Gareja, Sabereebi, Murals of the Church №7
|Building:||Gareja, Sabereebi, Church №7|
|Layer of the Murals:||One Layer|
|Date/Period:||First half of the 10th century|
of the Donor(s)
of the Painter(s)
The inscription is outlined on the east wall of the north arm, below the line bordering the composition of the Crucifixion at the bottom: ႫႼႤႰႠႪႨ ႢႪႠႾႠႩႨ ႩჃ[…] – the painter, humble kvi[…] (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), 67-71.
In the interior the chancel and the north arm are painted; murals decorate the squinches and the relief cross shaped in the dome sphere. Compared to other churches of Sabereebi, paintings here are in the better state of preservation.
In the chancel a vast composition of Christ in Majesty is distributed in two registres. The Savior depicted in the centre of the conch is framed in an oval mandorla and is raised by angels on two sides; archangels are depicted below the imposts, on the northern and southern edges of the apse. Below the mandorla painted against the starry sky, on both sides of the pedestal, there is a pair of fiery wheels merged with each other on each side of the pedestal; the surface of the wheels is covered with eyes.
Christ is seated on a throne with His right hand raised in blessing and an open codex with the text (John 1:1). The angels raising the Savior are represented in an unusual way – with many wings covered with apocalyptic eyes; it is presumed that such a rendering of the wings implies combination of seraphim with the angels.
St. Michael the Archangel (Ⴜ(ႫႨႣႠ)Ⴢ | ႫႨ|ႵႠႤ|Ⴊ – ο αγιος | Μιχαελ | αρχαγγ|ελος – Saint Michael) and Gabriel (Ⴜ(ႫႨႣႠ)Ⴢ | ႢႠ|ႡႰႨ|ႤႪ – ο αγιος | Γαβριηλ – Saint Gabriel) represented on the edges of the apse are standing frontally, with their right hands pointing at exalted Christ and holding rolled-up scrolls in the left hand. The Virgin (ႼႫႨ|ႣႠ|Ⴢ | [ႫႠ]|[ႰႨ]|[ႠႫ] – Saint Mary) is represented in the center of the second register. The Mother of God stands frontally with her hands raised up (only the right hand and the right part of the face have survived). She is flanked by apostles – their figures are partly visible and, according to the explanatory inscriptions, only some of them can be identified: the first figure left of the Virgin (on the north) is St. Peter ([ႼႫႨ|ႣႠ|Ⴢ] | ႮႤ|ႲႰ|Ⴄ – Saint Peter), followed by St. John the Theologian (ႼႫႨ|ႣႠ|Ⴢ | [Ⴈ Ⴍ]ႠႬ|Ⴄ – Saint John). In the southern half, the fifth image right of the Virgin is St. Thaddaeus ([ႼႫႨ|ႣႠ|Ⴢ] | ႧႠ|ႣႤ|Ⴍ|Ⴆ – Saint Thaddaeus).
The triumphal arch of the chancel is decorated with a pattern of a coiled ribbon.
The north arm is fully dedicated to a vast composition of the Crucifixion, which is depicted over all three walls and the vault of the arm. Three crucified are depicted on the upper section of the composition on the northern wall of the arm; the center features a rather big figure of Christ wearing a colobium (on the plate on the upper arm of the cross above the nimb: cαη[-][…]|ο[…]|[…]), on two sides, slightly below are the Impenitent Thief Gestas (Α|γ|α|σ|τ|α|ς – Զ|Գ|Ա|Ս|Տ|Ա|Ս – Gestas) and the Good Thief (Δ|ι|μ|α|ς – Դ|Ի|Մ|Ա|Ս – Dismas). The thieves’ hands are tied behind the arms of the cross, their feet are being tied with a rope by soldiers standing lower. There are inscriptions on both sides of Christ’s halo: on the left – ԵՒ ՀԱՐԵԱԼ ՍՊՈ|ԻՆ ԶՅԵՂԵԳԱՆ | ԼԻ ՔԱՑԱԽՈՎ ԽԱՌ|ՆԵԱԼ ԸՆԴ ՂԵ|ՂԻ ՏԱՅՐ | ԸՄՊԵԼ ՆՄԱ – And gave Him the sponge tied to a stick and filled with vinegar and bile to drink (Mathew 27:48; Mark 15:36; John 19:29 – periphrasis); on the right – ԵՒ ԽՈՆԱ|ՐՀԵՑԱՑԷ|ԱԼ ԶԳԼՈՒԽ|Ն ՅԻՍՈՒՍԻ ԱՒԱՆ|ԴԵԱՑ ԶՈ|ԳԻՆ – Jesus bowed his head and died (John 19:30). Another inscription is outlined above and below Christ’s left arm: ՅԻՇեԱ ԶԻՍ Տ˜Ր Ի ՔՈՒՄ ՅԱՐ|ՔԱՅՈՒԹԵԱՆԴ – Father, remember me when you begin ruling as king (Luke 23:42 – periphrasis). Left of the crucified Savior, slightly below Him, there is a crowned woman – church (ԿԱԹՈ|ՂԻԿԷ | ԵԿԵ|Ե|ՑԻ – Catholic Church) who is collecting blood and water flowing from Christ’s wound. At Christ’s feet, on both sides, there are Roman centurions: the soldier standing on the right is holding a reed in his right hand – he is offering crucified Jesus the sponge soaked in vinegar, and a small container in his left hand. The other soldier with a spear depicted next to the church is centurion Longinus (ՂՈՆ|ԳԻ|ՆՈՍ – Longinus).
Below Christ’s cross, at the bottom of the lower arm, a bearded man without a nimb is depicted between two Roman soldiers – the soldiers have both hands stretched towards him. In the examples of the composition of the Crucifixion known so far there is no symbolic depiction of Adam among Roman soldiers; accordingly, it is difficult to provide an accurate identification of the bearded man (due to lack of space it would be impossible to depict these three figures in full length – the lower section of the composition is damaged, although one can discern fragment of the bottom registre line of the composition).
Other images that constitute the composition of the Crucifixion are laid out on the vault of the arm, as well as on east and west walls. Here the painting is divided into two registres by means of imposts. There are symbolic images of the sun and the moon – half-figures of Helios (ΙΛΙ|ΟΝ, ԱՐԵ|ԳԱ|ԿՆ – Sun) and Artemis (Σ|Ι|Λ|Ι|Ν|Ε – Moon) encircled in medallions – on the eastern and western panels of the vault. Their right palms are facing the beholder, and have lit torches in the left hand. The inscription beside the personification of the sun reads: ԱՐԵԳ|Ա|Կ|Ն | Խ|Ա|Ւ|Ա|ՐԵ|Ց|Ա|Ւ – there is no sun (Luke 23:45). On the eastern panel, below the medallion a hall-type structure is depicted (ՏԱ|ՃԱ|ՌՆ – The Temple) with a two-part curtain in the gate, which represents the Temple of Jerusalem and figuratively conveys the text of the Bible: Ե|Ւ | Վ|Ա|Ր|Ա|Գ|Ո|Յ|Ր|Ն | Ց|Ե|Լ|Ա|Ւ – და კრეტსაბმელი ტაძრისა განიპო – And the curtain of the temple was torn into two pieces (Mathew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). Opposite the image of the Temple, below the symbolic image of the sun represented on the western panel, two sitting figures of the women of Jerusalem are depicted, with an inscription: Դ˜ՍՏԵՐ|Ք Ե˜ՄԻ | ՄԻ ԼԱ|ՑՔԻ | ՎԵՐ|ԱՅ | ԻՄ | ԱՅ|Ղ | ԼԱՑ|ԷՔԻ | ՎԵ|ՐԱ|Յ Ա|ՆՁԱՆ|Ց ՁԵ|ՐՈ|Ց – Women of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Cry for yourselves (Luke 23:28).
Three full-length frontal figures on the east wall of the arm are represented in the second register: In the center the Savior with raised-up hands is depicted together with Roman soldiers (on left of His nimb: ԱՅԴԱՐ [-]ԵՒ | ԱԴՐ | ԱՅ | Է; on the right [-]ԱՐ|[-]|Ա[-]|[- -]|Ե[-]). The right figure has his sword directed towards Christ, while the left soldier is depicted with upraised hands bent at the elbow.
Full-length figures of the Virgin and St. John the Theologian are depicted on the west wall of the arm; Mother of God is pointing at crucified Christ, while the apostle is standing frontally. There are inscriptions beside the figures; right of the Virgin: ԱՀԱ | ՄԱՅՐ | ՈՐԴԻ | ՔՈ – Woman, behold thy son; ԱՀԱ | ՈՐ|Դ|Ի | ՄԱ|ՅՐ | Ք|Ո – Behold thy mother (John 19:26-27).
A frontal figure of a deacon holding an incense burner in his left hand can be discerned on the northern face of the corner between the north and the west arms, right of the pilaster running up the corner.
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), 67–71.
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), 56–75.
Aneli Vol’skaja, “Rospisi peshchernjkh 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), 135–6.
Nicole Thierry, “Courants d’influences dans le monachisme gréco-oriental des IXe-Xe siècles. À propos de Sabereebi n°7”, in Zaza Shirtladze ed., Desert Monasticism. Gareja and the Christian East [Proceedings of Gareja Studies Centre: II] (Tbilisi, 2001), 203–20.
Marine Q’enia, “Adreul k’art’ul mokhatuloba’ta programebis t’aviseburebat’a gamo” [“On the Pecularities of Programmes of Early Georgian Murals”], Sak’art’velos Sidzveleni [Georgian Antiquities] 11 (2007): 47–50.