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Parkhali Monastery, Murals of the Church of St. John the Baptist

Building: Parkhali Monastery, Church of St. John the Baptist
Layer of the Murals: One Layer
Date/Period: 980s
Donor(s): David Kuropalates and Ioane, Father Superior of Parkhali Monastery
Painter(s): Unknown
Building Gallery


The fresco inscription was placed on the south wall of the apse; it ran in two lines along this section of the wall.


of the Donor(s)

Ⴕ. Ⴘ(Ⴄ)Ⴜ(Ⴄ)ႥႬ(ႨႧ)Ⴀ Ⴖ(ႫႰႧႨႱႠ)ჂႧႠ ႫႤ ႢႪ(Ⴀ)Ⴞ(Ⴀ)ႩႫ(Ⴀ)Ⴌ Ⴈ(Ⴍ)Ⴅ(Ⴀ)ႬჁ Ⴋ(Ⴀ)Ⴋ(Ⴀ)Ⴋ(Ⴀ)Ⴌ Ⴂ(Ⴀ)ႬႥ(Ⴀ)Ⴑ[-] | Ⴜ(ႫႨႣႠ)ႬႭ Ⴖ(ႫႰ)ႧႨႱ(Ⴀ)ႬႭ Ⴑ(Ⴈ)Ⴗ(ႳႠ)Ⴐ(Ⴓ)ႪႨႱ(Ⴀ)ႧჃႱ Ⴖ(ႫႰ)ႧႨႱႠ Ⴋ(ႭႫႨ)ჄႱ(Ⴄ)Ⴌ[-] . ()()ვნ(ით) (მრთისა)ჲთა მე, გლ()()კმ() ()()ნჱ ()()()ნ, ()ნვ()[-] (მიდა)ნო (მრ)თის()ნო ()(უა)()ლის()თჳს (მრ)თისა (ომი)ჴს()[-] (Ek’vt’ime Taq’aishvili, “1917 ts’lis ark’eologiuri ek’speditsia samkhtret’ sak’art’veloshi” [1917 Archeological Expeditionin in Southern Georgia], in Id., tkhzulebani [Collected Studies] 1 (Tbilisi, 2018), 410, pl. 1443).


of the Painter(s)


Only the chancel and, sometime later, the niche of the pier were painted in Parkhali basilica.



The painting in the chancel of Parkhali basilica comprised five registres.

The inner face of the triumphal arch of the conch represented ascension of the Savior by angels (Christ’s figure was surrounded by the medallion). This composition was flanked on both sides by the half-figures Christ’s ancestors encircled in medallions. Christ in Majesty was depicted in the conch: the center of the conch was reserved for the image of the Savior in the mandorla, seated on a sumptuous, ornamented throne with a pedestal, while the rest of the areas were filled by numerous figures of hosts of angels.

The second registre of the chancel painting was separated from the conch composition by a broad ornamental frieze composed of rosettes. The second registre was occupied by a row of apostles in the middle of which the Virgin Orans and St. John the Baptist were depicted.

The third registre of the painting was separated from the row of apostles by a narrow line and it was dedicated to the images of prophets.

The fourth registre of the chancel painting was separated from the row of prophets by a wide ornamental frieze. This registre featured (left to right): the Annunciation, Meeting of the Mary with Elizabeth, the Nativity, the Presentation in the Temple, the Baptism, the Transfiguration, the Raising of Lazarus, the Entry into Jerusalem (?). The lintel of the only wide window of the chancel was occupied by an image of personification of the Holy Zion contained in a medallion, while its jambs had a depiction of Melchizedek before the chancel (north jamb) and that of Moses receiving the Tablets of the Law (south jamb).

The fifth registre of the painting was isolated from the fourth by an ornamental frieze comprising rosettes. This registre, too, should have had a range of the scenes of Twelve Great Feasts: in the northern half – five scenes from Christ’s passions (left to right: the Last Supper, the Carrying of the Cross, the Crucifixion, the Deposition from the Cross, the Entombment); on the south wall – five scenes from the cycle of resurrection. The fifth registre of the painting was bordered by a wide ornamental frieze composed of floral motifs. Rich and diverse ornamental decoration embellished chancel profiles. Some sections of the chancel must have been painted too.



Paintings of the church have not been studied monographically; the fact that in the 20th century the chancel painting was covered with a thick coat of paint makes the discussion about the frescos complicated. In recent years, after removing this layer, it became clear that hardly anything had survived from the painting; therefore, several photo negatives of the South Georgian expedition of 1917 headed by Ek’vt’ime Taq’aishvili remain the primary figural source for the study (among them one of the most important is the photo of a fresco inscription of Father Superior Ioane of Parkhali); the same is true for diversely remarkable photo negatives of Nikolai Okunev’s expedition of the same year of 1917; they make it possible to reconstruct the pictorial programme and specify the essence of certain figures or scenes.

No different opinions have been expressed about dating of the paintings of the church, which was, first of all, conditioned by its being covered with later paint and the fact that Okunev’s negatives had not been published until recently.

It is important to consider the colophon of the Parkhali Gospel while dating the painting; according to this colophon, by 973, construction of Parkhali church is likely to have been finished. Nothing seems unusual in the fact that, shortly after this date, the chancel of the basilica was embellished with paintings (Zaza Skhirtladze, Otkht’a eklesiis p’reskebi [The Frescoes of Ot’kht’a Eklesia] (Tbilisi, 2009), 212-3). In this case the most important factor to be taken into consideration is reference of the paintings of Parkhali basilica to the frescos of Otkhta Eklesia, which are presumed to be executed in the early 980s. Otkhta Eklesia was one of the projects of King Davit’ Kuropalates according to which construction of Parkhali basilica is presumed; apart from similarities in architecture, there is striking resemblance between the paintings of these two churches which is reflected both in the rendering of the scheme and the artistic style. Chronological interrelationship of these two paintings is the matter of future investigation.


T’inat’in Virsaladze, “X–XI saukuneebis zogiert’I tao-klarjuli mokhatuloba”, in id., K’art’uli mkhatvrobis istoriidan [From the History of Georgian Painting] (Tbilisi, 2007), 27–8.

Zaza Skhirtladze, Otkht’a eklesiis p’reskebi [The Frescoes of Ot’kht’a Eklesia] (Tbilisi, 2009), 212–3.

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): 41–2.

Anna Zakharova, Svetlana Mal’tseva, “The Materials of Nikolai Okunev’s Expedition of 1917 on the Wall Paintings of Parkhali”, in Actual Problems of Theory and History of Art 7 (2017), 679–88, 788–90.

Ek’vt’ime Taq’aishvili, “1917 ts’lis ark’eologiuri ek’speditsia samkhtret’ sak’art’veloshi” [1917 Archeological Expeditionin in Southern Georgia], in Id., tkhzulebani [Collected Studies] 1 (Tbilisi, 2018), 410, pl. 144.

Anna Zakharova, Svetlana Mal’tceva, “Novye dannye o rospisjakh X–XI vv. v Tao-Klardzheti po materialam ehskspeditcii N.L. Okuneva 1917 g.” [“New Materials on the 10th–11th Century Tao-Klardjeti Wall Paintings from N. Okunev’s Expedition of 1917”], vizantijskij vremennik 102 (2018): 288–317. დასამატებელია საიტის ქართული ვერსიის ბიბლიოგრაფიაში