Georgian churches in Armenia (general overview)

27.03.23 10:40

"Kavkazplus" begins publication of scientific and research materials devoted to the problem of Georgian churches on the territory of the present-day Republic of Armenia. Among the Georgian scientists who have devoted many years to the study of Georgian churches of this region - historical Georgian lands that turned out to be part of the "newly created" Armenian state - is historian, culturologist, ethnographer, doctor of philological sciences Bondo Arveladze.


However, it should be underlined that Bondo Arveladze has an extremely friendly attitude towards the Armenian people. Throughout his works he even shares claims of Armenian historians on existence of some "independent Armenian statehood" and even "Armenia" before the XI century. However, authoritative scholars who have studied documents relating to that era have already concluded that there were no "independent Armenian states" at that time. At best, there were vassal possessions of the powerful empires of the time (the Roman or "Byzantine" Empire, the Caliphate, the Seljukid state, etc.). These dependent state formations had nothing to do with the Khoi ethnic group. At a certain historical stage, for political reasons (in particular, greater loyalty to monophysitism on the part of Muslim caliphs or sultans), their ruling elite or part of their strata (of Turkic, Kurdish, Albanian or Georgian origin) held the monophysite faith, which would later be called the Armenian-Gregorian faith.


The indigenous population of what is now northern Armenia was historically Georgian and Orthodox, so as soon as these lands were liberated and became part of the Georgian state, the revival of Orthodoxy began and wonderful churches were built. Many of them survived to this day, although the Georgian population was long ago expelled from these lands. Unfortunately, today, Georgian shrines on this territory are being destroyed or illegally looted by Armenian hysterical falsifiers.


In the 11th century Armenia lost its state independence and broke up into fiefdoms. Eastern Armenia fell under the jurisdiction of the Georgian kingdom and the region was ruled by officials of the Georgian kings, Zakharia and Ivane Mkhargzdeli.


It is known that the Mkhargzdelis were Armenianised Kurds. It is not customary to translate surnames, but despite this, Armenian historians have translated the Mkhargzeli surname and called them 'Arkaiabazouks'. It is to these brothers that Queen Tamar entrusted Eastern Armenia in the XII-XIII centuries.


Academician S. Yeremyan, however, assessed this historical fact differently and attempted to prove that Eastern Armenia had full sovereignty during these centuries and that its rulers, the Mkhargzdelis, conducted a domestic and foreign policy independent of the Georgian kingdom, which is not supported by any historical sources. According to the legal norms of the Georgian kingdom (which is confirmed by foreign sources) official position of Mkhargzdelos was determined as Viceroyalty. Zakharia and Ivane Mkhargzdeli were officials appointed to this position by Georgian kings and their rights and duties were defined by Georgian legislation. Based on this, the kings of Georgia could at any time decide at their own discretion on the tenure of Mkhargzdelos in this position.


This is a general overview of the historical realities that existed in Eastern Armenia during the period in question. This region, called Gogarena in Georgian and Gugark in Armenian, included the most ancient Georgian territory, Shida Kartli. One of the Georgian tribes - the Gugars (Movses Khorenatsi, St. Martin, N. Mar, Ak. Shanidze) lived there. Due to the spinelessness, or rather anti-people nature of the Georgian Bolsheviks, this primordial Georgian territory is now part of the Republic of Armenia.


Chalcedonism in Armenia has a very long history. However, in its most active form, as a result of the processes described above, it emerged here (i.e. Eastern Armenia) in the XII-XIII centuries. During this period Chalcedonian Georgian churches were also erected, as confirmed by historical sources, existing Georgian epigraphy and Georgian epitaphic inscriptions on tombstones. The epigraphic material available here has been studied by A. Shanidze, L. Melikset-Beg, P. Muradyan and others. Here it is logical to recall the well-known formula of G. Merchule: "Georgia is a vast country, where divine service is conducted in the Georgian language" (K. Kekelidze, "History of Ancient Georgian Literature", 1980, p.53).


Akhtala - temple of Akhtala is located in the middle course of Debedi river. In Armenian Akhtala is called Pgndzakhanki, which in Georgian means 'copper deposits'. This name indicates that copper ore was mined in this region.


The ancient Armenian historiography states that Zakharia Mkhargdzeli's brother, Atabag Ivane, adopted the Georgian Diophysite faith, he took Pgndzakhan from the Armenians and built a Georgian Chalcedonian monastery there (13th century). Ivane Atabagh himself is buried in the same monastery. This church is one of the significant monuments of Georgian architecture preserved to this day. It is a religious building of cross-dome type. There are extensions and gates. The facade of the church is richly decorated; the system of frescoes is typical of the early to mid-XIII century. The frescoes include several chronological layers. The most ancient layer is dated to the first half of the XIII century.


Despite the incorrect coverage of some issues, the Georgian epigraphic inscriptions of Akhtala Monastery were relatively fully described and analysed by P. Muradyan ("Georgian Epigraphy in Armenia", 1977, pp. 199-222, in Armenian). L. Melikset-Beg divided the Georgian Lore-Tashiri epigraphic material into two categories: construction-memorial and fresco paintings. Depending on their content, this division is acceptable.


Also scientifically justified his same opinion: "as in these centuries (XII-XIII) Georgians were considered not only Georgians proper, but also Chalcedonians, i.e, dyophysite (two-breed) Armenians, the same Georgian inscriptions, due to absence or paucity of relevant Armenian literary sources, are the only fact confirming Armenian Chalcedonianism in general and specifically in those centuries" (The Georgian Epigraphy of Lore-Tashiri, Proceedings of TSU, Vol. 108, 1964, pp. 310-326).


Here we should also note that the Akhtala monastery was the most significant Chalcedonian centre after the Georgian church of Anisi.


Tezhariuyk is the ancient name of Tayo-Charukhi. Not far from the village of Leghradzor there is a church called Gurjikilisa, a Georgian church. It is also called Pgndzakhank in Armenian sources. This church has been described by P. Shahkhatunyan, G. Alishan, E. Lalian, G. Smbatyan, L. Melikset-Beg and others. L. Melikset-Beg writes: Georgian inscriptions of Bjnis-Prdzakhanki give us grounds to suppose that more than one Chalcedonian church was built in Armenia during Zakariah and Avag times. A. Shanidze and L. Melikset Beg planned to write a special study on Tejariuyk monastery and its Georgian inscriptions.


L. Melikset-Beg dates this Georgian monastery to XII-XIII centuries ("Armenian Preachers of the Northern Territories and their Personalities"... 1926, p.53). However, P. Muradyan has a different opinion regarding the dating.


Khuchap Monastery - the Georgian origin of this temple is mentioned in many published works, articles and letters. I wondered whether this toponym, and therefore the temple, had been included in the "dictionary of toponyms of Armenia and its adjacent territories", which was published 10 years ago in five volumes in Yerevan, in the Armenian language. About Gujab it is written: "Khuchap is located in the Armenian country of Gugareki near the village of the same name. This temple was built in XII century in the village of Privolnoye, Kalinin district. The temple was built in the style of Greek architecture. Accordingly, it is an example of Greek architecture" (vol. 3, 1991).


Firstly, who built this temple "in the Greek style" - is not mentioned, and secondly - although it is not mentioned that it was built by Armenians, but at the same time the fact of its creation by Georgians is concealed. Even more regrettable is that for the purpose of appropriation of the Gujabi monastery the state border of Armenia in this place is moved 400 meters ... (K. Kharadze. The true heir of the monument. Newspaper "Akhalgazrda Komunisti", 1988, October 15. In Georgian language).


In fact, Khuchap Monastery is one of the best monuments of Georgian architecture, whose monastery complex is situated on predominantly Georgian land (Kvemo Kartli), near the village of Akhkerpi in Marneuli district.


Among the church buildings the temple of the first half of XIII century is remarkable. With its proportions, decorations and stylistic features it belongs to the turn of XII-XIII centuries. It belongs to the group of monuments of the first half of XIII century (Betania, Kvatahevi, Pitareti, Tsugrughasheni, Akhtala etc.). The throat of the dome is richly patterned, and the outside is paved with golden and wine-colored stones. The interior is painted, and fragments of Georgian inscriptions in Asomtavruli style are preserved (Georgian Soviet Encyclopedia, vol.2, 1987).


Hnevank- the pillar of truth. In Armenian this church is called Hnevank, while in Georgian it is called the Pillar of Truth. This name has a double meaning: 1. Hune Vank is a Greek monastery. 2. Hne Vank - the old monastery, in the sense of a Chalcedonian monastery. Vakhushti writes about this monastery - "west of there is a monastery Pillar of Truth, beautiful, on the river Bedruji, occupied by Armenians". Professor K. Gapadarian confused the word "Dzeli" (pillar) with another, similar Georgian word - "dzveli" (old), with which other Armenian scientists, except Kh. Muradyan disagreed. Muradyan, on the other hand, accepted Gapadarian's version and noted that Vakhushti refers to the temple as "pillar of truth" without citing a source. In this regard, we would like to note that Vakhushti in his 'geographical description of Georgia', when describing any church, monastery or fortress, usually refers not only to historical sources, but also to historical popular memory.


George Chubinashvili dates this monument to the 8th-9th centuries. Leon Melikest-Bek, describing it in detail, notes: "there is no doubt that this monument (Pillar of Truth) was originally a centre of Armenian anti-Chalcedonites, then, from the 12th century it passed to Chalcedonites, evidence of which are Georgian inscriptions of the 12th-13th centuries in "asomtavruli" style on its outer wall" (Lore-Tashiri Georgian Epigraphy. Proceedings of TSU, vol. 108, 1964, p. 318).


Kobayr. It received its name from the Armenian Kobayr. The root is Georgian - "kvab" (cauldron), joined by the Armenian word "air" (also "cauldron"). I.e. - "Cauldron in a cauldron". As Leon Melikest-Bek mentions, the name is explained by the location of the monastery. It gives an impression of a building located in a "cauldron" - a cave (Kobayr and its Georgian and Armenian inscriptions. The Bulletin of Tpilis University, vol.8, 1927, p.60).


The Georgian origin of Kobayr somehow is questioned by P. Muradyan, who connects this word exclusively with the Armenian language world (Georgian epigraphy in Armenia, 1977, p. 166, in Armenian). N. Marr considers this word to be a borrowing into the Armenian language from the Georgian. In his opinion, this borrowing occurred through the Armenian Chalcedonian circles (Anisi., 1934, p. 104, in Russian).


E. Lalian was one of the first Armenian scientists who noted that besides Armenian inscriptions in Kobori there are also Georgian ones - "Georgian Mesropian letters" (1901). It is unfortunate that E. Lalian repeats the widespread in Armenian scientific literature false opinion that Mesrop Mashtots created Georgian alphabet. Sargis Jalalants and G. Aghayants even call the Kobayr inscriptions Greek.


Based on the scientific study and analysis of Georgian and Armenian epigraphy of Kobayr L. Melikset-Beg drew a justified conclusion: Georgian inscriptions of Koberi are found on a number of buildings (large church, chapel, bell tower, burial vault), while Armenian ones are only on the small church. This is a doubtless indication that this monastery experienced a turning point at the turn of the XII-XIII centuries. In the sense that previously it was a monastery of anti-Chalcedonic Armenians, and then became a monastery of Armenian and Georgian Chalcedonites, which, incidentally, besides the Georgian inscriptions, is confirmed by the alter of the main church, which meets the requirements of Chalcedonic rituals, and by wall paintings, which include Georgian inscriptions asomtavruli (Kobayr and its Georgian and Armenian inscriptions. Vestnik of Tpilisi University, vol. 7, 1927, p. 73). Oskipari - according to Vakhushti map is located in Akhstaf gorge, built in XII-XIII cc. There are also Georgian inscriptions on the frescoes (L. Melikset-Beg. "Armenian preceptors of the Northern Territories and their personality"... 1928, с. 59).


Shakhnazar is the name of a village in Lore-Tashiri, situated north of the mountain called Karagadzha and west of the Lori plain. In Vakhtang VI's work "Dasturlama" and on Vakhushti's map it is marked in the vicinity of Abotsi. Based on a Georgian inscription in Shakhnazari, which mentions "Aboz" or "Abots", Melikest-Beg believes that the name must have been transferred there after the present population moved to the area from Kiakuli Abots. The Armenian scientist does not rule out that they could have brought a part of the Georgian epigraphic monuments from there to Lore-Tashiri. In Shakhnazir and its suburbs a number of Asomtavruli Georgian inscriptions have been preserved, as well as stone-patterned sculptures that Armenian Catholics brought to the church walls. In the so-called lower church, to the right of the south entrance gate, there is a 9-line Georgian inscription under the ceiling. This inscription mentions the builders of the given church - 4 brothers Dznelaisdze. L.Melikest-Beg dates this ktitora Georgian inscription to 1135 (Inscriptions of Lore-Tashiri, Proceedings of Tbilisi University, v.108, 1964, p.320). P. Muradyan believes that the inscription should be dated 1095 (Georgian epigraphy in Armenia, 1977, in Armenian)..


According to P. Muradyan, "the Dznelais-dze brothers" can be qualified as "the four sons of Dznelai" and then their ethnic origin is clear, but if redefined in Armenian, it turns out Dznelaian, just as the name Abuet, Abuetovici can be associated with the Armenian Abuletian, or Liparit - with Liparitian (Uk. Op., p. 160). Although Muradyan does not say it directly, it is clear that he doubts the Georgian origin of Dznelaisdze brothers. This is approximately the same as the similar attempt of Professor Marutyan to convert in the Armenian translation of the famous Ishkhan Georgian inscription (1032) the Georgian architect Ioan Marchiadze into an Armenian - Marchaiscean ("Profound Armenia", 1978, p. 20, 160, in Armenian.)


It is thought that Muradian had no reason to make such parallels, as there is another Georgian inscription with the following content: "Christ, have mercy on Dznelai Mirian".


Not far from Shakhnazari, in Jujikende, in a dilapidated one-nave church standing on a hill, L. Melikest-Beg found a six-line Georgian inscription in the "nuskha-hutsuri" style - "In the name of God We who live on the Pichosana Mountain have written: he who earlier passes away shall be blessed".


Л. Melikest-Beg does not give a specific dating of this Georgian inscription, while Muradyan considers it a specimen of 12th-14th century writing. If we remember that King Alexander the Great (1390-1442) granted Lore region to Svetitskhoveli church, the construction of Chalcedonian churches and Georgian epigraphy is a natural phenomenon in Lore-Tashiri, this primordial Georgian region. In this inscription it is noteworthy that the name "Pichosani" mentioned in it, once again "confirms the existence of the Georgians and generally Chalcedonians ("Pichosani"), i.e. monastic building under the auspices of the Kartli (Mtskheta) Catholicosate in this remote corner of Lore-Tashiri" - notes L. Melikest-Beg (Ibid., p.322).


In 1910, not far from the Georgian church, during excavations in Ani, N. Marr found a 10-line Georgian inscription of Catholicos Epiphanius of Kartli. In it, the Catholicos of Georgia addresses to Georgians living in Ani (Ani, 1984, p. 85). As to this Georgian church, it was described by Academician I. Orbeli as a small church building of basilica type. On its southern wall has a Georgian inscription dated 1329 (Selected works, 1963, p. 120, in Russian).


Н. Marr found in Ani also a built by a rich Chalcedonian-Armenian "half-Georgian, half-Armenian, in a word, Chalcedonian-Orthodox church named after Gregory the Illuminator, rebuilt by Tigran Khonents in 1215" (1939, in Russian). (Ani, 1939, p. 85).


• • •

Pursuant to a decision of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church of 7. 02. 2006, a diocese was recreated in Kvemo Kartli and named the Georgian diocese Agarak-Tashiri (currently this territory is within the borders of the Republic of Armenia). True, justice was restored, but I would like to note the following: a more appropriate name would obviously be "Georgian Diocese of Lore-Tashiri", since this name more fully reflects the historical reality.


However, this fact has been perceived negatively by the Armenian academic and church community. For example, the deputy director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Armenian Academy of Sciences, Acad. P. Chobanyan, calls it a "political order". In this context I would like to note that there is a tendency that Armenian scientists and political experts for some reason perceive Georgian's response to any anti-Georgian attack as a political order. Acad. Chobanyan when he calls this decision a political order.


This is by no means justified, and here's why: the existence of Georgian Chalcedonian churches and monasteries, as well as Georgian epigraphy in Lore-Tashiri actually confirms that in the XII-XIII centuries, the Georgian Apostolic Church had the legal right and ability to conduct Orthodox service here. Its parish consisted of both Georgians and the Chalcedonic Armenians. The latter were considered as Georgians. So, Academician Chobanyan's observation that the parishioners in Lora-Tashiri supposedly were only Chalcedonic Armenians, is incorrect and does not reflect the historical reality. So, the decision of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Apostolic Church on the restoration of the Georgian diocese of Agarak-Tashiri is timely and justified from both legal and historical perspectives.


In other words, the Georgian Patriarchate has the right to demand the transfer of the Georgian churches and monasteries available in Armenia to it. True, the Georgian flock no longer exists there, but Georgian clergymen can develop their activities in these cloisters.


Some Armenian academics often and thoughtlessly use the word "fascist" without knowing its exact meaning. For their information, I would like to say that fascism is not a dispute over the affiliation of any church, but the expulsion by force of arms from the Albanian land of the Azerbaijani population. As well as the Georgian indigenous population - from the ancestral Georgian land, Abkhazia, through ethnic cleansing. The lion's share in this fascist atrocity was played by the Armenian battalion named after Baghramian ...


In conclusion, we would like to note that we do not claim to declare this list of Georgian churches in Armenia complete. Some of them may have been left out of our sight, while other, controversial churches we have deliberately left out.






Read: 550

Write comment

(In their comments, readers should avoid expressing religious, racial and national discrimination, not use offensive and derogatory expressions, as well as appeals that are contrary to the law)

You can enter 512 characters

News feed