Gareja, Mravaltsq’aro Monastery, Murals of the
Church of the Virgin
|Building:||Gareja, Mravaltsq’aro Monastery, Church of the Virgin|
|Layer of the Murals:||One Layer|
of the Donor(s)
[-]Ⴀ[Ⴇ]ႤႪႭ : ႱႭႴ |ႪႨ|Ⴑ(Ⴀ)Ⴍ [-] | Ⴍ[-]Ⴀ | [-] | Ⴍ [-] | ႨႱ [-] | ႱႠ – The light of the world [. . .]. The inscription is outlined next to the figure of a donor depicted at the northern edge of the west wall (Zaza Skhirtladze, “Masalebi garejis mravalmt’is adreul mokhatulobat’a shests’avlisat’vis. Mravalts’q’aros eklesia” [Materials for the Study of the Early Paintings in the Gareja Desert. Church of Mravalcq’aro], in Rismag Gordeziani ed., The Twenty Centuries of Christianity in Georgia (Tbilisi, 2004), 264, სურ. 5).
of the Painter(s)
ႠႼ [-] | [-] | ႫႶႣ |ႤႪႬႭ | Ⴑ[-] | Ⴌ[-]ႱႤ ႺႭ|ႣႥႨႪ[Ⴈ] ႫႭჂ[Ⴤ]ႱႤ|ႬႤႧ – [-] [-] priests [-] n [-] sinful commemorate – the inscription is depicted on the lower section of the northern half of the chancel (Zaza Skhirtladze, “Masalebi garejis mravalmt’is adreul mokhatulobat’a shests’avlisat’vis. Mravalts’q’aros eklesia” [Materials for the Study of the Early Paintings in the Gareja Desert. Church of Mravalcq’aro], in Rismag Gordeziani ed., The Twenty Centuries of Christianity in Georgia (Tbilisi, 2004), 260, ill. 4).
The pictorial décor of the church is composed of the images established in the local monastic artistic setting in an early stage of the school of painting of Gareja monastic complex. Furthermore, it is notable that in accordance with the time, the church was partly painted – frescos embellish only the chancel and north and west bays of its hall.
Christ in Majesty was depicted in the chancel of the church: enthroned Savior flanked by angels (archangels). Due to minor dimensions of the chancel apse, presence of the lower registre and its images (the Virgin and the row of saint apostles) is actually excluded. Only small remnants can be discerned from the chancel compositions: insignificant fragments of the figure of the Savior, a pale contour of the throne, a couple of spots of angels’ figures. Major part of the painting of the chancel was an inscription of the artist under and partly within the image of Christ’s glory – it was specially emphasized by the size of the graphemes and the place.
North bay displays a votive icon of the Virgin with the Child: the Virgin is depicted against the azure background. She has baby Jesus in her left hand and her head leaned towards Him. The Virgin’s image is specially made prominent by an arched framing decorated with a white guilloche ornament. A calligraphic asomtavruli inscription (insignificant fragments have survived) had been inscribed in the coils of the ornament. The significance of the votive icon of the Virgin is also determined by the fact that the blessing right hand extended from the segment is depicted in the vault of the deep bay. Individual images of holy mothers whose explanatory inscriptions have not survived were included in the same bay. Between these two figures, the image on the east wall of the bay was holding a cross, while that on the west wall was depicted in the orans posture.
A saint monk – St. Simeon Stylites the Stylite is depicted in the west corner of the north wall (Ⴜ(ႫႨႣႠ)Ⴢ || ႱႳ(Ⴈ)Ⴋ(Ⴄ)ႭႬ – Saint Simeon). This image is conceptually united with the male donor figure depicted at the northern edge of the west wall – they are contained in a frame made up of two narrow lines.
In the west arm the painting is so damaged that it is impossible to discuss the images based on the fragments of the extant frescos. Presently the figure of the male donor is best identifiable – it is depicted on the northern wall of the bay; the figure in supplication is directed towards the saint represented on the west wall of the church. No explanatory inscription has survived with the figure, but it is smaller than the donor depicted on the northern edge of the west wall.
There is another donor image on the northern edge of the west wall – it is a secular male figure in supplication facing the chancel.
Painting of the church of Mravaltskaro is marked with artistic and iconographic peculiarities of the local school of painting. No doubt it was executed simultaneously with construction of the church, in the second half of the ninth century. It is supported by paleographic features of the explanatory fresco inscriptions too.
“Garejis mravalmt’is monastrebi. Dasavlet’i masivis gamok’vabuli monastrebis ark’itek’turis, kedlis mkhatvrobisa da epigrp’ikis sruli p’oto da grap’ikuli p’ik’sats’ia” [“Monasteries of the Gareja Desert. Photo and Graphic Survey of the Western Massive Cave Monasteries”], in Nikoloz Vacheishvili ed., Erovnuli kulturuli memkvidreobis programa – 1997 [National Cultural Heritage Programme – 1997] (Tbilisi, 1997), 40–9, fig. 39–49 (with annotations).
Valeri Silogava, Ts’arts’erebi garejis mravalts’q’arodan (IX–XIII ss.) [Inscriptions from Gareja Mravalts’q’aro (9th–13th cc.)] (Tbilisi, 1999).
Zaza Skhirtladze, “Newly Discovered Early Paintings in the Gareja Desert”, in Antony Eastmond ed., Eastern Approaches to Byzantium. Papers from the Thirty-Third Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies [Publications of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies: 9] (Aldershot, 2001), 149–67.
Zaza Skhirtladze, “Masalebi garejis mravalmt’is adreul mokhatulobat’a shests’avlisat’vis. Mravalts’q’aros eklesia” [Materials for the Study of the Early Paintings in the Gareja Desert. Church of Mravalcq’aro], in Rismag Gordeziani ed., The Twenty Centuries of Christianity in Georgia (Tbilisi, 2004), 257–73.