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Gareja, Sabereebi, Murals of the Church №8

Building: Gareja, Sabereebi, Church №8
Layer of the Murals: One Layer
Date/Period: The second half of the 10th century
Donor(s): Unknown
Painter(s): Unknown
Building Gallery


of the Donor(s)

The inscription in the north arm, in the north corner of the west wall, must belong to a historical person: […][-]ႤႴ|[…][-]ႤႫ|[…][-] (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), 122-3).

A two-line historical inscription beside a clergyman represented on the west slope of the vault of the south chapel is lost; only a single grapheme – E can be identified.


of the Painter(s)

The inscription is outlined in the chancel, between the Savior’s feet, below the hem of the robe of the Savior depicted in the conch: Ⴋ[ႠႺ]ႾႭႥႠႰ Ⴘ(Ⴄ)Ⴋ(Ⴈ)ႼႷႠႪႤ ႫႭႬႠ|Ⴢ Ⴘ[ႤႬႨ] ႫႼ|ႤႰႠⴊ|ⴊ[(Ⴍ)ႺႥႠ]| ႷႠႥ[Ⴇ]| Ⴄ[-]ႨႰႬ[-](?) Lord have mercy on me, your servant,  pray for I[-]irn[-](?) (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), 114-6).


The dome, chancel and the north arm of the church are decorated with murals. Only fragments can be discerned from the badly damaged paintings, although it is still possible to estimate the programme.



An equal-armed cross inscribed in a medallion was depicted against the starry background in the dome. All four squinches are decorated by alternation of reddish and greyish lines.



In the chancel the composition of Christ in Majesty is distributed in two registres. In the conch enthroned Christ is depicted without a mandorla; His right hand is raised in blessing, and has an open codex with the text (John 8:12; 6:41; 6:51) in His left hand. The Savior is flanked by archangels directed towards Him. Both are depicted with their right hands raised at the chest, and holding a rolled scroll in the left. There are images of a bull (ႩⴓႰ[] Bull) and a lion (ⴊႭ|Ⴋⴈ Lion) at the legs of the throne, on both sides. Behind them, on both sides is a seraph with eyes depicted on the wings (on the north: ႫႰ[…]|[- -]ⴓ[-][…] mr[…][-]u[-][…]; on the south: [ႫႰႠ]Ⴅ|[ႠႪႧႳ]Ⴀ|ⴊ[-][…] [მრა]ვ[ალთუ]ალ[-][…]). Instead of an eagle, there is an image of a peacock (ႴႰ|ႸႠႫ|ႠႢ|ⴈ – Peacock) at the edges of the upper wings of the seraphim.

In the second registre, which is separated from the conch composition by a folded ornament, there are images of the Virgin flanked by apostles. Presently, only fragments of heads and nimbs of several figures have are visible.

Small figures are depicted on the triumphal arch in the south and north corners of the chancel; they are directed in three quarter position towards the center.



Equestrian figures of holy riders are depicted in the middle section of the north wall in the north arm; only separate fragments of the horses, the dragon and Diocletian lying on the ground can be discerned; several graphemes can be observed in the left part of the composition: – D; Ⴈ – I or E; Ⴔ F. Better legible is an inscription beside St. George: […][Ⴚ]ႭႣႠႣ | ႫႭႻႠႾ|ⴓႰ ႣႠ Ⴚ|ⴓႣႠႣ ႫႦⴓႠႭႡ[ႠႰ] […] […][ც]უდად მოძახურ და ცუდად მზუაობ[არ] […].

An equal-armed cross contained in a medallion is depicted in the center of the vault of the north arm. Edges of the fabric extending from the medallion are held by two figures with their hands raised in supplication represented on the east and west panels of the arm (only […]ႫႤ […]me can be observed beside the image on the east and – ႣႤႣ ded – beside that depicted on the west.

No painting can be identified in the second registre of the east and west walls of the north arm; fragment of an inscription has survived in the right corner of the west wall: […]| [-]Ⴇ [Ⴀ]|ႢႤⴊႭ|Ⴆⴈ […][-]t’ [A]ngel.


Southern Porch

The chapel is fully plastered and painted. Presently, fragments of the murals have survived in the chancel, also on the eastern and western slopes of the vault.

Enthroned Virgin Eleusa ((ႫႨႣႠ)[](ႠႰႨႠ)Saint Mary) is depicted in the chancel. Christ caressing Mother ((ႰႨႱႲ)Christ) has His right hand on Her neck, and is holding a rolled-up scroll in the left hand stretched forward. The Mother of God is flanked by saint archangels – Michael ((Ⴈ)(Ⴄ)Michael) and Gabriel ((Ⴀ)Ⴁ|Ⴐ(ႨႤႪ)Gabriel) with their both hands raised in supplication.

The Annunciation of the Virgin is represented above the chancel, on the eastern panel of the vault. On the right, there is a figure of the Virgin standing at the throne ((ႠႰႨႠ) მ(არია)მ Mary) with her right hand raised in the gesture of greeting; on the left – St. Archangel the Evangelist directed towards Mother Mary have his right hand stretched towards her in blessing (ႢႠႡႰႨႤ|ⴊ ႠႢႤⴊႭ|ႦႨ Angel Gabriel).

Opposite the scene of the Annunciation, on the western panel of the vault is Meeting of the Virgin with St. Elizabeth; Mother of God and Elizabeth are leaning their heads to each other and embracing each other. A frontal figure of a clergyman with a square nimb depicted on the left (see the inscription above) is not marked off from this composition by a registre line and is perceived as part the scene. It must be a historical person, donor; the bearded man has his right hand with the exposed palm raised at his chest, and holding a closed book in his left hand covered with a mantle.


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), 111–39.

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), 136–8.

Aneli Vol’skaja, “Osobennosti rospisi vos’moj tserkvi peshchernogo monastyrja Sabereebi” [“Pecularities of the Murals of the Eighth Church in Sabereebi Cave Monastery”], khelovnebat’mtsodneoba [Studies in Art History] 5 (2006): 109–26.