moderate in size and falls in between the other two churches at Areshi mentioned on this site in dimension. As with the smaller basilica, it has not been conserved and has suffered as a result - in this case being overgrown and having tree roots compromise the integrity of the standing remains. In the case of this church, a chapel was added and other alterations were carried out in the High Middle Ages, around the twelfth century.
A large number of churches were excavated in and around the village of Mtisdziri (called Areshi in the archaeological literature), Kakheti, in the 1970s under the direction of the Academician Levan Chilashvili. The large village that stands at Areshi today is only the remnant of an extensive medieval city that once occupied the territory north of the current settlement into the foothills of the Greater Caucasus mountains. Today many of these excavated monuments have deteriorated or been swallowed by vegetation but this sizeable basilica was conserved after excavation and stands on the western fringes of the current village. It dates probably to the fifth century and follows the standard form of Kakhetian three church basilicas. The large central nave had an arcade with two arches (three pillars) on either side and a small pastophorion to either side of the apse, which was inscribed within a flat east wall. Both the north and south external aisles terminate in apses and there is evidence on the west and south sides of decorative pilasters on the outside of the central nave. The south aisle was open to the elements with a five column arcade - having said this, the 'columns' had two square and three circular bases. There is evidence of cross-shaped piers at the junctions of the north and south aisles with the central nave and it is difficult to interpret the narthex as the two entrances do not align with the west door of the central nave, suggesting that it was subject to later alteration. All columns were created of rubble and mortar, as were the pilasters, showing that they were constructed in the vernacular Kakhetian building technique. The stepped base on the south side of the central nave could suggest a link with Armenia, where the same practice has been encountered.
The small basilica standing to the north of the village of Eniseli near Gremi in Kakheti is a very simple church on the standard pattern of Kakhetian three-church basilicas. This simplicity means that the only decoration to be found is over the eastern of the two clerestory windows on the south side of the building. An examination of the construction shows that the south aisle was built later than the central nave and the north aisle, which were both constructed at the same time. The current south aisle has been ruined and partially restored meaning that it is unclear whether or not the outer door on the south side is original or a later interpolation. The narthex has also been largely destroyed but most of the north aisle is still extant, and at the east end this aisle acts as a pastophorion that is only accessible through the central nave. Although the church stands in a well-used village cemetery, it is now not employed for active worship and is home to a significant colony of bats. The church is undated but is believed to have been constructed anywhere between the fifth and seventh centuries.
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, Three Church Basilica, Triple Basilica