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Preliminary Observations

Zaza Skhirtladze

The paper deals with the place held by the Virgin in Georgian medieval culture viewed through the prism of wall
paintings (tenth century late Middle Ages). The analysis shows that the local artists shared the iconography of
the Christian East, but the selection of topics and their relation to the whole programme of the murals display
semantic accents connected to specific realities.
Key words: Virgin, Apochrypha, Georgian Art, Iconography, Murals

he tradition connected with the image of the the seventeenth-eighteenth centuries, their various
Virgin has always borne the sign of excep- versions had been translated or created, being pre-
tionality in Georgian spiritual culture. This is served in numerous manuscripts.313
largely due to the tradition according to which the Interest of Georgians in the sources reflect-
country was allotted to the Mother of God.1 Liter- 11
ing the life of the Virgin and infancy of Christ
ary works recounting her life had been translated is also attested to by the local artistic tradition:
at the early stage of development of local ecclesi- in the form of separate scenes or complete cy-
astical literature.212 From that time onwards, up to cles, this theme is attested in mural painting,414

1 K. Bezarashvili, Masalebi sakartvelos ghvtismshob- un Transitus pseudobasilien, AnBoll 92 (1974), 125263; A.

lisadmi tsilkhvdomilobis ideisatvis dzvel kartul mtserlobashi Shanidze, Ghvtismshoblis zetsad amaghlebistvis, Proceed-
(Materials Towards the Idea of Georgia as a Country Al- ings of the Department of Old Georgian Language of Tbilisi
lotted to the Holy Virgin in Old Georgian Literature), in: State University 19 (1976), 197200; id., Iakobis pirvelsa-
A Collection of Works Dedicated to the Seventy-fifth Anni- kharebis khanmeti fragmentebi (The Khanmeti Fragments of
versary of Professor Levan Menabde, Tbilisi 2002, 124145 the Protoevangelium of James), Proceedings of the Depart-
(with earlier bibliography). ment of Old Georgian Language of Tbilisi State University
2 The list of these works is cited in: K. Kekelidze, Dzveli 20 (1977), 735.
3 K. Kekelidze, op. cit., 441443.
kartuli literaturis istoria (History of Old Georgian Litera-
ture), Tbilisi 1980, 441443. The majority of the Georgian 4 Among numerous cycles here the most important exam-
translations of the apocrypha are published. Cf. T. Chqonia, ples can be listed: Ateni Sioni, dated to the last third of the
Mariamis mimosvlis dzveli Kartuli targmani (Old Georgian eleventh century (Sh. Amiranashvili,
Translation of the Travels of the Virgin), Proceedings of the , Tbilisi 1957, 8389, pl. 6271;
Institute of Manuscripts, I, Tbilisi 1959, 5174; M. Van Es- T. Virsaladze, Atenis sionis mokhatuloba (Wall Paintings of
broeck, Apocryphes gorgiennes de la Dormition, AnBoll 91 Ateni Sioni), Tbilisi 1984, 78, pl. 6482; id., Atenis sionis
(1973), 5575; id., Gnalogie de la Vierge en gorgien, VIIVIII da XI saukuneebis mokhatulobani (7th8th and 11th-
AnBoll 91, 347355; id., LAssomption de la Vierge dans centuries Murals of Ateni Sioni), in: id., Kartuli mkhatvrobis


sculpture,5 chancel barrier reliefs,6 icon painting,7
metalwork,8 enamels,9 manuscript illumination.10 E. Taqaishvili, ,
I, Tbilisi 1905, 4066; D. Gordeev, -
istoriidan (From the History of Georgian Painting), Tbilisi . ,
2007, 161170, 176 ff); Qanchaeti of the end of the twelfth , -
century (unpublished; brief notes concerning the painting see , I (1923), 65; L. Evseeva, XIV
in: E. Privalova, , Tbilisi 1980, 206); , in: II International Symposium
Qintsvisi, commissioned by the Royal court at the turn of the on Georgian Art, Tbilisi 1977, offprint, 1011); Tsalenjikha
twelfth to the thirteenth century (Sh. Amiranashvili, Kartuli 13841396, I. Lordkipanidze, , Tbi-
khelovnebis istoria (History of Georgian Art), Tbilisi 1971, lisi 1992, 4550, fig. 4, pl. 3336); Nekresi mid-sexteenth
272; M. Didebulidze, Qintsvisis tsm. nikolozis tadzris pert- century (unpublished, some notes on the dating of the murals
seruli ansamblis mkhatvruli sakhe. XIIXIII saukuneta mijnis see: M. Vachnadze, Certain Specific Features of a Group of
kartuli kedlis mkhatvrobis mimarteba bizantiur pertserastan 16th-century Kakhetian Murals and their Chronology, in: II
(Artistic Image of the Painted Ensemble of the Church of St. International Symposium on Georgian Art, Tbilisi 1977, off-
Nicholas in Qintsvisi. Relationship of the Twelfth-thirteenth- print, 4; id., Lecole de peinture de Kakhetie du XVIe sicle
century Georgian Murals to Byzantine Painting), Abstract et ses rapports avec la peinture du Mont Athos, IV Interna-
of the PhD Thesis, Tbilisi 2006, 1516); Betania, created tional Symposium on Georgian Art (Tbilisi 1983), offprint, 4,
under the Royal donorship at the beginning of the thirteenth 78, 11); main church of Gelati monastery second half of
century (E. Privalova, Sur les peintures murales de Betania, the sixteenth century, I. Mamaiashvili, Ghmrtismshoblis mits-
in: Larte georgiana dal IX al XIV secolo, Atti del Terzo valebis tekstis ilustratsiebi gelatis monastris mtavari tadzris
Symposio Internationale sullarte Georgiana, (ed. M. Stella mokhatulobashi (Illustrations of the Text of the Dormition of
Calo Mariani), Galatina 1986, 153160; Timotesubani ca. the Virgin in the Murals of the Main Church of Gelati Mon-
12051210 (E. Privalova, , 5154, astery), Sakartvelos Sidzveleni 45 (2003), 227236, Tsaishi
206208, figs. 6, 14), Bertubani royal foundation of the 16161619, E. Taqaishvili, Arkeologiuri mogzaurobidan
early thirteenth century in the Gareja desert (G. Chubinash- samegreloshi (From the Archaeological Travels in Samegre-
vili, , Tbilisi 1948, lo), Dzveli Sakartvelo III (1914), 164171.
5872; Z. Skhirtladze, Ghmrtismshoblis tskhovrebis apokrip- 5 The relief on the western facade of Joisubani church of the
uli tsikli bertubnis tadzris mokhatulobashi (The Apocryphal tenth century, cf. N. Aladashvili, Joisubnis reliepebi (The Re-
Cycle of the Life of the Virgin in Bertubani Church Murals), liefs of Joisubani), Sabchota Khelovneba 1978, N7, 6878.
Matsne, Proceedings of the Georgian Academy of Sciences, 6 The early eleventh-century chancel screen panels from the
Series of History, Archaeology and Art History (1982), N2, church of the Dormition in Sapara Monastery at present at
114133; N4, 164183); Akhtala thirteenth century (Sh. the Sh. Amiranashvili Museum of Art, Georgian National
Amiranashvili, Kartuli khelovnebis istoria, 261262, where Museum, R. Shmerling,
the murals are dated to the twelfth century, and A. Lidov, , Tbilisi 1962, 123135, pl. 3.
Mural Paintings of Akhtala, Moscow 1991, 4247, pl. 2629, 7 Ubisi tryptich of the mid-fourteenth century, in Sh. Ami-
with crucial errors, especially regarding the attribution of the ranashvili Museum of Art, N. Burchuladze, Ubisis monastris
murals as well as the chronology of the frescoes and their khatebi da kedlis mkhatvroba (The Ubisi Monastery Icons
interpretation); north annex of the main church of Kobair and Wall Painting), Tbilisi 2006, 2940, fig. 23, pl. 214.
monastery of the mid-thirteenth century, cf. N. Thierry, Les 8 Icon of the Virgin from Zarzma Monastery of the begin-
peintures de la Cathdrale de Kobair (Tachir), CahArch,
ning of the eleventh century, G. Chubinashvili,
XIX (19801981), 119120, footnote 60; cf. Z. Skhirtladze,
, Tbilisi 1959, p. 194212, fig. 203,
Gamokvleva Kobairis tadzris mokhatulobis shesakheb (Study
icon of the Virgin from Atsquri cathedral of the beginning
of the Wall Paintings of Kobair Church), Proceedings of Tbi-
of the seventeenth century, N. Kondakov D. Bakradze,
lisi State University 243 (1983), 175198; first layer murals

in the main church of Mghvimevi monastery of the 1280s (N.
, St.-Petersburg 1890, 26, fig. 11; T.
Chikhladze, Mghvimevis ghmrtismshoblis eklesiis mtsire navis
Saqvarelidze, XIVXIX saukuneebis kartuli okromchedloba
mokhatuloba (Murals of the Small Nave in the Church of the
(14th19th-centuries Georgian Goldsmithery), I, Tbilisi 1987,
Virgin at Mghvimevi), MA Thesis, Tbilisi Academy of Arts,
147, 179180 (note 259), pl. 85.
Tbilisi 1983; L. Khuskivadze, Kartul eklesiata gviani shua
9 Icon of the Savior from Kortskheli monastery of the be-
saukuneebis khalkhuri mokhatulobebi (Late Medieval Folk
Murals in Georgian Churches), Tbilisi 2003, 199200); first ginning of the thirteenth century, L. Khuskivadze, -
layer murals in the church of St. Saba at Sapara monastery , Tbilisi 1981, 149157, pl. XLVI.
of the end of the thirteenth century, G. Khutsishvili, Saparis 10 MSS. of the National Centre of Manuscripts in Tbilisi,
kedlis mkhatvroba (Sapara Murals), Tbilisi 1988, 40; Dirbi, A648 (beginning of the eleventh century), H1667 (twelfth
dated to the mid-fourteenth century, cf. G. Gagoshidze N. century), H2805 (thirteenth century), A30, A31 and
Chikhladze, Dirbis ghmrtismshoblis midzinebis monasteri A32 (1681), H1452 (1674), H1755 (late seventeenth
(Monastery of the Dormition of the Virgin in Dirbi), Tbilisi century), H98 (1681) and several others, cf: H. Machavari-
2006, 86, 88, 96124, fig. 24, pl. 23, 24, 3134, 4652, ani, Georgian Manuscripts, Tbilisi 1970, pl. 29; G. Alibe-
5465; Zarzma of the second half of the fourteenth century, gashvili,

Monuments containing the apocryphal cycle of Holy Women). Inclusion of the earthly history of
the Virgin provide a vast material both in respect the Redeeming Sacrifice in this extremely loaded
of iconography and artistic execution. Study of old apse programme can be comprehended in diverse
Georgian versions of the life of the Virgin, as well aspects. At the same time, here links of the Body
as survey of the iconography of images based on of Incarnated Logos with the Church can definitely
them, might contribute to displaying the specific be discerned and in this respect, indication of the
rendering of this theme in Georgian art and reveal- Incarnation of the Word is essential.
ing its links with the tradition of the Christian Or- The same picture is seen in the tenth-century
thodox world. murals of the southern chapel of Sabereebi rock-
In earliest Georgian murals containing life story cut church N8 in Gareja desert.12 Annunciation on
subjects of the Virgin, this theme is included within the Eastern slope of the vault and Visitation on the
the common fabric of Christological cycle, be- opposite western slope are the only subject scenes
ing one of the main conceptual accents in the con- of these murals, which apart from these comprise
text of the idea of Incarnation. Thus, an amazingly the image of the Virgin Eleusa in the chancel and
vast programme of the chancel painting of Otkhta a donor portrait on the western wall. Accordingly,
Eklesia (turn of the 970980s) in the outhern his- the idea of Incarnation is entirely dominant in this
torical province of Georgia, Tao-Klarjeti (now in small chapel, the main emphasis being put on the
North-Eastern Turkey)11 is marked by the concept image of the Virgin.
of establishment of the terrestrial Church and its
eternal triumph. Within the sequence of Christo-
logical scenes in the lower register, emphasised is
the indication of the Incarnation and manifestation
of the divine nature of Christ (Annunciation, Visita-
tion, Nativity, Presentation in the Temple, Baptism,
Transfiguration), as well as his Resurrection (Cruci-
fixion, Marys at the Tomb, Christ Appearing to the

XI XIII ., Tbilisi
1973, 237254; G. Jgenti, From the History of Georgian
Religious Miniature of the 17th Century, in: Atti del Primo
Simposio Internationale sullarte Georgiana, Milano 1977,
p. 127134; F. Devdariani,
, Tbilisi 1990, 26, pl. X, XIV; Description of Geor-
gian Manuscripts, Collection A, vol. I1, Tbilisi 1974, 97
104; t. V, Tbilisi 1955, 7475; Collection H, vol. I, Tbilisi
1946, 7273; vol. III, Tbilisi 1948, 381391; vol. IV, Tbilisi
1950, 185186; vol. VI, Tbilisi 1953, 194195.
11 Cf. Sh. Amiranashvili, -
, 3637, 104105, where all the scenes
are not identified. The first attempt of identification of the
cycle scenes is given in N. Thierry's early publication, cf:
Notes d'un nouveau voyage en Gorgie Turque, Bedi Kartlisa,
Revue de Kartvelologie XXV (1968), 63); further on it was
somewhat clarified, cf: N. et M. Thierry, Peintures du Xe si-
cle en Gorgie Meridionale et leurs rapports avec la peinture
byzantine dAsie Mineure, CahArch XXIV (1975), 81, 84; cf.
also: W. Djobadze, Early Medieval Georgian Monasteries in Fig. 1. Ateni Sioni, south arm, Maryological Cycle, Scheme
Historic Tao, Klarjeti and aveti, Stuttgart 1992, 158170; (After T. Virsaladze)
Z. Skhirtladze, The Mother of All the Churches: Remarks on
the Iconographic Programme of the Apse Decoration of Dort
Kilise, CahArch XLIII (1995), 101116), T. Virsaladze, XXI 12 A. Volskaja,
saukuneebis zogierti tao-klarjuli mokhatuloba (Some Tenth- , in: ( -
Eleventh-century Georgian Murals of Tao-Klarjeti), in: id., , VIII) Tbilisi 1988, 136137, pl. XLVI; T.
Kartuli mkhatvrobis istoriidan (From the History of Geor- Shevjakova, -
gian Painting), Tbilisi 2007, 1748. , Tbilisi 1983, 1314, pl. 4547.


In the murals of Ateni Sioni, executed under
the royal donorship in the second half of the elev-
enth century,13 the life cycle of the Virgin occupies
the whole southern apse (Fig. 1). Each of the three
upper registers bear four scenes arranged in the
following sequence: Refused Offerings, Joachim
Reproaching Anne, Annunciation to Anne, Annun-
ciation to Joachim, Meeting at the Golden Gate,
Nativity of the Virgin, First seven steps of Mary,
Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple, Annun-
ciation, Visitation, Testing of Mary by the Water of
Oath, Dream of Joseph (Fig. 2). The fourth, lower
register bears just two large compositions Nativ-
ity and Assumption of the Virgin.
Certain peculiarities of the Maryological cycle
in Ateni murals have long since claimed attention.14
For example, the arrangement of scenes and the
principle of narration show affinity with the narra-
tive cycles of Eastern Christendom, but the iconog-
raphy of scenes testifies to the links with the Byz-
antine tradition. And what is more important, eight
scenes of the infancy of the Virgin (represented in
the two upper registers) in Ateni are supplemented
by five scenes connected with the Manifestation in
Flesh of the Saviour. The integrity of the general
iconographic programme of the mural decoration of
Fig. 2. Ateni Sioni, Maryological Cycle, Dream of Joseph
this tetraconch type church is stressed by the fact
that the theme unfolding in the southern apse finds
its immediate continuation in its opposite, north- main church comprised donor portraits of Queen
ern apse: here the Christological cycle containing Tamar (11841210) and her son Giorgi-Lasha
twelve scenes begins with the Presentation of the (12101223).15 The iconographic programme of a
Virgin to the Temple and ends with the Pentecost. vast aisled church, in respect of the choice of im-
Absence of the major part of Christs infancy ages, is typical of its epoch. The idea of Paradise,
scenes, characteristic of monuments of early date the triumph of Christianity are given special em-
and later preserved mainly in Cappadocian murals phasis in its paintings, which fully accords with
only, provides an additional argument in favour of the political and cultural rise of the country at that
certain links of the iconographic sources of Ateni
Sioni murals with Byzantine tradition. 15 G. Chubinashvili, op. cit., 5783; T. Virsaladze, -
Among other Georgian murals containing the -
life cycle of the Virgin the painting in the main , in: II International Symposium on
church of Bertubani rock-cut monastery in the Georgian Art, offprint, 18; A. Volskaja, -
. , in:
Gareja desert is definitely distinguished (Fig. 3).
. . , 92105; id.,
These murals, similar to the frescoes in the refec- -, in: Studenica et
tory of the same monastery, were executed in the lart byzantin autour de lanne 1200, Belgrade 1988, 401
first quarter of the thirteenth century under the pa- 414; Z. Skhirtladze, Die Besonderheiten des kompositionel-
tronage of the Georgian royal court. Murals of the len Aufbaus der Wandmalerei der Hohlenkirche in Bertuba-
ni, in: IV International Symposium on Georgian Art, Tbilisi
1983, offprint; id., -
13 Cf. supra, footnote 3. . -
14 T. Virsaladze, XIII ., PhD Thesis, Tbilisi 1987; A.
, in: . Eastmond, Royal Imagery in Medieval Georgia, University
. , Moscow 1978, 84, 86, 89. Park, PA 1998, 169181.

ity of the Virgin and Washing
of the Child. On the southern
wall the scenes were placed
as follows: Marriage of Mary
and Joseph, Presentation of
the Virgin to the Temple, An-
nunciation, Nativity.
Monuments of East Chris-
tian wall painting and Geor-
gian in particular, show sever-
al principles of illustration and
placement of the Maryological
cycle. It often occupies one of
the main places in the mu-
rals, but almost never occurs
as an independent, moreover,
the only theme forming mu-
ral decoration of the church.16
Bertubani, together with Sab-
ereebi and Dirbi, provides
an exceptional case, bearing
Fig. 3. Bertubani, View of the interior of the church from east (Photo of the Expedition mainly Maryological cycle
of E. Taqaishvili, 1913) scenes, occupying the ma-
jor part of the naos painting.
Besides these, murals might
time one of the advanced places it held in the also be quoted of a small aisled rock-cut chapel of
Christian East. Sts. Joachim and Anne in Kizil-ukur, the date of
Dedication of the church to the Mother of God which varies from the seventh to the beginning of
is distinctly emphasised; in this respect, these mu- the tenth century.17 At the same time, whereas in
rals show certain affinity with other contemporary Sabereebi and Kizil-ukur the above-mentioned
Georgian murals preserved in the churches dedi- peculiarity could be explained by its small dimen-
cated to the Virgin (Vardzia, Qintsvisi, Akhtala sions; in the vast interior of Bertubani church (as
etc.). At the same time, the murals of Bertubani well as in Dirbi) this is a result of strictly purpose-
church are marked by one clear-cut peculiarity ful solution: having ignored the majority of Chris-
the theme of the Virgin is amazingly emphasised tological cycle scenes (except the Annunciation and
in its programme: with a relatively small number Nativity) and having selected mainly Maryological
of images, her vast life cycle is drawn in the fore- cycle scenes, the specific theological idea of the
ground, being uninterrupted by any other subject murals was emphasised with special force.
scenes. Images closely linked with the former On the whole, selection of Maryological cycle
the Virgin with the Child and the Melismos in the scenes in Bertubani follows a usual, historical se-
chancel, Ascension of the Cross on the vault ex-
press a single idea: Incarnation of the Lord and His 16 J. Lafontaine-Dosogne, Iconographie de lenfance de la
Redeeming Sacrifice. Vierge dans lEmpire Byzantin et en Occident, vol. I, Brux-
The cycle, placed in the upper part of the naos elles 1964, 202207.
walls as a kind of a single uninterrupted frieze, be- 17 N. Thierry, Iconographie inedite en Cappadoce. Le cycle
gins in the eastern portion of the northern wall with de la Conception et lenfance de la Vierge a Kizil Tshoukour,
Rejected Offerings, followed by Anne and Joachim in: Akten des XI Internationalen byzantinisten Kongresses,
Sadly Returning from the Temple, Annunciation to Mnchen 1960, 620623, pl. LXXXIILXXXVI; id., Haute
Joachim, Annunciation to Anne (Figs. 45). Then Moyen-ge en Cappadoce. Region de avuin, vol. II, Paris
the scenes pass to the west, to a semicircular tym- 1994, 210229, fig. 6468, pl. 108114. For a discussion of
the various datings, see: C. Jolivet-Levy, Les glises byz-
panum, where three compositions are arranged antines de Cappadoce. Le programme iconographique de
symmetrically: Meeting at the Golden Gate, Nativ- labside et de ses abards, Paris 1991, 4950.


the fore, contributing to spe-
cial accentuation of the gen-
eral concept of murals.
Such a concept is remi-
niscent of those icons both
painted or chased where the
Virgin is represented in the
centre, while around it a cy-
cle is depicted in which the
subject scenes of her life are
given a considerable place.
Similar cases are found both
within the Byzantine world
and Georgia proper. In this
connection Zarzma and Ubisi
icons18 can be quoted.
An important conceptual
emphasis is the scene placed
in the centre of the western
wall the Nativity of the Vir-
gin, being one of the main ep-
isodes of the cycle, as well as
one of the significant feasts of
the Orthodox Church; by its
contents, it is first of all, con-
nected with the Manifestation
of the Lord, His Incarnation.
At the same time it should not
be accidental that in Bertu-
bani murals this most signifi-
Fig. 4. Bertubani, Murals of the vault and north wall, Scheme cant episode of the cycle does
topographically occupy one
of the central and well ob-
quence of events; however, the cycle is somewhat
servable places in the interior, thus being definitely
enlarged due to the addition of two scenes Annun-
accentuated in the ensemble.
ciation and Nativity. Generally, these compositions
are connected with the Christological cycle, but in Below this composition, in the centre of a nar-
Bertubani they directly follow the prior story of the row portion of the wall above the arch, i.e. straight
nativity and infancy of the Virgin and, accordingly, opposite the image of the Mother of God in the
are perceived as a continuation of Marys story. conch, represented is the figure of St. Nino, Apos-
tle of Georgia. 19 Certain symbolic interrelation of
Thus, in Bertubani murals the Maryological cycle
ends not by the Assumption, a subject traditional these images is doubtless: according to the legend,
for a narrative cycle (this scene is completely omit- the Virgin, whom Georgia was allotted to, appeared
ted), but the Nativity, i.e. at the end of the life story in a vision to St. Nino and gave her a cross made
of the Mother of God there appears the Incarnated
18 Cf. supra, footnotes 7 and 8.
Lord Jesus Christ. Images of the Virgin and the
Child represented in the sanctuary conch (after hav- 19 M. Tarchnischvili, Die Legende der heiligen Nino und

ing perceived the Nativity the sight is again directed die Geschichte des georgischen Nationalbewusstseins, BZ
to them) acquire absolutely different sounding af- 40 (1940), 4875; E. M. Synek, The Life of St. Nino: Geor-
ter the comprehension of the entire cycle the idea gias Conversion to its Female Saint, in: Christianizing Peo-
ples and Converting Individuals (eds. I. Wood G. Arm-
of the Coming of the Lord is maximally pushed to strong), Turnhout 2000, 313.

of vine tree to Christianise
the country.20 The idea of the
country falling by lot to the
Virgin shown through such
link, becomes especially vivid
in Georgian literature and art
at the turn of the twelfth-thir-
teenth centuries at the time
when the country acquired
great power and began to
advance considerably in the
Caucasus and Christian East.
It is noteworthy that this idea
proper is outlined in the works
by Georgian authors in the
middle and second half of the
twelfth century (i.e. chrono-
logically close to Bertubani
murals) namely, the monk
Arseni,21 an anonymous au-
thor of one of the metaphras-
tic versions of the Life of St. Fig. 5. Bertubani, Maryological Cycle on the north wall (Photo of the Expedition of G.
Nino and Catholicos Nikolaoz Chubinashvili, 1948)
Gulaberisdze (11501178)
in his Sermon on the Life-
the sun unto the going down of the same the Lords
giving Pillar, Chiton of the Lord and the Univer-
name is to be praised (Psalm CXIII:3). This fact is
sal Church.22 Attention is focused in the work of
most likely to be explained not only by the tradition
the prelate of the Georgian Church on the fact of
of using this text in medieval Georgian mural paint-
Christianization of the country allotted to the Moth- ing; such a solution does well show the essence of
er of God by a woman; at the same time, the role the theological idea of the murals accentuation
of woman in the history of the Georgian nation is of the idea of the Manifestation of the Incarnated
highlighted. Saviour and his Glorification alongside such an en-
Alongside special accentuation of the theme of larged illustration of the Virgin theme proper.
the Virgin in the frescoes, the inscription on the tri- Based on the selection of the cycle scenes, their
umphal arch of the church, i.e. one of the main con- iconography, their arrangement in the interior, Ber-
ceptual accents of the murals, is based on the idea tubani murals, on the whole, follow the East Chris-
of Glorification of the Lord From the rising of tian artistic tradition (cf. Figs. 67). In this respect, a
number of cycles, showing certain affinity to them,
20 Dzveli kartuli agiograpiuli literaturis dzeglebi (Monu- comprise quite a vast circle of Byzantine monuments
ments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature) I, (ed. I. including murals of a large chronological span: Miro-
Abuladze), Tbilisi 1963, 63; For the English translation cf.
zh (mid-twelfth century),23 church of St. Clement in
O. Wardrop, The Life of St. Nino, Studia Biblica et Ecclesi-
astica, 51 (1900), 188. Ochrid (1378),24 Pelendri (fifteenth century),25 refec-
21 Tskhovreba tsmindisa ninosi, shedgenili didi arseni
23 M. Soboleva, -
kartlisa katolikosis mier (The Life of St. Nino, Compiled by
Arseni, Catholicos of Georgia), Tbilisi 1902, p. 352. , in: -
22 N. Gulaberisdze, Sakitkhavi suetis tskhovlelisai, kuar- . ,
Moscow 1968, 2021.
tisa sauploisa da katolike eklesiisa (Sermon on the Life-
24 R. Hamann-MacLean H. Hallensleben, Grundlegung zu
giving Pillar, Tunic of the Lord and the Universal Church)
(ed. V. Karbelashvili), Tbilisi 1908; M. Tarchnischvili, einer Geschichte der mittelalterlichen Monumentalmalerei in
Geschichte der kirchlichen georgischen Literatur, Vatican Serbien und Makedonien, Bd. I, Giessen 1963, pl. 2122.
1955, 235237. 25 J. Lafontaine-Dosogne, op. cit., 204.


The western wall of the church, in a sequence
of the most venerated Church Fathers, bears an
image of St. Maximos the Confessor, the last pe-
riod of his activity being connected with Georgia,
where he was exiled and where he was buried af-
ter his death.28 St. Maximos is an author of one of
the vastest versions of the Life of the Virgin, which
was translated into Georgian by St. Euthymios the
Athonite at the turn of the tenth to eleventh cen-
tury (National Centre of Manuscripts in Tbilisi,
cod. A40).29 It seems most likely that alongside
other sources, the Maryological cycle represented
in Bertubani was inspired by St. Maximos s work,
which is known by the single Georgian translation
preserved in the only codex of the National Centre
of Manuscripts in Tbilisi (Cod. A40).30

Fig. 6. Bertubani, Rejection of the Offerings

tory of the Great Lavra on Mount Athos (1512).26 At

the same time, none of the above-cited monuments
provide direct analogies to Bertubani frescoes, due Fig. 7. Bertubani, Annunciation to Joachim
to the peculiarities of the arrangement of the cycle: it
concerns inclusion of the scene of Joachim and Anne
Returning from the Temple, isolation of the episode Beginning from the first half of the thirteenth
of Washing of the Child into a separate, independent century onwards, cases of inclusion of separate
scene, depiction of a rare iconographic version of the scenes or vast cycles of the Virgin in the mural dec-
composition of Marriage27 (and before the Presenta- orations are found more frequently; in its turn, this
tion to the Temple), as well as inclusion of the Nativ- makes it possible to speak of a tendency firmly es-
ity at the end of the cycle.
28 K. Kekelidze,
26 J. J. Yiannias, The wall paintings in the Trapeza of the , in: id., Etiudebi dzveli kartuli lit-
Great Lavra on Mount Athos: a study in Eastern Orthodox eraturis istoriidan (Studies in Old Georgian Literature) VII,
refectory art (unpublished PhD dissertation), University of Tbilisi 1961, 1454. This question was dealt with earlier by
Pittsburgh PA 1971, Ann Arbor MI, 1971. A. Briliantov, .
27 The peculiar iconography of the scene must have pre- , VI1 (1917), 162.
29 K. Kekelidze, -
conditioned the view put forward by J. Lafontaine-Dosogne
according to which Marriage was most unlikely to be rep- , in: id., Etiudebi dzveli kartuli literaturis
resented in Bertubani; instead she suggested that two scenes istoriidan (Studies in Old Georgian Literature) V (1957),
of the Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple were depict- 9699; id., Dzveli kartuli literaturis istoria, 195197.
ed side by side, cf. J. Lafontaine-Dosogne, op. cit., 44, 129, 30 Description of Georgian Manuscripts, Collection A, I ,
168, 174. 121122.

tablished in Georgian mural painting. It is quite ob- Akhtala six,36 in Qanchaeti,37 Tsalenjikha38 and
vious that diverse approaches are discernible in such
an abundance of examples. Under the conditions of vanished; however, based on the choice of the scenes and
generally standard iconography of the scenes, this the row of the cycle compositions the Presentation of the
mainly concerns the place given to the theme and Virgin to the Temple is most likely to have been represent-
ed there.
scale of its illustration. In the majority of murals, 36 Similarly to Timotesubani, in Akhtala the life cycle of
conformably to the system of church decoration and
the Mother of God is placed in the upper part of the cross-
general iconographic programme, finally established arm (in the present case in the northern cross-arm). The
by the eleventh century,31 two most important epi- Nativity of the Virgin emerges as the central scene of the
sodes of the life of the Virgin the Nativity of the cycle, holding the entire tympanum of the wall and echoing
Virgin and Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple the scene of the Nativity of Christ, represented opposite to
it, in the tympanum of the southern cross-arm. In the row
(Qinstvisi church of St. Nicholas32) or only the sec-
composed of three scenes, represented below the Nativity
ond of them (Kisoreti,33 the north annex of the main of the Virgin, the sequence of events is not observed: a rare
church in the Kobair monastery34) are represented scene of the cycle, Joachim reading the book of Twelve
among the Old and New Testament scenes. In other Tribes is given in the western portion of the wall, next to
cases, narration is far more detailed: in Nekresi it it in the middle Rejection of the Offerings, while in the
eastern part Benediction of the Priests is represented. The
comprises three scenes, in Timotesubani five,35 in
final scene of the cycle Presentation of the Virgin to the
Temple is placed on the eastern slope of the vault of the
31 E. Kitzinger, Reflections of the Feast Cycle in Byzantine cross-arm (A. Lidov, op. cit., 4247). Presumably, one more
Art, CahArch XXXVI (1974), 5253. scene conjecturally the Offering of Gifts, or a composition
32 A similar relation is evident in the painting of the uniting the two episodes, the Annunciation of Joachim and
Qintsvisi St. Nicholas church, built and painted in the the Annunciation of Anne was depicted on the western slope
opening years of the thirteenth century by order of the royal of the vault; the inconsistent presentation of the events in
court. It is also adorned with the images of the supreme rul- the cycle must allow to make such an assumption.
ers of the Georgian kingdom: king Giorgi III, queen Tamar, 37 E. Privalova, , 206. The scenes
and prince Giorgi-Lasha. In the multi-part, complex pro- surviving on the western wall and slopes of the vault, in
gramme, which was to reflect contemporary historical and the upper register of the north cross-arm, as well as sepa-
cultural realities, the theme of the Mother of God is one of rate fragments of images, point to the fact that, similarly to
the essential accents. Along with the image of the Virgin the contemporary murals of the domed churches (Qintsvisi,
in the chancel conch, and her life cycle represented in the Timotesubani, Akhtala), the life cycle of the Virgin fully
upper part of the north cross-arm, the principal images of covered this section. The Presentation of the Virgin to the
the programme are the figure of St. Nino, represented in the Temple and the Seven Steps of the Virgin below it have sur-
north face of the south-western pier (opposite to the main vived in relatively full form. The figure of the flying angel
entrance), with an inscription Saint Nino the Enlightener on the western slope and the tree, remaining below it, allow
(M. Didebulidze, op. cit., 18; Z. Skhirtladze, Tsminda nino to presume that the scenes of the Annunciation to Joachim
da dzveli kartuli sakhviti khelovneba (St. Nino and Old and Annunciation to Anne must have been represented at
Georgian Visual Art), in: Tsminda Nino, Tbilisi 2008, 333) this place. The principal scene of the cycle (the Nativity of
and Queen Tamars image in the royal portrait, on the north the Virgin is not ruled out, similarly to other monuments)
wall of the northern cross-arm. may have been depicted in the upper semicircular section of
33 M. Didebulidze, Two Monuments of Georgian Medieval the northern wall. If the scenes, similarly to the vault, were
Mural Painting in Upper Imereti (Kisoreti, Zenobani), in: arranged in two registers, with two or three scenes running
IV International Symposium on Georgian Art, offprint, 2. below, then the cycle must have been comprised of seven or
34 Z. Skhirtladze, Gamokvleva Kobairis eklesiis mokhatu-
eight episodes.
38 I. Lordkipanidze, op. cit., 4550, pl. 33, 35, 36. The life
lobis shesakheb, 195196.
cycle scenes of the Virgin are mainly grouped in the mid-
In Timotesubani murals the life cycle scenes of the Vir- dle section of the southern and eastern walls of the south-
gin are placed in the upper part of the southern cross-arm, ern cross-arm occupying three registers. United in the cycle
on the slopes of the vault and in the semicircle of the tympa- are: Annunciation to Joachim, Annunciation to Anne, Na-
num. The first scene (on the eastern slope of the vault) has tivity of the Virgin, Joachim and Anne Caress Mary, First
almost completely vanished; however, according to the nar- seven Steps of the Virgin, Blessing of the Virgin by Priests=
ration, Offering of Gifts or Refusal of Gifts are seen to be Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple. According to Sh.
depicted there. The narration is continued on the tympanum Amiranashvili, the cycle in Tsalenjikha, similarly to the
by the scenes unfolded from left to right Annunciation to life cycle of St. Nicholas in the prothesis, is depicted using
Joachim, Annunciation to Anne and Nativity of the Virgin. book illumination as a prototype (Sh. Amiranashvili, Kartuli
The final scene placed on the eastern slope of the vault has khelovnebis istoria, 339).


Gelati39 seven, in Tsaishi40 at least nine, and in theological programme of the church decoration to
Zarzma41 thirteen. What is more significant, all the history of the Incarnation.
these cycles are depicted in a special place within From the standpoint of the place of the life cycle
a multipartite monumental church decoration, oc- of the Virgin in the church decoration, as well as
cupying the vault and tympanum of the southern or of its conceptualization, the recently opened mu-
northern cross-arm, or major part of the cross-arm. rals of the principal church of the Dirbi monastery
In this case one can surely speak of an echo of the stands out for an original solution. For a long pe-
tendency revealed already in Ateni Sioni murals, riod of time, the Dirbi monastery remained one of
giving one of the significant places in the general the metochia of the Monastery of the Holy Cross
of Jerusalem in Georgia.42 Its principal church was
39 Represented are Rejection of the Offerings, Annuncia- built in the tenth century, and later was renovated
tion to Joachim, Annunciation to Anne, Meeting of Joachim several times. The appreciably damaged murals
and Anne, Birth of the Virgin, First Seven Steps of the Vir- are connected with the stages of renovation, which
gin, Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple. J. Lafontaine-
was carried out in the second half of the fourteenth
Dosogne supposed that this cycle must have followed earli-
er, probably twelfth-century models (J. Lafontaine-Dosogne, century.
op. cit., 211).
40 The main principal images expressive of the theologi- 42 N. Khutsishvili, Ierusalimis jvris monastris mitsatmplo-
cal concept of the Tsaishi cathedral painting are: the Virgin beloba sakartveloshi (Land Ownership of Jerusalem Mon-
Nicopoia with Child at her bosom, represented in the conch astery of the Holy Cross in Georgia), Tbilisi 2006, 2741;
of the chancel, The Virgin Platytera in the vault of the west- G. Gagoshidze N. Chikhladze, op. cit., 6265.
ern arm and a vast scene of the Crucifixion on the wall of
the western arm; its episode Drawing Lots for the Tunic is
specially singled out and brought down into the lunette of
the western door. Depiction of the Lords tunic a distin-
guished holy relic for Georgians at the top of the entrance
can obviously not be accidental (according to the tradition,
the Lords tunic, brought from Jerusalem to Georgia follow-
ing the Crucifixion, is buried at Svetitskhoveli, the foremost
church of the country). Among the themes assembled round
this principal axis the life cycle of the Virgin, represented
in the north arm, is one of the basic. Of once vast pictorial
narration, the following are identified beyond doubt: the na-
tivity of the Virgin, Choosing of Mary among the Jerusalem
Maidens, and the Annunciation at the Spring. The Descent
of the Holy Spirit, depicted on the slope of the arm vault,
with the figure of the Virgin and the Dormition, are the con-
cluding scenes of the cycle, one of the proncipal episodes
of which, the Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple, is
represented on the north wall of the chancel bema.
41 E. Taqaishvili, , 5557; the
Maryological cycle in Zarzma church occupies actually the
whole south cross-arm. Represented are Refused Offer-
ings, Meeting at the Golden Gate, Nativity of the Virgin,
Joachim and Anne Caress Mary, Blessing of the Virgin by
Priests, Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple, the Mira-
cle of the Sceptres, Marriage of Mary and Joseph, Josephs
Reproaches, Testing of Mary by the Water of Oath, Distri-
bution of the Purple to the Daughters of Jerusalem, Dream
of Joseph, The Bringing of the Veil to the Temple. Sh. Ami-
ranashvili noted that in many details, the iconography of the
scenes of the Virgin Cycle overlaps the same cycle repre-
sented on the lateral wings of the Ubisi icon. On this basis,
he asumed that both monuments must have rested on one
and the same primary source, Sh. Amiranashvili, Kartuli Fig. 8. Dirbi, Murals of the north wall, Scheme (After G.
khelovnebis istoria, 342 sq. Gagoshidze N. Chikhladze)

The principal idea of the painting is glorifica-
tion of the Virgin as the vessel of the Lords Incar-
nation. The Mother of God and the Child, depicted
in the conch is echoed by the Mandylion the im-
age of the Incarnation, represented on the vault, as
well as the images of David and Solomon, the texts
of whose scrolls, attributes and symbols suggest-
ing the Incarnation of the Lord and future Salva-
tion. However, from the standpoint of the principal
idea, the apocryphal cycle of the Virgin the only
pictorial narration in the church decoration is
crucial in the unity of the images. The narrative,
formed of eleven scenes, to which two scenes of
the Dormition cycle are added conformably to the
trend established from the Paleologian epoch,43 run
in two registers along the upper part of the walls
and the slopes of the vault (Fig. 8). United in the
cycle are: Rejection of the Offerings, Annunciation
to Joachim, Annunciation to Anne, Nativity of the
Virgin, Joachim and Anne Caress Mary, First Sev-
en Steps of the Virgin, Blessing of the Virgin by
Priests, Zecharias in Prayer, Annunciation, Josephs
Reproaches (Figs. 910). Between the scenes the
Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple is specially
singled out in the upper arched section of the west-
ern wall and the Nativity of Christ below it.44
Fig. 9. Dirbi, Annunciation to Anne
The scenes of the cycle are largely based on the
iconographic schemes characteristic of the Paleolo-
gian period; at the same time, they are distinguished
for an original solution. Among such scenes the cal vision is still indicated in the frescoes. First of
most characteristic is the image of the Mother of all this refers to the distinctly large-sized votive
God, highlighting Her pregnancy in the scene image of St. George spearing Diocletian, placed
Joseph Reproaching an analogue can hardly be at a chosen place, from where it was perceived
found for this image, which not by hinting but by best, i.e. opposite the entrance, on the north wall.
unconcealed naturalism and refined skill represents Depiction of a rider vanquishing the enemy must
the image of the Virgin with distinguished lyricism have been a reflection of realities at the time of
and warmth.45 vicissitudes. At the same time, a composition unit-
Whereas local realities made for the theme of ing two themes next to it, in the upper section of
the Virgin being matchless at Bertubani (special the eastern part of the north wall also seems to be
highlighting of the idea of Georgia being allotted to significant and specially highlighted: the Dormi-
Her), at Dirbi such solution is accounted for by the tion and the Assumption of the Virgin a conclud-
general trend of enhancing the worship of the Virgin ing accent of the cycle and the overall painting.
in contemporary Orthodox art and by other artistic The scenes are represented one above another in
changes characteristic of the period.46 However, lo- such a way as to be perceived as a single seman-
tic unity, even though separated by register line.
43 J. Lafontaine-Dosogne, op. cit., 202203. In this connection attention is paid to the fact that
44 G. Gagoshidze N. Chikhladze, op. cit., 96 sq.
in the sources Dirbi is referred to as monastery
45 of the coffin.47 For its part, this naming may be
Ibid., 110. Cf. analogous image in the murals of Peri-
bleptos, Ohrid of the same period, cf. . , -
linked with the image of the empty coffin special-
XIV , 1980, 125126, ly singled out in the Assumption.
pl. 90.
46 G. Gagoshidze N. Chikhladze, op. cit., 131. 47 N. Khutsishvili, op. cit., 38.


Monastery of the Holy Cross
in Jerusalem at that time, and
that the programme of its mu-
rals was to a certain extent,
drawn by its representative.
The same may be suggest-
ed by the inclusion among the
figures of the Church Fathers,
represented in the chancel, of
Jacob Adelphotheos (remem-
brance on 26 December, on
the feast day of the Council
of the Virgin). On the other
hand, this image directly re-
sponds to the life cycle of the
Virgin, for it was Jacob who
administrated the communion
to the Mother of God before
Her Dormition; he also was
the author of the Jerusalem
liturgy and first Bishop of
Fig. 10. Dirbi, Blessing of the Virgin by Priests Jerusalem. Accordingly, suffi-
cient preconditions must have
With respect to all this the centuries-old tradi- existed in the metochion of
tion of the relationship of Dirbi with the Holy Land
should be taken into account. For a long period of
time, down to the beginning of the twentieth cen-
tury, Dirbi remained the residence of the archiman-
drite of the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Jeru-
salem. The Georgians retrieved the monastery in
130548 and soon, in 1327 adorned it with murals.49
In this connection the question was posed whether
the special accentuation of the Virgins coffin was a
definite hint at the primary sanctuaries of Jerusalem,
to which Georgians possessed special rights, and
successful cases of their retrieval are well-known
precisely in the fourteenth century.50 Neither is it
ruled out that Dirbi became the metochion of the
48 E. Metreveli, Masalebi ierusalimis kartuli koloniis is-
toriistvis (Materials for the History of the Georgian Colony
in Jerusalem), Tbilisi 1962, 4448, 58.
49 T. Virsaladze,
, Tbilisi, 1973,
11; M. Didebulidze M. Janjalia, Ierusalimis jvris monas-
tris mokhatuloba (Murals of the Monastery of the Holy
Cross in Jerusalem), Academia 5 (2003), 2633.
50 L. Menabde, Dzveli kartuli mtserlobis kerebi (Centres
of Old Georgian Literature), Tbilisi 1980, 140141; N. Per-
adze, An Account of the Georgian Monks and Monasteries
in Palestine as revealed in the Writings of non-Georgian
Pilgrims, Georgica. A Journal of Georgian and Caucasian Fig. 11. Gelati, Bema of the chancel, south wall,
Studies, 45 (1937), 192 sq. Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple

the Jerusalem Monastery of
the Holy Cross for the depic-
tion of him.51
In the sequence of monu-
ments with the life cycle of the
Virgin the murals of Kirants,52
Sapara53 and Gelati54 churches
stand somewhat apart, where
the life cycle of the Virgin
(in the first two cases it com-
prises at least twelve scenes)
was represented in the bema,
thus being actually united
with the apsidal composition.
Such a solution does lead us
back to that early, pre-Icon-
oclastic period, when narra-
tion on the Incarnation of the
Logos was one of the major
parts of the chancel decora- Fig. 12. Gelati, south arm, Dormition
tion (Castelseprio and Perush-
titsa can be quoted).55 Murals
in the church of Sapara are noteworthy in another of the Nativity, Annunciation and Visitation;56 ac-
respect as well chancel barrier reliefs of the Dor- cordingly, one can speak of an existing practice of
mition church, located at the site before the large placing this theme within the limits of the chancel
domed church was erected, comprised the images and representing it around (or below) the major im-
ages of the painted decoration at a somewhat earlier
51 Such relation is apparent in the seventeenth-century date (the same is the case with painted and metal
painting of the chancel screen of the church of the Virgin icons, where the history of the Incarnation, includ-
of Bethehem of Maghalaant Eklesia, where the Assumption ing the story of the life of the Virgin, together with
of the Mother of God and the episode of handing the belt Christological cycle scenes, is depicted around the
to the Apostle Thomas are depicted: T. Gagoshidze, XVII s. central image of the Virgin and Child).
mokhatuloba Maghalaant Eklesiashi (17th-century Murals Connected with this peculiarity of the chancel
in Maghalaant Eklesia), Spektri 12 (1993), 124 sq.
52 For preliminary notes concerning certain aspects of the
decoration programme, a general approach estab-
lished in the course of the centuries in Georgia
murals cf. D. Gordeev, -
, and differing from the Byzantine reality (where
- 8 (1931), 37; id., the Maryological cycle was often placed in the
, - narthex) should find its explanation. As seen from
, III the preliminary examination, this was a tradition
(1929), 416; N. Thierry, Les Peintures de lglise de Kiranc, preserved for quite a long period, in which certain
in: IV International Symposium on Georgian Art, offprint; id.,
A propos de lglise de Kiranc. Rapport prliminaire, Bedi purposefulness is discernible. According to it, nar-
Kartlisa. Revue de Kartvelologie XLI (1983), 194228 ration on the Incarnation was begun just next to
however, the scenes of the life cycle of the Virgin are omitted. the image of His Eternal Glory; all these implied
Cf. Z. Skhirtladze, The Church of Kirants, Scientific Session quite an original arrangement of the accents meant
of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, Tbilisi State University, for possibly complete and distinct revealing of the
Abstracts, Tbilisi 1987, 21.
53 G. Khutsishvili, op. cit., 40.
Salvatory idea in the general theological concept
of the murals (the sequence of the narration from
54 Cf. supra, footnote 41.
the chancel to the naos and not from the narthex
55 A. Frolov, Lgise rouge de Perutica, Bulletin of the
to the naos and then to the chancel, as is the case
Byzantine Institute I (1946), 2942, pl. VIIIXIX; K. Weitz-
in Byzantium).
mann The Fresco Cycle of S. Maria di Castelseprio, Prin-
ceton, 1951; V. Lazarev, , in: id.,
, Moscow 1971, 6787. 56 R. Shmerling, op. cit., 123 sq.


wall were executed in the reign of Giorgi III, King of
Imereti in 15751678.58
The row of scenes of the cycle of the Dormition,
based on a special apocryphal treatise, fails to follow
the chronological sequence of events. Conformably
to the tradition of doubling the Christological cycle,
namely the passions of Christ, established at the time
in Christian Orthodox art,59 the Annunciation of the
Dormition corresponds to its above-depicted Prayer
in the Gethsemane Garden, the Washing of Feet by
Mother of God to Christ Washing the Feet, while
the Supper of the Women to the Last Supper. At

Fig. 13. Gelati, south wall of the west arm, Mary Washing 58 Cf. I. Mamaiashvili, op. cit., 227236.
Feet 59 Cf. similar solutions in Zaum (Ohrid), and Graanica,
both of the fourteenth century, cf. . ,
XIV , 116, 117; . ,
Three sixteenth-seventeenth-centuries layers : ,
form the decoration of the main church of the Dor- 1988, 121124.
mition at Gelati monastery. Principal in the overall
ensemble created by the unity of these layers is the
image of the Mother of God, highlighted by all pos-
sible iconic means the Nicopea mosaic image of
the Early twelfth century in the conch of the chan-
cel57 is attended by a cycle of the infancy of the Vir-
gin, represented on both sides of the Ascension of
Christ in the vault of the bema, executed during the
reign of Bagrat III, king of Imereti (West Georgia)
in 15571565 (Rejection of the Offerings, Annuncia-
tion to Joachim, Annunciation to Anne, Meeting at
the Golden Gate, Nativity of the Virgin, Presenta-
tion of the Virgin to the Temple, Zecharias in Prayer)
(Fig. 11). To the same period belong two large scenes
of the Glory of the Virgin and the Dormition in the Fig. 14. Gelati, north wall of the west arm, Gathering
lower part of the south wall of the south cross-arm Round the Clouds of the Apostles
(Fig. 12), while the cycle of the Dormition of the
Mother of God, formed of seven scenes and placed
in the upper part of the western wall of the west-
ern cross-arm (Annunciation of the Dormition) and
in the upper section of the lateral walls of the same
arm (Mary Praying in Front of the Icon Not Made by
Hand, the Supper of the Holy Women, Mary Wash-
ing Feet, Apostle Jacob Offering Communion to the
Virgin to the south; Gathering Round the Clouds
of the Apostles, and Ascension of the Mother of God
to the north) (Figs. 1315), as well as two large
scenes from the Akathistos cycle on both sides of a
niche with the image of St. Romanos Melodos (iko-
ses VII and X) in the lower section of the western
57 L. Khuskivadze, Gelatis mozaika (The Mosaic of Ge- Fig. 15. Gelati, north wall of the west arm, Ascension of
lati), Tbilisi 2006, 17 sq. the Mother of God

first sight, there is no immediate link between the Two large scenes of the south cross-arm are
Gathering of the Apostles Around the Clouds and also connected with the Dormition cycle. Below
the Assumption of the Virgin and Judas Kiss and the Dormition of the Virgin, in the lower register
Christ in the presence of Ana and Caiaphas, yet the of the painting, the Mother of God is represented
hints in the text of the apocryphal work render this as seated on the couch with her hands folded on the
relation obvious to some extent.60 chest. To her right are Apostles and Virgins, to the
The gathering of the Apostles, as a consist- left the prophets. The composition is based on the
ent part of the Dormition of the Mother of God, apocrypha of the Dormition, where in anticipation
at least from the thirteenth century (Sopochani,61 of the Dormition, besides the Apostles, the story
Peribleptos in Ohrid,62 in Georgia Tsalenjikha and tells about the arrival of Old Testament prophets.65
Likhne63) was represented in the Gelati painting as In terms of their scale and solution the Visitation
an independent scene. This was presumably done of the Virgin before her Dormition and the Dormi-
to highlight the importance of this episode in the tion are one of most important accents in the over-
Dormition of the Virgin, with account of srtistic all ensemble. Completing the Christological cycle
trends of the period. The same may be said about in which the Mother of God takes part (The Annun-
the Assumption.64 At the same time it should be ciation, Nativity, Redemption, Lamentation), both
borne in mind that these episodes are not inserted compositions assume the significance of a general-
in the scene of the Dormition, depicted earlier on ized image of Glorification of the Virgin.
the south wall of the south cross-arm. This was the The interest in the illustration of the life cycle of
reason of their later incorporation in the Dormition the Virgin in Georgian art, namely, in mural paint-
cycle as separate episodes. ing, hardly changed at a later period (seventeenth-
eighteenth centuries) either. However, the abun-
60 M. Van Esbroeck, LAssomption de la Vierge, 146. dance of the material demands a special survey of
61 . . , , 1991, 5866, T. 7583. the epoch. Just one thing could be stressed in con-
62 Id., , 1974, clusion the material known to date testifies to the
1719, 186187, .XV. significance of the image of the Virgin in the whole
63 In both murals this episode is incorporated in the Dor- course of the centuries-old history of the spiritual
mition scene (for Tsalenjikha cf. I. Lordkipanidze, op. cit., culture of Christian Georgia. This image was eter-
5960; for Likhne, L. Shervashidze, - nally cast in the local mentality as a prefiguration
, 1980, 111
115, pl. 21.
of Eternal Descent of the Divine Bliss and Salva-
64 Only one more example is known in Georgian wall tion, a symbol of Intercession for Georgia before
painting of representing the Assumption of the Mother of the Lord.
God independently, namely in the mural of the chancel
screen of Maghalaant Eklesia (cf. footnote 52). 65 M. Van Esbroeck, LAssomption de la Vierge, 153.


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