The (As)Syrian Father Tadeoz Stepantsmindeli is also known as Theodosius or Tata and is also referred to as bearing the toponym "Rekhali". This is because he was associated with the church of St. Stephen (Tsminda Stepanos) in the village of Rekha on the slope of Mt. Tkhoti in Shida Kartli. Today it is unclear which of the several ruined sites on the mountainside was Rekha and so Tadeoz Stepantsmindeli is the only one of these figures who does not have an ancient or modern monastery associated with him today.
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.
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.
Samtavisi is a large C13th church with the remains of a substantial C5th basilica lying directly to the south. This means that they were built side-by-side and raises the question of when the C5th basilica fell out of use and whether the later building was its replacement.
Shiomghvime means 'the caves of Shio'. Shio was one of the Thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers and he is reputed to have settled in caves to the west of Mtskheta and it is here that the monastery complex need for him is located. The buildings are of many different periods, meaning that claims that one of the churches dates back to the C6th is difficult to verify.
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
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.
As with Dolochopi and Dzveli Gavazi, a further visit to the site in the company of Professor Nodar Bakhtadze in August 2017 has led to discussion of the relative dating scheme applied to the "three church basilica" and the centrally-planned domed church and raised questions as to whether or not they were necessarily built that far apart in time. As with Dzveli Gavazi, the centrally-planned church at Nekresi is something of an anomaly given the ubiquity of the "three church basilica" type in Kakheti. In fact this church appears to be an experimental early version of a domed "three church basilica" as it has two apsed side aisles to the north and south of the central church. The northern aisle has a window to the east and is closed off, whereas the south aisle and the narthex in the west both have two arches and are open to the elements. The west and south arcades also have pilasters on the internal wall, as encountered at Areshi large basilica and Kindzmareuli. Inside the main part of the church the dome has windows to the east, south and west, but not on the north side. The dome itself is supported to the west by two squinches, whereas at the east there are what can only be referred to as 'proto-pendentives' - an arrangement also found in the later church of Khirsa Stepantsminda. There is also one other window placed in the apse. If this is an early attempt at a domed basilica, then it is likely to pre-date c.630 and the building of Tsromi to the west in Shida Kartli. It also raises questions as to why two variant forms of centrally-planned church were being experimented with perhaps almost at the same time in the same vicinity. Moving on to the "three church basilica" it is a large example of this type and has open arcades of two arches on both the north and south sides. There is a door to the north aisle from the main nave, but a corresponding door on the south aisle seems to have been sealed centuries ago as medieval frescoes now cover the area where the door once stood. As at Shilda, the entire construction took place as one project and the north and south aisles are firmly tied to the central nave. In the sixth century mortuary chapel (referred to in Georgian as the akeldama) it is clear that this was intially tied to another structure in the sixth century - possibly the refectory - and the later intervening space between the ossuary trench and the other building only became used as a burial ground for wealthy patrons and their families in the middle ages. The marani/refectory complex extant today dates from the twelfth century, as do the cells and work area excavated to the north of the main complex. The tower is sixteenth century, as is the tower at Shilda.
Tags: (As)Syrian Fathers, Architecture, Areshi, C12th, C16th, C4th, C6th-C7th, C8th-C9th, Centrally-Planned, Church, Dzveli Gavazi, Funerary Chapel, Georgia, Georgian, Georgian Inscription, Inscription, Kakheti, Khirsa, Kindzmareuli, Middle Ages, Nekresi, Shilda, Stepantsminda, Thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers, Three Church Basilica, Triple Basilica, Tsromi, Zoroastrian