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.
Geghard monastery is located in Ararat Province and is believed to date back to the fourth century, when a small cave church was excavated from the rock around a spring. It was expanded throughout the middle ages and the monastery today dates from the thirteenth century, with the rebuilding commencing in 1215. The name Geghard refers to the Holy Lance that pierced the side of Christ and appears to have linked to the site from the time of its rebuilding in the thirteenth century. Today the fact that Geghard is a UNESCO World Heritage site relatively close to Garni means that it is a centre of tourism as well as pilgrims. Although there is nothing remaining of the ancient monastery, the site is included here to offer evidence that there was cave monasticism in Armenia, even if it does not appear to have been as widespread a practice as in Georgia.
Mikael Ulumboeli is one of the lesser-known (As)Syrian Fathers and we have very little information about his life and death. A new monastery has been built near the village of Ulumbo and it is higher up from an earlier church that was remodelled in the nineteenth century. However, neither of these sites dates to late antiquity and the location of a presumed earlier foundation and/or saint's tomb remains unknown.
The village of Breti is believed to have been where one of the lesser-known (As)Syrian Fathers, Piros Breteli, founded a monastery in the sixth century. There are no traces of this presumed early foundation left today but a new religious community have now established a monastery around what they believe to be his tomb in the centre of the village. This is a friendly and welcoming monastery with a small church with new frescoes and the tomb is located in a small chapel to the north of the main nave. Above the grave is a fresco of the thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers and Piros Breteli is distinguished by the red writing in his halo.
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.
Zedazeni is the monastery associated with St. Ioane Zedazneli, who is referred to in Georgian hagiographical sources as the leader of the Thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers. He is believed to have retreated to the mountains of Kvemo Kartli north of Mtskheta with a band of local followers such as Elia Diakoni (Elia the Deacon) and founded a monastery there. A tomb in the north aisle of the small church is believed by the faithful to be his shrine. Although art historians and archaeologists have argued that some elements of the church at the site date back to the sixth century, the evidence for this has yet to be published and it is difficult to make out the chronology of the building which has been heavily restored over the centuries. As with many ancient Christian sites in Georgia, in particular those associated with saintly figures, the foundation has been re-established since the fall of communism and is now home to an ultra-orthodox religious community who are on the fringes of the Georgian Orthodox church. This extremist tendency is illustrated by the fashioning of a giant cross from a disused electricity pylon and the construction of a giant wall of icon reproductions several hundred metres from the monastery compound.
Martqopi is monastery in the Kvemo Kartli region of Georgia to the north east of Tbilisi. As with several other ancient monasteries, the village named Martqopi is now some kilometres distant from the monastery of that name as the monastery and accompanying settlement have divided over time and the monastery is known as Gvtaeba. The site is named for St. Anton Martqopeli, believed to have been one of the Thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers and who is believed to have brought the Holy Tile of Edessa (the Keramidion) to Georgia. Although the Keramidion is believed to be a miraculous imprint made on a tile by the Mandylion, the miraculous cloth that Christ left an imprint of his face on and therefore a secondary icon after the Mandylion, in Georgia this story has become confused and St. Anton is now often said to have brought the Mandylion itself to Georgia. The saint is often referred to as a 'Stylite' as he repudedly lived alone in a tower above the main monastery for some years. This building is now closed to visitors but is referred to interchageably as a 'koshki' (tower) or 'sveti' (pillar or column). As at Ubisa this dwelling resembles a tower house rather than the Syrian-style column found at Qal'at Seman and Semandağ. There is also a modern tomb at this site reorted to be that of St. Anton, replicating the situation across a number of sites associated with the Thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers where relatively recent shrines have been constructed.
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.
This damaged female saint is facing west on the central arch of the northern arcade and was photographed before cleaning.
This damaged female saint is facing east on the central arch of the northern arcade and was photographed before cleaning.