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 The interior of the space is richly frescoed with an (unpublished) sixteenth to seventeenth century fresco cycle, that is currently open to the elements given the lack of windows and doors on the church.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 Annunciation was painted at the top of the triumphal arch with the Angel Gabriel north of the window, the Virgin Mary to the south and Christ Emmanuel in a mandorla above. Sadly most of this scene was stolen overnight in 1986 whilst volunteers were restoring the monastery.
Tags: 1207/08, An Nabk, Angel, Annunciation, Chris, Church, Deir Mar Musa, Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi, Emmanuel, Fresco, Gabriel, Mar Musa al-Habashi, Monastery, Syria, Theft, Virgin Mary
The west wall of the church is the most well preserved of all the frescoes in the cycle and shows the Last Judgement. The left hand side (blue background) shows the elect ranked from the bottom as: Syrian Orthodox monks and nuns (identifieable by their monastic hoods embroidered with 13 crosses) and St. Peter, the Church Fathers and other saints and biblical figures, the Three Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and the Virgin Mary cradling the souls of the saved and above both sides the Apostles on either side of the Hetoimasia (Instruments of the Passion) with a pair of angels flanking the small window at the very top.
On the right hand side are the damned: fornicators, sinners such as usurers and murderers, foreign priests (Jews and Zoroastrians?), Muslims and at the top those Christians who are in doctrinal error - in this case those upholding the Council of Chalcedon.
In the centre Adam and Eve sit above two angels holding the scales of judgement and a saint or a devil receive the soul according to which side the scales fall on.
Tags: 1207/08, Abraham, Adam, An Nabk, Angel, Apostles, Chalcedon, Church, Church Council, Deir Mar Musa, Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi, Devil, Eve, Fresco, Hetoimasia, Isaac, Jacob, Jews, Last Judgement, Mar Musa al-Habashi, Monastery, Monk, Muslims, Nun, St. Peter, Syria, Syrian Orthodox, Virgin Mary, Zoroastrian
The apse depicts the Virgin Blachernitissa in the posture of an orant flanked by the Fathers of the Church, including St. Cyril, St. Basil, St. Athanasius, St. John Chrysostom, St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. James with the names of two other saints missing. The semi-dome would have held a Pantocrator on the 1207/08 layer, but the traces of the earlier layer suggest that it once held the symbols of the four evangelists.
Saydnaya means "Our Lady" and the town has evidence of very early Christian occupation. Dominating the settlement is the vast Rum (Arabic speaking Greek Orthodox) Orthodox convent where the sisters also care for orphaned girls. The convent has been expanded over the centuries, but its origins are believed to be C6th. It is most famous for its icon of the Virgin which is believed to have been painted from life by St. Luke and which is believed to help women praying for fertility.
In the mid-fourth century, a church was constructed around a grotto in the town of Nazareth that was said to be the Virgin Mary’s house and the place where the archangel Gabriel appeared to her during the Annunciation. This holy site was clearly well established as a place of worship towards the end of the fourth century as the pilgrim Egeria describes an altar within a grand and splendid grotto. The Piacenza pilgrim who journeyed to Nazareth in the late sixth century states that there is a basilica at the House of Mary that contains many garments that once belonged to the Virgin. Today, remnants of wall paintings, mosaics, and the architecture from this early church building are visible.
Tags: Annunciation, Architecture, C20th, C4th, C5th-C6th, Cave, Christ, Christian, Cross, Foliage, Fresco, Geometric Motif, Greek Inscription, Holy Site, Inscription, Israel, Mosaic, Nazareth, Pilgrimage, St. Gabriel, Staurogram, Virgin Mary
A short distance from the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is the Milk Grotto. This is the place where the Holy Family are believed to have taken refuge during the Massacre of the Innocents and before their flight into Egypt. The Virgin Mary is said to have nursed Christ in this grotto and legend states that a drop of her milk fell to the ground and turned the rock white. In the fifth century, a church was built around the holy site to celebrate this event and pilgrims venerated it throughout Late Antiquity. The Franciscans constructed the present church in the late nineteenth century.