Sunday, February 27, 2011

Jvari monastery, Georgia

Name : Jvari monastery. The name is translated as the Monastery of the Cross.

Location :

Jvari or Jvari Monastery (Georgian: ჯვარი, ჯვრის მონასტერი) is a Georgian Orthodox monastery of the 6th century near Mtskheta (World Heritage site), Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, eastern Georgia.

Description :

Jvari Monastery stands on the rocky mountain top at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, overlooking the village of Mtskheta, which was formerly the capital of the Kingdom of Iberia.

According to traditional accounts, on this location in the early 4th century Saint Nino, a female evangelist credited with converting King Mirian III of Iberia to Christianity, erected a large wooden cross on the site of a pagan temple. The cross was reportedly able to work miracles and therefore drew pilgrims from all over Caucasus. A small church was erected over the remnants of the wooden cross in c.545 named the “Small Church of Jvari”. As the name suggests there is a Big Wooden Cross inside the monastry.

The present building, or “Great Church of Jvari”, was built between 586 and 605 by Erismtavari Stepanoz I. The importance of Jvari complex increased over time and attracted many pilgrims. In the late Middle Ages, the complex was fortified by a stone wall and gate, remnants of which still survive. During the Soviet period, the structure was largely ignored, with access rendered difficult by tight security at a nearby military base. After the independence of Georgia, the building was restored to active religious use. Jvari was listed together with other monuments of Mtskheta in 1996 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

However, over the centuries the structures suffered damage from rain and wind erosion and inadequate maintenance. Jvari was listed in the 2004 World Monuments Watch list by the World Monuments Fund.

Architecture :

The Jvari church is a very early tetraconch (i.e. a four-apse domed building) structure. Between the apses there are three-quarter circular niches used as side chapels, which communicate with the central space. The transition from the square bay to the dome circle is effected through three rows of squinches. This design had a great impact on the further development of Georgian architecture and served as a model for many other churches not only in Georgia, but the whole region of South Caucasus.

Varied bas-relief sculptures with Hellenistic and Sasanian influences decorate its external façades, some of which are accompanied by explanatory inscriptions in old Georgian uncial script. The entrance’s tympanum on the southern façade, is adorned with a relief of the Glorification of the Cross, and the same façade also shows an Ascension of Christ. The church has an extra bell tower outside.

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