Church treasure as a unique historical memorial
Icons, religious works of art and ceremonial objects were adored and worshipped by Orthodox Christian parish in Georgia during past centuries. But, today, those objects tell a lot about: tastefulness of certain epoch, important aspects of historical events, fashion trends from past decades and eras.
Tsaishi Gospel cover (1600/1690)Art Palace of Georgia - Museum of Cultural History
Most importantly, those objects immortalize and glorify reign of monarchs and dominion of rulers. That’s why every powerful ruler tried to such treasure renovated, repaired, redecorated with jewels, and thus carve their own place in the history of the Christianity.
For this reason, old Georgian icons and church treasure are unique historical monuments and memorials; they tell a lot about many interesting events. With this exhibition we want to show you unique church treasure from Mingrelia, a historic province in the western part of Georgia; Those church and liturgical objects are precious works of art and each of them has unique, fascinating history.
The Ilori Icon of Saint George (1572/1582)Art Palace of Georgia - Museum of Cultural History
Folk tale and Saint George
Ilori Icon of Saint George was considered as the
relic of utmost importance in the Western part of Georgia. Since the 17th century, the Ilori Church has belonged to
Abkhazia, instead of Mingrelia, which means that it is located on a territory currently controlled by Russia. Ilori icon was
transferred to Zugdidi, in order to be safe from Ottoman Turks; Because Zugdidi
was capital of Mingrelian Province and it could be well preserved there.
There is a very interesting folk tale about Saint George and the “miracle-working” ox, which we can see at the right leg of Saint George. According to folk tale, the ox was slaughtered and distributed among parish, who believed that the meat would cure them. Pilgrims from Northern Caucasus visited this church frequently, in order to show gratitude to God.
This icon of Saint George (1605/1639)Art Palace of Georgia - Museum of Cultural History
This icon of Saint George is one of the oldest and most exquisite work of art. It’s a great sample of Georgian Goldsmithery. In the Christian world the tradition of carrying icons while taking part in the war was widely spread. For instance: Kaliman, Emperor of Bulgaria, Heraclius, Byzantine emperor, Giorgi Gurieli and many other monarchs carried the icons with them while fighting in the war. Its noteworthy that Saint George is holding the dagger and there are holy symbols of divine protection and luck. Levan II Dadiani,a ruler of the Principality of Mingrelia in western Georgia, participated in bloody battles quite often and its highly possible, that this icon belonged to him and protected him during his life, which was full of troubles.
The medallion, which depicts the face of the great martyr, is very interesting also. Despite being very small in size, it’s a rare, significant and precious sample. The medallion is movable, which means that it could be used while praying separately. Its frame is ornamented and after inserting the medallion in the icon, ornamented part is no longer visible. A crown of light rays surrounds the face of the Saint on the medallion.
Icon of Saint George (1818)Art Palace of Georgia - Museum of Cultural History
The Mokvi Icon of the Virgin Mary (1600/1690)Art Palace of Georgia - Museum of Cultural History
This unique work of art is called the Mokvi Icon of the Virgin. The icon is placed in the middle of a reliquary. Virgin Mary is standing among Saint John the Baptist and Saint Stephen the Archdeacon. In the 17th century, the northern border of Mingrelia was located near Mokvi; Because of the violent raids from Northern Caucasus, Mokvi was depopulated and the icon was brought from Mokvi to Khobi Cathedral, in the middle of Mingrelia. Mokvi is located in one of the districts of Georgia, Abkhazia- which is currently controlled by Russia.
Tsaishi Icon of Virgin Mary (1622/1639)Art Palace of Georgia - Museum of Cultural History
On this Tsaishi Icon of Virgin Mary, holy mother is standing, holding Divine Infant in left hand and touching her heart with right hand. on the left side of Virgin Mary we see the image of Malakia Gurieli. According to Georgian Asomtavruli Inscription, he is Catholicos of Abkhazia, Malakia; Also, Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ in the middle and Saints.
Names of these saints are carved on their books: Saint Cosmas and Damian. On the upper right side of the icon Saint Peter is holding the keys of the gates of heaven.
Tunic of the Blessed Virgin
Reliquary from Khobi Cathedral-The Tunic of the Blessed Virgin and other holy relics are preserved in this reliquary. It was made by the order of Levan II Dadiani. According to historical sources, there are two alternate versions, how The Tunic of the Blessed Virgin ended up in Georgia: as claimed by the first version, it was brought from Constantinople, capital city of the Byzantine Empire in the 8th century; As stated by the second version, The Tunic was brought in the 15th century after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
Virgin Mary Icon from Kortskheli Church (1770)Art Palace of Georgia - Museum of Cultural History
Virgin Mary Icon from Kortskheli Church
The icon depicts only the upper body of Virgin
Mary. The nimbus is embellished with 23 precious gemstones of different colors and
sizes. Kufic inscriptions are visible on three gemstones, which is one
of the oldest styles of Arabic script, namely the seventh century, and it developed
from the Nabataens of Iraq alphabet in the city of Kufa, that’s why the name of script
The aforementioned precious stones were initially not intended for icons. They were donated by noblemen and used for decorating the icon later. That is how these stones with 'kufic' inscriptions were embedded in the icon decorations.
Tsaishi Crucifixion Icon
The icon of the Twelve Great Festivities is considered as the most important Georgian relic of the Middle Ages. The back side of the icon is a reliquary which consists of a small, square-shaped storage container. The most sacred symbol of Christianity – the Crucifix Cross – was preserved inside the reliquary.
Kortskheli Icon of Jesus Christ (1611/1657)Art Palace of Georgia - Museum of Cultural History
The Kortskheli Icon of Jesus Christ was made by the order of Levan II Dadiani. Only the upper part of the body is depicted on the icon; Jesus Christ is holding the Gospel and his blessing right hand is raised. Jesus Christ’s face is pictorial. Other Saints are visible around the central icon. There are two figures on the lower part of the frame and explanatory inscription says: “Blessed Queen Nestan-Darejan”; “Dadiani Levan, Nobleman” (Faces were pictorial, but they are not perceptible now).
You can see a golden necklace in the middle of the icon, above the head of Christ. It was embellished with several precious gemstones and belonged to Nestan-Darejan, wife of Levan Dadiani. The jewel was used to embellish her crown, but after her death, the ruler of Mingrelia donated it to the icon.
Crucifixion icon; Explanatory Mkhedruli inscription says: “Michael”, “Gabriel”. It is noteworthy that Michael is wearing a Georgian iron armor, his right hand is leaning on Georgian dagger. Gabriel is holding a scroll in his left hand. The frame of the icon had a little plate with historical inscription, but unfortunately, it has been lost. This icon dates back to the 17th century and notably, according to palaeography analysis, “Michael” and “Gabriel” is written with Mkhedruli script and calligraphy is almost similar to handwriting of XVII century deeds.
Icon of Archangels: Michael and Gabriel (1848)Art Palace of Georgia - Museum of Cultural History
Icon of Archangels: Michael and Gabriel from the Kheta Church depicts a scene from Psalm 150:
“Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.”
Special thanks to Dadiani Palaces History and Architectural Museum