The Lavra of Oshki, Murals of the Church of St. John the Baptist. First Layer
|Building:||The Lavra of Oshki, Church of St. John the Baptist|
|Layer of the Murals:||First Layer|
of the Donor(s)
† ႫႭႼႷႠႪႤႡႨႧႠ Ⴖ(ႫႰ)ႧႨႱႠჂႧႠ Ⴐ(ႭႫႤ)ႪႨ ႱႺႠႥႱ Ⴗ(ႭႥႤ)ႪႧႠ ႫႭႸ(Ⴈ)ႸႧႠ Ⴋ(Ⴈ)ႱႧႠ ႣႠ ႼႠႰႳႫႠႰႧ(Ⴄ)ႡႱ ႫႭႷႳႠႰႤႧႠ ႱႠႾႤႪႨႱႠ ႫႨႱႨႱႠႧႠ Ⴗ(ႭႥႤ)ႪႧႠ Ⴑ(Ⴀ)ႵႫ|ႤႧႠ Ⴉ(Ⴄ)Ⴇ(Ⴈ)ႪႧႠ, ႠႫႨႱ Ⴜ(ႫႨ)ႣႨႱႠ Ⴑ(Ⴀ)Ⴋ(Ⴄ)Ⴁ(Ⴈ)ႱႠ ႱႠႰႼႫႳႬႭႥႤႡ(Ⴈ)ႧႠ ႣႠ Ⴋ(ႤႭ)Ⴞ(Ⴄ)Ⴁ(Ⴈ)ႧႠ Ⴜ(ႫႨ)ႣႨႱႠ Ⴃ(Ⴄ)ႣႭႴႪႨႱႠ Ⴙ(ႳႤ)ႬႨႱႠ ႶႫ(ႰႧႨ)ႱႫႸႭႡ(Ⴄ)ႪႨႱႠჂႧႠ Ⴋ(Ⴀ)ႣႪႨႧႠ Ⴜ(ႫႨ)ႣჂႱႠ Ⴛ(Ⴄ)ႪႨႱႠ ႺႾႭႰႤႡႨႱႠჂ|ႧႠ ႸႤႼ(Ⴄ)ႥႬႨႧႠ ႣႠ ႫႤႭႾ(Ⴄ)Ⴁ(Ⴈ)ႧႠ ႣႨႣႤႡႳႪႨႱႠ ႬႠႧႪႨႱႫႺႤႫႤႪႨႱႠჂႧႠ ႣႠ Ⴗ(ႭႥႤ)ႪႧႠ ႼႫႨႣႠჂႧႠჂႧႠ (!) Ⴐ(ႭႫႤႪ)ႬႨ ႱႠႳႩႳႬႨႧႢ(Ⴀ)Ⴌ ႱႠႧႬႭ ႤႷ(Ⴓ)Ⴌ(Ⴄ)Ⴑ Ⴖ(ႫႤႰ)ႧႱႠ. ႠႫႠႧ Ⴗ(ႭႥႤ)ႪႧႠ | ႼႫႨႣႠႧႠ ႱႠႣႨႣႤႡ(Ⴄ)Ⴊ(Ⴀ)Ⴃ ႣႠ ႱႠႵႤႡ(Ⴄ)Ⴊ(Ⴀ)Ⴃ ႨႼႷ(Ⴄ)Ⴑ Ⴖ(ႫႰ)Ⴇ(Ⴈ)ႥႢႳႨႰႢႳႨႬႭႱ(Ⴀ)ႬႧႠ Ⴋ(Ⴄ)Ⴔ(Ⴄ)ႧႠ Ⴙ(ႳႤ)ႬႧႠ Ⴘ(Ⴄ)Ⴌ(Ⴄ)Ⴁ(Ⴀ)Ⴃ ႠႫႨႱ ႼႫႨႣႨႱႠႱႠ(!) Ⴑ(Ⴀ)ႷႣႰႨႱႠ Ⴐ(ႠჂ)ႧႠ ႠႫႠႱ Ⴘ(Ⴈ)ႬႠ ႠႶႤႱႰႳႪႤႡႭႣႨႠႬ ႣႶႤႱႠ | ႱႼႠႳႪႬႨ ႣႠ ႸႤႨႫႩႥႤႡႭႣႨႠႬ ჄႱႤႬႤႡ(Ⴀ)ႬႨ ႼႫႨႣႠႧႠႬႨ Ⴅ(ႨႧႠႰႺ)Ⴀ ႼႤႰႨႪႠႰႱ ჄႱႤႬႤႡႠႱႠ ႼႫႨႣႠႧႠႱႠ ႤႦႨႠႰႤႡႭႣ(Ⴈ)Ⴇ ႠႫႠႧ Ⴗ(ႭႥႤ)ႪႧႠ ႼႫႨႣႠႧႠ ႱႳႰႥႨႪႨႧႠ | ႠႫႠႧ ႣႨႣႤႡႳ(Ⴊ)ႧႠ Ⴋ(Ⴄ)Ⴔ(Ⴄ)ႧႠ Ⴙ(ႳႤ)ႬႧႠ ႳႸႳႰႥ(Ⴄ)ႪႷ(Ⴓ)ႬႤႬ ႱႠႴ(Ⴀ)Ⴑ(Ⴄ)ႬႨ ႼႠႰႫႠႥ(Ⴀ)ႪႬႨ ႼႠႰ(Ⴓ)ႥႠႪႨႱႠ Ⴋ(Ⴈ)ႱႧႳႨႱ Ⴐ(ႠჂ)ႧႠ ႨႢႨ Ⴗ(ႭႥႤႪ)ႬႨ ႼႫႨႣႠႬႨ ႸႤႫႼ(Ⴄ)Ⴃ ႫႭႨႢႬႤႬ ႣႠ Ⴖ(ႫႤႰႧႫႠ)Ⴌ Ⴘ(ႤႤ)Ⴜ(ႨႤ)Ⴌ ႭႰႧႠႥႤ ႺႾႭႰႤႡ(Ⴀ)ႧႠ Ⴛ(Ⴄ)ႧႠ Ⴖ(ႫႰ)Ⴇ(Ⴈ)ႥႩႳႰႧႾႤႳႪႨႱႠ ႠႣႠႰႬႤႱႤ ႩႳႰႠႮႠႪႠႲႨႱႠႧႠ: Ⴁ(Ⴀ)ႢႰ(Ⴀ)Ⴒ ႤႰႨႱႧႠႥႧႠ ႤႰႨႱႧ(Ⴀ)ႥႫ(Ⴀ)Ⴌ, ႣႠႥႨႧ ႫႠႢႨႱႲႰႭႱႫ(Ⴀ)Ⴌ ႱႠႫႤႡႠႫ(Ⴀ)Ⴌ ႼႫႨႣႠႫႠႬ | ႱႠႫႬႨႥႤ ႣႠႨႴႠႰႤႬ ႫႠႰႿႳႤႬႨႧႠ Ⴇ(Ⴣ)ႱႨႧႠ ႣႠ Ⴀ(ႣႨ)Ⴃ(Ⴄ)Ⴌ ႭႰႧႠႥႤ ႺႾႭႥႰႤႡ(Ⴀ)ႧႠ ႣႠ ႫႤ ႢႰႨႢႭႪ ႶႨႰႱ-ႫႷႭ Ⴖ(ႫႤႰႧႫႠ)Ⴌ ႫႱႠႾႳႰႤႡ(Ⴀ)ႱႠ ႠႫႠႱ Ⴋ(Ⴀ)ႧႱႠ Ⴖ(ႫႰ)ႧႨႱႠ ႫႨႫႠႰႧ ႣႠ ႫႤ ႥႨႷ|ႠႥ ႱႠ(Ⴕ)ႫႤႱႠ Ⴆ(ႤႣ)ႠႫ(Ⴃ)ႢႭႫႨ ႣႠ ႠႰႼႫႳႬႠ Ⴖ(ႫႤႰႧႫႠ)Ⴌ ႢႭႬႤႡႠႱႠ Ⴋ(Ⴀ)ႧႱႠ ႤႰႧႢႳႪႭႡႠჂ Ⴙ(Ⴄ)ႫႨ Ⴋ(Ⴍ)ႬႨႱႠ Ⴋ(Ⴀ)ႧႨႱႠჂ ႤႱႤ ႨႷႭ ႢႠႪႠႲႭႦႧႠ ႣႠ ႫႭႵႫႤႣႧႠ ႫႨႦႣႨ ႣႠ ႠႦႠႥႤႰႧႠ ႫႤႵႭჃ|ႨႸႤႧႠჂ Ⴐ(ႭႫႤ)Ⴊ ႼႤႪႨႼႠႣႱႠ ႼႠႤႢႤႡႨႱ: ႣႰႠႫႠჂ Ⴉ ႠႧႠႱႨ ႶႳႨႬႭჂ Ⴔ(ႨႱႭ)ႱႨ Ⴝ; ႰႩႨႬႠჂ ႪႨႲႰ(Ⴀ)Ⴢ Ⴌ ႾႳႠႰႡႠႪႨ ႢႰႨႥႨ ႱႫႨ ႢႠႪႠႲႭႦႨ ႣႠ ႾႳႰႭჂ ႣႠ ႫႽႤႣႤႪႨ Ⴐ(ႭႫႤ)[Ⴊ] [ႫႠ]ႰႠႣႨႱ Ⴘ(Ⴓ)ႰႤႡႭႣႠ|ჂႨ Ⴤ(Ⴀ)ႰႨ Ⴐ(ႭႫႤ)Ⴊ ႵႥႠႱႠ ႩႰ(Ⴄ)ႡႣႠ Ⴊ ႿႭႰႨ ႣႠ ႱႾ(Ⴓ)ႠჂ ႠႦႠႥႤႰႨ Ⴐ(ႭႫႤ)Ⴊ ႢႰႨႢႭႪႼႫႨႣႨႧ ႱႮႭႬႣႨႩႱႠ ႩႰ(Ⴄ)ႡႣႠ Ⴊ ႱႾႳႠჂ ႠႦႠႥႤႰႨ Ⴐ(ႭႫႤ)Ⴊ [- – – – – – – – – – – – – -][ႩႰ(Ⴄ)]ႡႣႠ | Ⴢ ႣႠ [- – – -] Ⴗ(ႭႥႤႪ)Ⴈ ႤႰႨ ႣႠ ႫႭႵႫႤႣႨ Ⴎ –
† By the grace of God who protect those who honor him and who benevolently leads to success all good deeds of those who love his name. With belief in the Holy Trinity and the intercession of our Holy Queen Mother of God, with the grace of the Holy Wood of Life with the help and intercession of the glorious Baptist and all the Saints who devoted themselves to God from time immemorial (it is) for the glorification and praise of all these Saints that our divinely crowned Kings began the construction of this holy church so that in it could be celebrated holy days and the Saints splendidly commemorated, as it is written: “partake in the commemoration of the Saints.” By the desire of all those Saints those glorious kings of ours did not spare transient riches for that which is permanent, in order to merit the aid of all those Saints, and may God help in both lives the sons of the divinely blessed Adarnese Kuropalates, Bagrat, Duke of Dukes (and) David Magistros. The Holy Trinity shall protect all three on his right side and glorify (them) in both lives, I Grigol was made worthy by God to serve the Lord through them. I was the supervisor of the labors and may God convince them of my devotion to them, their servant. The yearly expenditures and wages for the masons and hired laborers and for oxen wagons carrying the sand was K (=20) thousand drama, the wine C (=5000) phisos, the iron N (=50) liters, the grain, SMI (=250) grivi, the number of steadily laboring masons, carpenters and blacksmiths (was) JI (=70), the (number of) oxen carrying the stone L (=30) the mules and other pack animals which were transporting the spondiki from the environs of (the monastery of) Holy Grigol L (=30) the other carries which were gathering […] J (=60) […] J (=60) and […] (the total number of) man and those laboring (in the construction of the church) P (=80).
An inscription of the angel relief inserted in the ridge of the east façade: [ႠႣ(ႨႣႤ)Ⴌ Ⴖ(ႫႤႰႧႫႠ)Ⴌ Ⴋ(Ⴄ)ႴჁ | Ⴙ(ႳႤ)ႬႨ Ⴃ(ႠႥႨ)Ⴇ ႫႠႢႨႱ|ႲႰႭႱႨ Ⴐ(ႭႫႤ)Ⴊ | ႠႧႱ|Ⴀ Ⴜ(Ⴄ)Ⴊ]|ႱႠ | ႠႸႤ|ႬႤႡ|ႣႠ – God, glorify our King Davit’ Magistros, who was building it during ten years.
The inscription near the relief of the Deesis: Ⴜ(ႫႨႣႠ)Ⴍ Ⴖ(ႫႰ)ႧႨႱႫႸ(Ⴍ)Ⴁ(Ⴄ)ႪႭ ႣႠ Ⴜ(ႫႨႣႠ)Ⴍ Ⴌ(Ⴀ)ႧႪႨႱႫႺ(Ⴄ)Ⴋ(Ⴄ)ႪႭ ႠႣႨႣႤႬ Ⴋ(Ⴄ)Ⴔ(Ⴄ)ႬႨ ႹႳႤႬႬႨ | ႢႪႠႾ(Ⴀ)ႩႬႨ Ⴘ(Ⴄ)ႬႬႨ Ⴋ(Ⴀ)Ⴘ(Ⴄ)Ⴌ(Ⴄ)ႡႤႪႬႨ ႠႫႨႱ ႼႫႨႣႨႱႠ ႤႩႪႤႱ(ႨႨ)ႱႠ ႣႠ | ႩႳႠႪႠႣ ႼႠႰ(Ⴓ)Ⴋ(Ⴀ)ႰႧႤႬ Ⴋ(Ⴄ)Ⴔ(Ⴄ)ႧႠ Ⴙ(ႳႤ)ႬႧႠ Ⴁ(Ⴀ)ႢႰႠႲ[Ⴑ] ႣႠ ႣႠႥႨႧႱ – Holy Mother of God and Saint John the Baptist, glorify our kings, your servants, those who built this holy church and let our kings Bagrat and Davit’ succeed.
An inscription on the left part of the same composition: Ⴜ. ႫႭႬႠჂ Ⴖ(ႫႰ)ႧႨႱႠჂ Ⴋ(Ⴄ)ႴჁ Ⴙ(ႳႤႬ)Ⴈ | ႣႠႥႨႧ ႫႠႢႨႱႲႰႭႱႨ Ⴀ|ႣႨႣႤႬ Ⴖ(ႫႤႰႧႫ)ႠႬ ႭႰႧႠႥႤ ႺႾ|ႭႰႤႡႠႧႠ Ⴋ(Ⴀ)Ⴘ(Ⴄ)Ⴌ(Ⴄ)Ⴁ(Ⴄ)ႪႨ ႠႫ(Ⴈ)Ⴑ Ⴜ(ႫႨႣႨ)ႱႠ| ႤႩႪႤႱႨႨႱႠჂ Ⴀ(ႫႤ)Ⴌ – God, glorify holy servant of God, our king Davit’ Magistros, builder of this holy church, in both lives, amen.
An inscription on the right part of the same composition: †. ႫႭႬႠჂ Ⴖ(ႫႰ)ႧႨႱႠჂ ႫႤႴႤჂ ႹႳႤႬႨ | ႡႠႢႰႠႲ ႤႰႨႱႧႠႥႧႠ ႤႰႨႱႧႠႥႨ Ⴀ|ႣႨႣႤႬ ႶႫႤႰႧႫႠႬ ႭႰႧႠႥႤ ႺႾႭ|ႰႤႡႠႧႠ ႫႠႸႤႬႤႡႤႪႨ ႠႫႨႱ ႼႫႨႣႨႱႠ | ႤႩႪႤႱႨႨႱႠჂ ႠႫႤႬ – †. God, glorify the servant of God, our king Bagrat, Erist’avt’ erist’avi, builder of this holy church, in both lives, amen.
of the Painter(s)
Some sections of the church interior and the south-east chapel were painted.
Separate areas of the sub-dome space were partly ornamented with colorful décor simultaneously with constructing. Upper parts of the conchs of south and north apses are laid out with ashlars. The masonry around the keystones in the conchs are decorated in red and blue; moreover, in the south conch concentric semi-circles are created with colors, in the north conch – segments spread out radially (examples of decoration like that of the keystones of the apse conchs are evidenced in other monuments of the second half of the tenth century too, for instance, in the church of St. John the Baptist in Parkhali church and Kumurdo Cathedral). It is not excluded that a similar type of decoration was in other parts of the interior of the church as well, for example, in the vault of the square space arranged in front of east pastophorium and in the vault of the arch of the main south gate. Presumably, images contained in the ornamental framing on the eastern wall of the south apse of the church were part of this incomplete décor; nowadays, their majority is covered by a thin coat of plaster.
The South-East Chamber
The south-east chamber of the church had fully been covered with murals at the very beginning.
Christ in Majesty was represented in the conch: in the center of the conch, on the starry background there is the Savior seated on the throne with a pedestal decorated with acanthus ornament and incircled in a mandorla. A figure of an archangel clad in a robe and mantle is depicted on each side, at the edges of the conch. A seraph based on fiery wheels is depicted on each side between the Savior and the figures of the archangels. Asomtavruli inscriptions were outlined in white paint near both of them; presently, fragments of the text can be discerned on the northern panel of the conch: [Ⴜ]|ႫႨႣႠ | [Ⴀ]ႰႱ | ႼႫႨႣႠ | ႠႰႱ | [Ⴜ]ႫႨႣႠ Ⴀ|ႰႱ Ⴓ(ႴႠႪ)Ⴈ | [ႱႠႡ]ႠႭ|Ⴇ – Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 6:3); a similar inscription must have been represented symmetrically on the south wall of the conch too.
Murals of the chancel conch are separated from the second registre by not a very wide ornamental frieze composed on the motif of spatial folded geometrical ribbon. An elongated rectangle is highlighted in the center of the second registre of the chancel murals. There are three medallions inserted in it: an equal-armed cross set with gems is depicted in the central medallion, and a bearded half-figure dressed in omophorion is inserted in each of the side ones (they are presumed to be identified with St. Peter and St. Paul). Rows of frontal figures of saint apostles were spread out on both sides of this rectangular segment. Seven figures were depicted on the north, and five – on the south. The fourth apostle of those on the north wall is holding an open book with four-line asomtavruli inscriptions on both pages: ႤႱႤ Ⴀ | ႰႱ ႫႭႼ|ႠႴႤ [Ⴐ(ႭႫႤႪ)Ⴈ] | ႨႢႨ || ႳჃႷႳ|[-]ႠႰႣ | [Ⴀ ႨႤႱႳႱ] – This is the disciple that [Jesus] loved]. The text must be paraphrasis of John 20:2 and, therefore, it must be the figure of St. John the Theologian. Among the figures on the south wall, the best preserved is the last one – an apostle portrayed as a beardless youth.
Painting in the hall was distributed in two registres. The Annunciation is depicted on the south, on the southern panel of the vault and the Transfiguration is represented below it. Both scenes are laid out against wealthy architectural backgrounds. In the scene of the Transfiguration the image of the Holy Prophet Moses is accompanied by an asomtavruli inscription outlined in white paint: ႫႭ||ႱႤ – Moses; an explanatory inscription of the same kind, which is presently highly fragmented, was outlined near the Holy Prophet Elijah ([Ⴄ]Ⴊ||[ႨႠ] – Elijah) depicted in the right part of the scene. A large scene was represented along the composition of the Transfiguration, on the western section of the south wall of the room, of which only the model of a domed church can be discerned. It is presumed that it was an composition containing the donor row. Fragments of the frescos can be observed in other sections of the hall as well, but their fragmentary condition makes it impossible to specify their whatness without special research.
The colorful decoration of the north and south apses of the church was executed shortly after construction of the church; it perfectly fits within the context of the polychrome (based on blue, red, golden and green) ornamentation which made the interior and its façade colorful.
Painting of the south-east chamber of the church must belong to the same period. Its iconographic and stylistic characteristics, as well as paleography of the fresco inscriptions, point to the second half of the tenth century; the same is evidenced by comparing the painting to other pictorial ensembles executed at the commission of King David Curopalates.
Zaza Skhirtladze, “The Oldest Murals at Oshki Church: Byzantine Church Decoration and Georgian Art”, Eastern Christian Art 7 (2010): 97–133.
Ekaterine Privalova, “Zogi ram tao-klarjet’is mokhatulobebis shesakheb” [“Regarding the Wall Paitings of Tao-Klarjeti”], in Valeri Asatiani ed., Akhaltsikhisa da tao-klarjet’is epark’ia [Diocese of Akhaltsikhe and Tao-Klarjeti] (Tbilisi, 2013), 736–7.
Mariam Didebulidze, “Shua saukuneebis k’art’uli kedlis mkhatvrobis dzeglebi tao-klarjet’shi” [“The Monuments of the Georgian Medieval Wall Painting in the North-East Turkey”], Sak’art’velos sidzveleni [Georgian Antiquities] 19 (2016): 51–2, ill. 20–1.
Neli Chakvetadze, “Utsnobi sak’titoro gamosakhuleba khakhulis sakat’edro tadzarshi” [“Unknown Donor Image in the Khakhuli Cathedral”], Saistorio krebuli [Historical Collections] 6 (2017): 272–4 (notes 40, 43–4), ill. 15–25.