Unique Georgian monuments of Tetritskaro Municipality

Source: Tbilisi Week

August 30, 2016


Photo: Liveinternet.ruPhoto: Liveinternet.ru

According to some information, there are around 375
historic architectural monuments on the territory of the
Tetritskaro Municipality within the historic province of
Kvemo Kartli in southeastern Georgia. Among them are the
monastic complexes of Pitareti, Gudarekhi, and Pirgebuli;
the churches of the Manglisi Cathedral, Gokhnari hall
church, the church of the Mother of God of Tsintskaro, the
domed church of Didi Toneti, the Chkhikvta church of the
Holy Trinity and others; and the ancient city fortress of
Samshvilde along with the fortresses of Kldekari,
Partskhisi, Orbeti, Khuluti, Birtvisi and so on. The
Tbilisskaya Nedelya (“Tbilisi
”) newspaper acquaints the readers with two
unique monuments of antiquity – the monastic
complexes of Pitareti and Gudarekhi.

The Pitareti monastic complex is situated some 100
kilometers (around sixty-two miles) from Tbilisi in
Tetritskaro Municipality. The monastic constructions are
built in the deep canyon of the river Ktsiya (Khrami).
High mountains, covered with deciduous wood, tower above
either side of the narrow gorge. There are also some
conifers which give the landscape a special flavor. Due to
the complex terrain the monastic buildings are located on
different levels, and the ancient stone fencing is ruined
here and there, while the new one, with embrasures for
firearms, is better preserved. A half-ruined bell tower
still survives with a wine cellar and remains of other
monastic buildings to the north of it. The domed church of
the Most Holy Mother of God – a masterpiece of
Georgian architecture – dominates the monastery

The famous Georgian scientist, architect, and Doctor of
Science in Art History, Professor Parmen Zakaraya
(1914-2003), in his book, Georgian Central Dome
, writes: “A study of Pitareti
Church is yet to be written, but it takes its rightful
place in the history of world Church architecture, first
of all, thanks to the works of Academician Georgy
Chubinashvili, such as in his On the National Form in
the Architecture of the Past
.” Professor
Zakaraya himself in his above-mentioned work provides a
description of Pitareti Church and an architectural and
artistic analysis.

The domed church of Pitareti is built with the use of
patterned stone which makes it particularly attractive.
The temple’s inner space is spacious and roomy and
the chancel is especially lit. In the view of Professor
Zakaraya, the stylistic approach of the architect who used
the contrast of light and shade is revealed in the
unevenness of illumination. It gradually becomes darker as
you move from the center towards the outer parts, and it
is already almost dark in the aisles. The effect of
irregular lighting was achieved by the architect with the
use of a specific number of windows of different size.


The architect placed twelve windows on the dome’s
cylindrical surface through which abundant light
penetrated into the church and reached all its four outer

The Pitareti church became famous not only by its perfect
composition and splendor, but also by its brilliant
ornamentation along with the décor on the facades
and the cylindrical drum under the cupola.

In 1750 the Pitareti church and monastery were robbed
during a raid and life stopped there for about 250 years.
In 2007 Pitareti became an active Orthodox center again,
with regular services and the annual
“Pitaretoba” festival. However, it also has a
serious problem as there is no road leading to the
monastery and the river Ktsiya is an obstacle. The clergy,
parishioners and pilgrims hope that the local authorities
will be able to find funds for constructing a pedestrian
bridge and parking.


Photo: Travelgeorgia.ruPhoto: Travelgeorgia.ru

Gudarekhi Monastery, another historic monument, is very
interesting as well. Its main church is one of those rare
monuments of Georgian Church architecture whose
architects’ and building owners’ names are
known. The south wall of the main Gudarekhi church still
has a building inscription in asomtavruli [the oldest
Georgian script] which was used only in Church (not
secular) texts. The inscription reads that the church was
built “in the Name of God and under the protection
of the Great Martyr George the Victorious by the hand of
Chichiporidze, a sinner, for the prayers and glorification
of Queen Rusudan…” The church was consecrated
by Bishop Anton of Manglisi. Queen Rusudan who is
mentioned in the inscription was identified by some
historians with a tutor to Princess Tamar and sister of
King George III and identified by others with a daughter
of Queen Tamar (Takaishvili). Thus they tried to determine
the date of this building judging by the lives of these
women. Meanwhile, the chronicler clearly stated that Queen
Rusudan who was gravely ill died in Tbilisi and her
remains were solemnly moved to Kutaisi and interred at
Gelati Monastery. Had Queen Rusudan been buried at
Gudarekhi Monastery the chronicler would have certainly
known it.

But who then was Queen Rusudan by whose order the main
church of Gudarekhi Monastery was built? Doctor of
Historical Sciences Guliko Mchedlidze found one more Queen
Rusudan: a daughter of King Demetrius II the
Self-Sacrificer (c. 1259-1289). The latter was married to
Theodora/Irene, a daughter of Emperor Emmanuel of
Trebizond, with whom they had four sons and one daughter
named Rusudan. Demetrius gave Rusudan in marriage to a son
of Grand Emir Buga. Soon the plot of Buga against Khan
Arghun was exposed and Buga was executed as an instigator
together with his son. At the same time Rusudan’s
husband and children were killed. At that time the queen
herself was far from the scene of events and thus escaped
death. Demetrius II himself was beheaded when he came to
the headquarters of the Mongols. Catholicos Abraham of
Georgia brought his remains and buried them at
Svetitskhoveli. Academician Elena Metreveli found out that
the daughter of King Demetrius of Georgia later remarried
to a wealthy Georgian feudal lord named Taka Panaskerteli,
a ruler of Tao – a historic Georgian region which
now belongs to Turkey. After the death of Panaskerteli,
Rusudan returned to Kartli. The date of her death is
unknown. She built the main church of Gudarekhi as her
burial vault. According to her will, the queen was
interred at Gudarekhi Monastery after her repose. King
Luarsab II of Kartli, in his royal charter to Gudarekhi
Monastery, mentioned this event. According to Guliko
Mchedlidze, Queen Rusudan was very faithful to her
motherland and the Christian religion, as evidenced by her
generous donations to the Monastery of the Cross in
Jerusalem along with her building activities at Oltisi and

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