Georgia Country Medieval Arts

Historical region of the southern Caucasus, to which correspond those that in ancient times were called Colchis and Iberia. Territorial limits have changed many times over the centuries; today the Rep. of Georgia borders to the North with Russia, to the South with Armenia and Turkey, to the West with the Black Sea and to the East with Azerbaijan. In the Middle Ages, an important cultural center flourished in the Georgian kingdom of Tao-klardžeti, which is now in Turkish territory. Georgia is a region of very ancient language, alphabet and culture. The language belongs to the Ibero-Caucasian family, while the population was formed through a centuries-old mixing of indigenous elements, of peoples from Anatolia and others of Indo-European origin, Greeks, Romans and Arabs; this did not prevent Georgians from assuming their own autonomous ethnic identity. Archaeologists have found evidence of the existence of Georgian tribes on the territory as early as 5000 BC; art objects made in the second millennium BC have come to light in the course of several excavations. Already in the first millennium BC the ancestors of the Georgians are mentioned in the Assyrian annals and in those of Urartu (Armenia). 6th BC, under Darius I, the Black Sea coast and the southern Caucasus with Colchis were colonized by the Greeks, who, on the basis of the precious objects and refined jewelry made in this area, introduced the myths of the fleece of gold and Prometheus. The territories of the od. Georgia later fell under the control of Mithridates VI Eupator, king of Pontus (120-63 BC); around 65 BC the Romans made the kingdom of Iberia a protectorate that controlled the rest of the territory. 3 ° AD the eastern part of Georgia was influenced by Sassanid Persia, while the western part approached Byzantium. In 330 ca. Christianity penetrated into the eastern Georgia from Palestine and Syria, through Armenia, and into the western Georgia from Constantinople; King Mirian (265-342) proclaimed it the state religion. Shortly after, however, the legend of the slave s was widely accepted in the region. Nino, who, coming from Cappadocia, would have evangelized the Georgians. Around 403 Rufino of Aquileia (ca. 345-410) dedicated a chapter of the Historia ecclesiastica (X, 2) to the saint, but its source is an oral account of the Georgian prince Bacurius, heard in Jerusalem.. 5 ° that Vakhtang Gorgaslani (446-499 ca.) almost managed to restore national sovereignty to Georgia In the same period the Georgian Church completed its internal organization headed by a bishop with the appellative of katholikós. Monasticism developed with the arrival of the so-called thirteen Syrian fathers, actually Georgians, probably Monophysites, who had been forced to flee Syria, returning to their country of origin, at the time of the persecutions of this heresy by power. central Byzantine. However, the fathers who came to Georgia in small groups between 520 and 571 must have been well over thirteen – a symbolic figure that repeats the number of the group made up of Jesus and the apostles. Other historians defend a much more fragile hypothesis according to which the thirteen fathers would have come from Cappadocia. In the same period (5th-6th centuries) some great Georgian monasteries were founded outside the borders of the region, such as the one built in Jerusalem by Pietro Iberico (409 -490), where the Georgian monks mixed with the Greek ones.

According to Thedressexplorer, another twenty or so settlements, now missing, are attested in Palestine by written sources. Numerous monks were also integrated into the great lavra of S. Saba, in Palestine, and three churches were built in Bithynia (Asia Minor). A large monastic community, which was also a study center, was established in Syria, near Antioch and the site where the column of St. was located. Simeone Stilita, but the expansion of religious fervor did not stop at that point. Around the middle of the century. 10 ° a Georgian colony settled on Mount Sinai. In 982-985 the monastery of Iviron on Mount Athos was established, particularly important for Georgian culture and spirituality, as well as the monastery of the Holy Cross, near Jerusalem, which was restored numerous times during the Middle Ages. Finally Gregorio Bakuriani founded a monastery in the locality of Bačkovo, in Bulgaria (1080). According to available documents, Queen Tamara also had a monastery built, that of Galia in Cyprus. 6 ° Sassanid Persia put an end to the Iberian monarchy and created a governorship held by a marzbān in Tbilisi. During the sec. 8th and at the beginning of the 9th the eastern Georgia suffered from the Arab domination; fought against Arab power with the help of the Byzantines, which allowed Achot I (786-826) to proclaim himself prince of Iberia (8th century), thus preparing the unification of Georgia, which became effective in the century. 10th, thanks to King Bagrat III (975-1014). It consolidated in the century. 11 ° under the reign of David II (1089-1125), who had leaned on the authority of the Church against the feudal lords. Thanks to these successes the Georgia was in the century. 12 ° a powerful state that extended as far as Azerbaijan and Asia Minor, with Trebizond and Shīrvān as vassal cities. The heyday of Georgian power came with the reign of Queen Tamara (1184-1213), of which several portraits are preserved. the invasions of the Mongols, which forced the Georgia to the payment of taxes and increased the autonomy of the princes. George V (1318-1346) tried to consolidate the foundations of the state, but soon the attacks of Tamerlane (1336-1405) put an end to this attempt. Alexander I (1412-1442) reigned over the unified Georgia, but after him the regions and their leaders regained their rights and reaffirmed their autonomy. Monuments from the first centuries after Christianization are rare. The main reasons are to be found in the strong opposition manifested towards the new religion by the popular classes of the Eastern Georgia, which were closely linked to the cult of Mithras, to Mazdaism and also to the local cults of the moon (male element), which became followed in the cult of St. George; the diffidence generated in Georgia Occidental by Christianity is explained in the same way, religion transmitted in Greek and moreover even more difficult to understand precisely because it is still being defined, as evidenced by disputes, heresies and councils. The first religious buildings (4th century) were made of wood; they were quickly replaced by stone buildings in which the three naves were included under a single roof, but this typology was soon replaced by that of the domed church with a horseshoe apse. The influence of the Zoroastrian temples explains the emergence of basilicas known as three churches or even three halls: they are three naves connected to each other by two arches; the apse is not visible from the outside.

However, the Asian-type basilica also established itself in the region, such as the church of Bolnisi (478-493), with the barrel-vaulted median nave, higher than the side ones, with the protruding apse, the aisles covered by half-barrels and five pairs of cruciform pillars supporting transverse arches, contrary to what happens in the three-nave basilicas of Armenia. sec. 6th: the three naves of the basilicas are separated by walls, open only in some points (Kvemo Bolnisi). This typology is unknown in Armenia despite the structural proximity between the religious buildings of the two regions. What characterizes Georgian architecture above all is the central plan of the domed church. That of Djvari, built on a hill overlooking Mckheta (c. 600), is a good example of the tetraconco with four corner rooms connected to the central room of the building by deep niches, a typology attested only in Georgia and in Armenia. The central dome is supported by a system of trumpets. 8th and 10th century Georgian architecture appears to be influenced by Syria, from which some missionary monks came, and from Constantinople, from which the dome set on pendentives derives. Various variants of the central plan typology were introduced, with the multiplication of the arms (hexaconch churches) and apses. The Byzantine influence manifested itself above all along the Black Sea coast, where the dome supported by four free pillars (Likhne) is attested. During the reign of Tao-klardžeti great monasteries were built, such as Dört Kilise, Opisa and Oški (triconch with extension of the western arm of the cross), which was one of the centers of Georgian culture. Starting from the sec. 6 ° the architectural panorama was completed with the appearance of elements such as narthex, tribunes, naves, based on prototypes dating back to the grandiose cathedrals of the kingdom of Taoklardžeti. The internal space changes, all the parts of the buildings are brought together from the inside and thus give life to a new harmony in which each element is subjected and reconnected to the whole (cathedrals of Kutaissi, Alaverdi, Sveti-Tskhoveli, Ichkhani; 10th-11th century) The facades of churches and capitals were decorated starting from the 5th century. The external decorations present in a first phase zoomorphic motifs that betray a Sassanid influence and phytomorphic motifs, above all the vine stock, a Christian symbol but also of the pagan Georgia Geometric motifs of a popular character decorate only some facades (Ateni, 7th century). Starting from the sec. 10 ° the themes represented were mainly religious: the flowery cross or Tree of life (Djvari), the Ascension (Kvemo Bolnisi), the divine vision of the prophets (Sveti-Tskhoveli). Unlike what happened in the Byzantine world, the iconostasis was replaced here by a low choral fence, in masonry, similar to the early Christian témplon. Georgian choral enclosures, consisting of a low wall supporting architraved columns, are very often painted and particularly well preserved in the Caucasian region of Svanezia. The Georgian tradition of metalworking dates back to early Antiquity. During the third and second millennium BC, the exceptional quality of Georgian jewelery was known far beyond the borders of the region. Christianization multiplied Georgia’s contacts with the Byzantine world, but also those with Iran. The goldsmithing of this era reached levels never exceeded. In the Middle Ages, in addition to jewels, weapons and pottery, numerous metal icons saw the light, among which it is enough to mention the icon of the Ascension of Zarzma, from 886 (Tbilisi, State Art Mus.), That of the Virgin with the Child, in embossed gold, by Martvili (Tbilisi, State Art Mus.; 10th-11th century), the plates of Sagolacheni and Chemokhmedi (Tbilisi, State Art Mus.; 11th century).

There are also some liturgical objects from this period (rhipídion of Chemokhmedi; Tbilisi, State Art Mus.; 10th-11th century), as well as pectoral and processional crosses (Martvili cross, 11th century) and some coverings of monumental crosses (example of Katskhi; Tbilisi, State Art Mus.; sec. After a phase characterized by the search for a certain volumetric rendering and the use of sculptural techniques (Virgin Eleúsa by Chemokhmedi; Tbilisi, State Art Mus.; 11th-12th century), starting from the 12th century 12 ° there is a more graphic style, which marks the icons in gold and enamel of a rare harmony of shapes and colors (Descent of the Holy Spirit, Presentation of Jesus in the Temple; Tbilisi, State Art Mus.; 12th century). Georgians used the enamel technique even before the Christian era, but the most refined works in cloisonné enamel were performed between the 8th and 12th centuries. Starting from the sec. 12 ° there is also an ornamental tendency, as can be observed in the famous triptych of Khakhuli (Tbilisi, State Art Mus.), Studded among other things with small enamel plaques; L’ icon of the Virgin in the center, preserved in a fragmentary state, is one of the largest enamels ever made. Despite some very valuable pieces produced in the secc. 15th and 16th century, the decline of Georgian jewelery began in the 13th century. The production of illuminated manuscripts in Georgia dates back to the 13th century. 5th, but no specimens from before the end of the 9th century have been preserved. Monasteries, important centers of study, were also the place where books were illuminated. A large number of manuscripts come from Georgian monasteries located outside the borders of the region, such as eg. the atonite one of Iviron; others were decorated in Georgia, in the monasteries of David-Garedja, Scio-Mgvime and Tbeti and in the academies of Ikalto, Gelati and Gremi. It was written on parchment and from the century. 10 ° on paper. The oldest preserved illuminated manuscript is that of Adichi, from 897 (Mestia, State Museum of History and Ethnography of Svanezia); there is a mixture of Syriac and Hellenistic influences. In the first Tetravangelo of Djroutchi (Tbilisi, Institute of manuscripts K. Kekelidze, Academy of Sciences, H 1660), decorated by a Tevdore in 936-940 on the basis of a lost model of the century. 5th-6th, the graphic style and Syriac influence prevail, and the portraits of the evangelists are each time followed by a healing scene. This manuscript with an insistent graphic style is distinguished by a miniature of the Virgin and Child represented in the form of an icon. 11 ° the Byzantine influence became very strong and some manuscripts (eg Tbilisi, Gosudarstvennyj mus. Gruzii, 1; of 1030) were even illuminated in Constantinople. Others (eg Tbilisi, Institute of manuscripts K. Kekelidze, Academy of Sciences, Iviron 92) have typically Byzantine illuminated initials. As for the secc. 11th and 12th we can distinguish two groups of Byzantine manuscripts, to which some Georgians are linked. The first group initially presents only the richly decorated tables of the canons, painted initials and portraits of the evangelists; due to the Hellenizing character of these miniatures, distant prototypes were sought in the Alexandrian context. Around the century. 12 ° the decoration was enriched with four scenes of the liturgical feasts, as can be seen in a Georgian manuscript of 1128, coming from the monastery of Iviron (Paris, BN, gr. 75). Alaverdi’s Tetravangelo also belongs to the same group, 1054 (Tbilisi, Institute of manuscripts K. Kekelidze, Academy of Sciences, A 484), where the translation of the legend of the mandile is added to the Gospel text. The evangelists are depicted in the act of writing, according to an iconography of Constantinopolitan inspiration, but the first miniature of the manuscript presents a triumphal cross on a typically Georgian and oriental podium. group of Byzantine manuscripts, consisting of Gospels in which the text is accompanied by the representation of numerous episodes. The Gospels of Gelati (Tbilisi, Institute of manuscripts K. Kekelidze, Academy of Sciences, A 908; 11th-12th century) and the second Gospel of Djroutchi (Tbilisi, Institute of manuscripts K. Kekelidze, Academy of Sciences, H 1667). The numerous miniatures of these manuscripts (three hundred and fifty-nine in the example by Djroutchi) are painted on a gold background as in Constantinople, with rich architectural settings or rocky landscapes, and are of exceptional quality. Very close to contemporary Byzantine miniatures, some national features can still be distinguished, in particular in the miniatures that come out of the frames and in the adoption of original subjects. A group of secular manuscripts, some of them translated from Iranian, denounce borrowings from the illustrations in these books. To the secc. Some good quality psalters must be assigned in the 13th and 14th centuries, but in general the Georgian miniature of the time seems to be opening up to a phase of decline. There are no monumental works of painting from the first centuries following Christianization, but there is evidence that in the century 6th it was customary to decorate the apses. Golden tiles were found in front of the apse of the church of Djvari, and a polychrome floor with largely geometric motifs, similar to the Antiochene examples, was brought to light in the basilica of Bitchvinta (5th-6th century). Finally, a fragmentary decoration (7th century), of Byzantine-Hellenistic style, in which Christ with the apostles and the Etymasia appear, decorated the immense apse of the church of Cromi (Tbilisi, State Art Mus.). In the secc. 8th and 9th the Constantinopolitan influence became less strong and ancient local elements re-emerged that had assimilated the Iranian traditions, as in church no. 8 of Sabereebi and, to a lesser extent, in the church of Telovani, where in the midst of the apostles of the second register of the apse the head of Christ can be seen, without a halo or neck, within a medallion. 9 ° -10 °, in Georgia we are witnessing an economic and artistic flowering. In this era, a real national style does not yet appear, but rather various regional styles that also correspond to the formation of different schools: we can distinguish that of the DavidGaredja lavra, located in a desert region, that of the kingdom of Tao-klardžeti and that of Svanezia. The small rock churches of the Thebaid of David-Garedja were not decorated at the time of the creation of the monastery by the saint from which it takes its name (6th century), perhaps because the founder accepted the Monophysite doctrine which denied the human nature of Christ. It was only in the century. 9 ° that the practice of monumental painting spread and assumed an indisputable value, that is to say sacred. The region of Upper Svanezia is scattered with small churches with a single nave, decorated in a peculiar style, which largely date back to the 11 And 12th century.

The style appears to be of popular inspiration, although talented painters such as Tevdore worked there; some iconographic schemes are original, based on pagan reminiscences typical of the Svani tribe. One of the characteristic representations is that of the holy knights faced, which extends over an entire wall with St. George (the ancient god of the moon) killing the emperor Diocletian and St. Theodore killing the dragon. The most interesting programs from the point of view of iconography in Orthodox buildings of worship are found in the liturgically and symbolically most important points: the apse and the dome. In the century 9 °, at the end of the iconoclastic crisis, very strict rules were drawn up in Constantinople that fixed the decorative program of the religious buildings. In the Balkans and Russia, these rules were duly followed: thus the Virgin with the Child adored by two angels occupies the apse basin, while in some cases the Ascension appears in the dome (9th -10th centuries) and then, as a rule, the Christ Pantocrator surrounded by angels. In Georgia instead, between the secc. 9th and 10th-11th, the subject present in the apse is generally the theophanic vision of the prophets. Christ enthroned is surrounded by angels and angelic powers, such as seraphs, cherubs and wheels, to which the tetramorph is added in some cases. This illustrates the vision of the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Enoch. One of the most articulated examples of this representation is constituted by the church of the Savior in Tchvabiani (10th century). Around the century. 10th-11th to this grandiose representation placed in the apse, figures of the Virgin and St. began to be added. John the Evangelist in prayer. The meaning of the image changes radically and the vision is transformed into Déesis, that is to say the prayer of the two main intercessors who beg Christ for the forgiveness of the sins of mankind. Some details of the paintings or inscriptions allow us to clarify that this is the Déesis of the end of times, which takes place after the second Parousia (Mt 24, 30; 25, 31; Ap. 4, 8). In some cases two groups of angels are added to the elements already mentioned, according to the text of Dn. 7, 10 and of Ap. 5, 11. In the same period (9-10th centuries) a Constantinopolitan current appeared sporadically both in the great urban churches and in monasteries, for example. Vardzia, founded by powerful monarchs and in favor of a rapprochement with the Byzantine world, such as for example. Queen Tamara. In these churches the iconographic program of the apsidal basin is linked to the Byzantine one without however taking it up in its entirety. Thus the Virgin is placed in the cap, but the second register never presents the communion of the apostles as in the Byzantine churches, but sometimes the apostles glorifying the cross (Ateni, 11th century), sometimes only the apostles (Vardzia, 16th century). 12 °), the mission of the apostles (Timotesubani, sec. 13 °) or some apostles and other saints (St. Nicholas of Kincvisi, 13th century). religious sensitivity of the Georgian peoples. Thus, in the decorations just mentioned more directly influenced by Byzantine culture, in which the Virgin occupies the apse, the Déesis of the end of times appears in the dome, framed by angels or prophets, and flanks the red jeweled cross that announces the second coming of Christ (Mt 24, 30) and his definitive victory over evil.

The same second coming with the intercession is represented around it or on the drum (churches of Manglisi, 11th century; Kincvisi, Timotesubani, 13th century). This type of decoration of the dome does not appear anywhere else than in Georgia.On the walls of Georgian churches there is the cycle of liturgical feasts and other main evangelical episodes, but up to the century. 14 ° neither the cycle of miracles nor the menologue (liturgical calendar) are represented. The large composition of the Last Judgment, arranged on the wall or in the western apse, is not very frequent, probably because its central moment, the Déesis, is already presented in the main apse. However it appears from the end of the century. 11 ° (Ateni) and is presented in a particularly evolved form in Timotesubani (13th century). The Dormition of the Virgin is depicted on the north or west wall. The iconographic schemes used are, with the exception of the Last Judgment, rather archaic in comparison to those in use in the Byzantine world at the same time; there are also evident early Christian reminiscences. The period of the so-called Byzantine paleological renaissance (1261-1453), so boldly antiquing in style and so strongly oriented towards the pictorial representation of the liturgy, had no reflection in Georgia. It is true that in S. Nicola di Kincvisi, in Timotesubani, in Betania and in other decorative cycles of the century. 13 ° there is a tendency to monumentality and some very beautiful faces, close to ancient models, but it is a very weak echo of what happens in the Balkans and in Russia. ; St. George, patron saint of Georgia, is often depicted on horseback, as we have seen with regard to Svanezia. Another holy knight also appears, Eustachio, depicted in the moment in which, during a hunting trip, he has the vision of a deer crowned by a cross. This representation is common in the Byzantine East and practically absent in monumental painting, which follows the Constantinopolitan rules. If the cycles of the life of a saint are rare before the century. 14 °, the life of the Georgian national saints, David of Garedja and Scio of Mgvime, appears however represented in their respective monasteries. The portraits of the donors are generally found on the northern wall, near the sanctuary: those of Queen Tamara and her family, fairly well preserved in the churches of Vardzia, Udabno, Kincvisi and Betania, are accompanied by three or four lay characters, generally belonging to the family of the ruler. In the century 14th, in the church of Zarzma, the number of characters represented reaches about twenty. 14 ° Constantinopolitan iconography penetrated more deeply into Georgia thanks to the arrival of Greek painters. In the church of Zalendjikha an inscription attests that the painter Manuel Eugenikos left Constantinople for the Georgia precisely to decorate that church, at the request of two Georgian emissaries, and carried out his work with the help of local painters. Starting at least from this moment, changes are observed both in style and in iconography: liturgical and symbolic subjects previously absent appear, such as the Amnós or ‘Sacrificed Lamb’; but in the region one still remains far from the mass of new subjects created or adapted for monumental painting that characterize the end of the Middle Ages in the Byzantine world. The dome now features the Ascension (Zarzma) and the Pantocrator surrounded by angels (Kalendjikha). On the other hand, a hitherto unknown narrative taste multiplies the cycles: liturgical feasts, childhood, miracles, passion. Within each cycle the images multiply and in each composition the characters become more numerous; some subjects very common in the Byzantine world starting from the century. 14 °, e.g. the Cristo Pantepóptes, appear in the church of the Transfiguration in Zarzma. The style of the decoration of the churches between the secc. 11th and 14th-15th beginnings (Nabahtevi church) is rather difficult to define globally, since it varies between buildings and regions. Nevertheless, we can speak of a classical Byzantine trend in Ateni and a linearistic style in the century. 12 °, even if the latter does not have the specific features of the Byzantine style of the Comnenian era. In the century 13 °, in S. Nicola di Kincvisi and in Timotesubani, there is also the tendency towards larger and more monumental forms that is observed in the Byzantine world, but the figures remain flat and the architectural representations are rare. Finally, starting from the middle of the century. 14 ° a more sustained modeling and a certain volumetric yield appear. The churches of Svanzia are distinguished by a generally graphic and more summary style. Despite the social and political difficulties, monumental Georgian painting underwent a revival in some regions during the century. 16th, with the construction of notable complexes, often thanks to the close relations with Mount Athos, the presence of Greek artists and the talent of Georgian painters.

Georgia Country Medieval Arts