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The Development of Christianity in Georgia
by Helen Inviyanova, Republic of Georgia, originally published in Nineveh Magazine
Posted: Sunday, December 31, 2000 11:59 am CST


The Republic of Georgia occupies the central and western parts of Transcaucasia. It is a country of marked contrasts, rich in ancient traditions and history. It is well known for its beautiful monuments, churches and cathedrals. But I am going to take you to the period of Christianity in Georgia.Kartli1, a province of Georgia, adopted Christianity as the state religion in the fourth century. It was brought to Georgia by Saint Nina, an Assyrian born woman and a native resident of Cappadocia. Later, thirteen Assyrian Fathers came to Georgia. Legend tells us that the Virgin Mary sent them to strengthen Christianity among Georgians. Historians have varying versions about their arrival in Georgia. One source says that they were marked by special hats, others say they did not have hats but held crosiers2, with the image of a lion on them, in their hands. Among the Saint Fathers was one whose name was David Garedja. Father David originally settled on the mountain "Mtatsminda" in Tbilisi. In 562 he went to Kakheti, another province, and settled there in the deserted place called Udabno, where he lived in a cave. Later in the sixth century, the Metropolitan monastery of Lavra ("cave") was founded on that place. The monastery was extended in the ninth century and again in the eleventh century. It includes ancillary monasteries such as Bertubani, Natlismtsemeli, Dado, Udabno. They all sprang up along the mountain chain of the region, and all used the name of the parent monastery. It must be mentioned that a large number of wall paintings created by the school of artists resident there in the Middle Ages are still to be seen in the caves. If we look at the wall painting of David Garedja we can see the warm hued figures which stand out in brilliant splashes of color against the light background. The wall paintings of Bertubaniare dated from the years 1213-1222. The south wall and part of the ceiling have collapsed, but the monumental figures of the Virgin and child and archangels survive in the apse3, and there are large portraits of Queen Tamar and her son Giorgi, the IV Lasha, on the north wall. On the ceiling is depicted the Exaltation of the Cross with hovering angels.

When you look at this outstanding, divine and beautiful monument of Christianity, you feel yourself as a participant of the period when Father David had lived there. And sometimes it comes to your mind that time has stopped here and history has been frozen. And so I decided to write about the monastery of David Garedja, because it is very painful to think that maybe in ten or twenty years this beauty will be completely ruined. Nothing will be left from our ancestors. In the twentieth century, during the Soviet period, a military firing ground was established near that place. So every time that military exercises were held, this beautiful place shook as a result of the power of explosions. Later, Georgia passed a resolution placing David Garedja's Monastery under the government's protection. But to protect does not mean to help. It needs restoration, and it's a pity to mention that our government does not have the material means for preserving this monument of Georgian and Assyrian culture for the future generations.

Helen Inviyanova, an Assyrian of Tbilisi, Georgia, was born in 1974 and graduated from Tbilisi University with honors in the field of foreign languages. Presently she teaches English to children and young people at the Assyrian Mission in Tbilisi, which was established by Father Benjamin Bet Yadegar, a priest of the Assyrian Catholic Church. Helen has been reading Nineveh magazine for several years and says that "it is nice to know that we have such a good magazine which contains historical and cultural articles."

Footnotes:

  1. Georgia consists of many regions / provinces, such as Kakheti, Guria, Svanetia, Kartli.
  2. Crosier a staff resembling a shepherd's crook carried by bishops and abbots as a symbol of office.
  3. Apse a projecting part of a building, such as a church, that is usually semicircular in plan, and vaulted.

References:

  1. "Istoria Grusii." Victir Guchua Shota Meckhia. Isdatelstvo Ganatleba, Tbilisi. 1987.
  2. "The Arts of Ancient Georgia." Russudan Mepisashvili: Vakhtang Tsintsadze.
  3. "Ocherki. Istorii Grusii Isdatelstvo." Samshoblo. 1991.




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