The ecclesiastical complex at Martvili is considered one of the most important groups of Christian architecture in Georgia and is believed to date back to the seventh century. One element of this group is a 'stylite' dwelling. However, as mentioned elsewhere on this site, in Georgia 'stylites' lived in tower houses rather than standing on exposed columns as in Syria and these houses were often in the vicinity of monasteries or churches.
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.
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.
The Roman era temple at Garni, Kotayk Province, is believed to date from the first century CE and is the most notable Classical monument in the countries of the former Soviet Union. However, the temple today is the result of a reconstruction that took place in 1969-1975 as the original structure was destroyed in an earthquake in 1679. The site is included here not only because its significance for Classical architecture in the Caucasus in general, but also because the remains of a seventh-century centrally-planned church abut the temple on its western side. There is also a Roman-era bath house complex north west of both the church and the temple. It seems Garni remained significant throughout its history as there is ninth and tenth century Arabic graffiti still visible on the monument and a number of European travellers recorded their impressions of Garni even after its destruction. Today the temple is one of the chief tourist attractions in Armenia as well as being the main cult centre for Armenian Neopaganism also called Hetanism. On the day of the site visit a ritual was being enacted in the cella of the temple and some images of this event are included in this entry.
Zvartnots is a centrally-planned cathedral in Armavir Province that was built in the seventh century by Catholicos Nerses III. Today it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and it remains one of the most significant early Christian monuments in Armenia. From the early twentieth century onwards it has been explored in archaeological excavations and a number of archaeologists, art historians and architects have attempted to reconstruct the original form of the building from the extant architectural details. This website is not the place to rehearse the various arguments relating to the site, but a clear and convincing summary of this history and an up-to-date interpretation of the material is offered by Christina Maranci in Vigilant Powers: Three Churches of Early Medieval Armenia, Brepols; Turnhout, 2015. This entry is obviously not the place to detail this complex historiographical tradition, but it is hoped that specialists and non-specialists alike may find some of the attached images useful and/or interesting.
The church of St. Gayane in Echmiadzin (now Vagharshapat) in Armavir Province was built in the seventh century. It is a three-naved domed basilica of the type encountered at Odzun and, as such, is included in the list of churches included in that entry. However, unlike most of the monuments on the list, the prominent location of this church in the Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church means that it was renovated in the seventeenth century and has therefore undergone more change than the other buildings of this type.
The church at Odzun in the northern Lori Province of Armenia has been variously dated as between the fifth and seventh centuries, with many sources electing to place it in the sixth century, and was subject to alterations in the eighth century. It has been undergoing a process of renovation since 2012 and these renovations were still ongoing during the site visit in August 2017. The reason for visiting Odzun is that it is a domed basilica of a type that belongs to a small group of monuments recorded in Georgia, Armenia and territories formerly belonging to both nations that now lie in Turkey. Therefore this architectural type is comparable with the church of Tsromi (Georgia), Mren and Bagawan (Turkey) and St. Gayane in Echmiadzin (Armenia). As an aside it also possesses a unique early medieval funerary monument to the north of the church where two stelae are framed by a two-arched arcade in a manner that is reminiscent of some Roman funerary monuments in northwest Syria.
This church is located to the west of the village of Sheikh Sulaiman and an inscription dates its construction to 602, making it one of the youngest securely dated churches on the Limestone Massif
Samtsevrisi is a C7th church of the 'Jvari' type. It is a small, centrally-planned chapel that now stands isolated in a small graveyard.
The church at Tsromi has an inscription dating its construction to 626-634 and it is a domed basilica of a type similar to that found in Armenia at Mren and in several other locations.