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Gareja, Sabereebi, Murals of the Church №5

Building: Gareja, Sabereebi, Church №5
Layer of the Murals: One Layer
Date/Period: Second half of the 9th century
Donor(s): Unknown
Painter(s): Unknown
Building Gallery


of the Donor(s)


of the Painter(s)

The inscription is executed in the east corner of the north wall of the north arm of the church, right of the images of the warrior saints; because of its paleographical resemblance with other fresco inscriptions accompanying images, also due to its situation – positioned rather high above the floor, at 215cm – it is supposed to belong to the artist who painted the church: ႻႫႠ||ႬႭ ႪႭႺ||ႥႠ[Ⴑ]Ⴀ Ⴂ[Ⴍ]||[Ⴣ]ႤႣႨ||Ⴀ Ⴀ(ႫჁ) Brothers, pray for me, Amen (Zaza Skhirtladze, Sabereeebis p’reskuli ts’arts’erebi [Fresco Iscriptions of Sabereebi] [sak’art’velos istoriis ts’q’aroebi: 35 [Sources for History of Georgia: 35] (Tbilisi, 1985), 25).


The church and the south chapel are decorated with painting.



The church was fully plastered. The chancel and the eastern bay of the north wall are painted.



The Glory of Christ represented in the chancel is distributed in two registres. The figure of Christ in the conch ((ႤႱ)Ⴍ | Ⴕ(ႰႨႱႲ)Jesus Christ) is depicted without mandorla; the Savior seated on a throne has His right hand raised in blessing and an open codex with a twelve-line asomtavruli text written on it (John 1:1). Figures of a bull, on the right, and a lion, on the left of the pedestal of Christ’s have survived in the form of a preparatory drawing. On both sides of the Savior full-length figures of archangels (on the north [Ⴜ(ႫႨႣႠ)Ⴢ] | []ႵႪ Saint Michael; on the south (ႫႨႣႠ)Ⴢ | ႢႠႡႰ(ႨႤႪ)Saint Gabriel) are depicted frontally. They have one hand raised in supplication towards Christ, and in another – holding a rolled-up scroll. A cherub on a fiery chariot is depicted between the Savior and each of the figures of archangels. Wings of the seraphs are covered with eyes (ႵႤႰႠႡ||ႨႬႨ Cherub) can be read with the figure next to Holy Archangel Michael). The conch composition is represented on the background of the starry sky where stars are indicated by rather big-size four, six and eight-petal flowers inscribed in a circle.

Southern and northern edges of the conch, below the imposts frontal figures of deacons are depicted. Unlike the monumental portrayals of the Savior and the Archangels, the figures of the saints are smaller in size and contained in quadrangular framing; the deacons are expressed with their whole bodies wearing robes and coats fastened at the chest. The image of a deacon on the southern section who, according to the inscription, could be St. Stephen or St. Damian ([Ⴜ(ႫႨႣႠ)Ⴢ] | [– – – –]ႠႬႤ Saint [- – – -]ane) is in a better state of preservation. He has a reliquary in the left hand, while his right hand is directed towards the reliquary in the sign of blessing (only parts of the nimb and a small upper part of the head have survived from the other image).

The registres are separated from each other by a folded ornament.

In the centre of the second registre the Mother of God is depicted flanked by six-figure rows of the apostles on each side. Presently the painting is hardly discernable: on the north wall, at the third figure from the image of the Virgin one can read (ႫႨႣႠ)Ⴢ […] Saint […], and at the sixth figure – (ႫႨႣႠ)Ⴢ || ჂႠ||ႩႭ||Ⴁ Saint James.



There are figures of rider saints facing each other depicted on the north wall of the eastern niche arranged in the north wall; of the damaged figures only the foot of the left rider placed in the stirrup, the horse’s legs, and a small fragment of the dragon’s body can be discerned.

Small fragments of two figures have survived on the east wall of the north arm and near the chancel of the same wall, on the northern edge of the corner. Here, supposedly, protomartyr deacons are depicted – only part of ecclesiastic clothing and a deacon stole are visible.


Southern Porch

Paintings have been preserved in the arched bay carved in the eastern part of the north wall; it is presumable that, like the main space, the chancel would have been painted in the chapel too – trace of plastering can be identified there. It is difficult to speak about the murals in the chapel as it is almost destroyed – only part of the chancel apse and the north wall have survived.

There is a composition of the Crucifixion on the upper section of the eastern part of the north wall. The figures of the Good Thief and the Impenitent Thief crucified with their hands tied at the back are depicted on both sides of crucified Christ (Ⴢ(ႤႱႭ)Ⴣ | Ⴕ(ႰႨႱႲ)ႤJesus Christ) wearing a long colobium; the thieves are painted on the walls of the niche (near the figure depicted in the upper part of the east wall: ႣႭ(Ⴣ)Ⴋ()ႵႱDismas, near the figure depicted in the upper part of the west wall ႢႤႱႲႭႦ Gestas). In front of crucified Christ are also featured Roman centurions – Longinus ([]Ⴍ()(Ⴈ)Ⴌ[ႭႦ] – Longinus) (on the left) and a the one with the sponge ([…]Ⴀ[-]ႭႱ[-][…][…]A[-]OS[…]) (on the right); images of the Virgin ([(ႫႨႣႠ)Ⴢ] | Ⴋ(ႠႰႨႠ)Ⴋ Saint Mary) and St. John the Theologian were depicted in the lower part of the composition (the Virgin’s nimb can be discerned in the lower left-hand section). Two medallions drawn graphically– symbolic images of the sun and the moon – are represented on both sides of the cross near Christ’s nimb.


Aneli Vol’skaja, “Rannie rospisi Garedzhi” [“Early Paintings of Gareja”], IV Mezhdunarodnij simpozium po gruzinskomu iskusstvu [Offprint from the Fourth International Symposium on Georgian Art] (Tbilisi, 1983).

Tat’jana Shevjakova, Monumental’naja zhivopis’ rannego srednevekov’ja Gruzii [The Monumental Painting of the Early Medieval Georgia] (Tbilisi, 1983), 9–11.

Zaza Skhirtladze, Sabereeebis p’reskuli ts’arts’erebi [Fresco Iscriptions of Sabereebi] [sak’art’velos istoriis ts’q’aroebi: 35 [Sources for History of Georgia: 35] (Tbilisi, 1985), 12–36.

Aneli Vol’skaja, “Rospisi peshchernykh monastyrej David Garedzhi” [“Murals of the David Gareji Cave Monasteries”], in Konstantine P’itskhelauri ed., Gareji [Kakhet’is ark’qeologiuri ek’speditsiis shromebi: VIII [Kakheti Archeological Expedition Studies: VIII] (Tbilisi, 1988), 132–4.

Marine Q’enia, “Adreul k’art’ul mokhatulobat’a programebis t’aviseburebat’a gamo” [“On the Pecularities of Programmes of Early Georgian Murals”], Sak’art’velos Sidzveleni [Georgian Antiquities] 11 (2007): 47–50.