Isn’t it nice that so many buildings are preserved in Georgia? It is taking into account very strong earthquakes and the constant raids of the fierce and ruthless enemies. The oldest preserved buildings belong to the 1st millennium BC! 3000 years ago the tribes living on the territory of modern Georgia, knew how to smelt iron and process metal. Do you remember the Greek myth about the Greeks who wanted the Golden Fleece, the owner of which was ancient Colchis (ancient Georgian state, the kingdom and the region in western Georgia). So, the Golden Fleece existed as a description of technology of extraction and processing of gold!
But let’s go back to the architecture.
The highest level of skill Georgian architects have achieved at the first half of the XI century. The union of small principalities into one state contributed to it. A «golden period» lasted till 13th century. There was a desire and ability to create magnificent structures — mostly temple complexes. At this time in Byzantium cross-domed scheme was very popular, in which the centre of the building is a dome on the pendentives. Well, in general, the characteristic of this style is that the dome is placed across all four sides of church. Simple cross-domed churches in terms look like a cross (the cross is also seen inside the building).
Cross-dome style had spread in Asia Minor and Europe, but local architectural schools had been making their own features, that made the difference and variety of buildings. In Georgia such type of construction of the temple was not a novelty. Different versions of the cross-domed buildings were practiced since the middle of the VI century. For all variants there is one feature: dome based on a square base. The prototype of such temple structures is ancient peasant building «darbazi», where cone with a hole at the top is constructed on the square base (to emit smoke from the fireplace). In order to pull the proportion of building up the Georgian architects set a conical tent on a multi-faceted tholobate.
Church in Tsromi
Dome with a tholobate had become a mandatory attribute of the Georgian domed buildings. The proportions of the tholobate and dome created a special appearance of the building. Georgia is one of those countries, where a dome on a square had played a significant role. This style was created very early, as well as in Byzantium and in the Middle East.
In Georgia the architects were also concerned about the increasing stability of buildings during earthquakes. In the upper part of the church lightweight structures and materials were used to facilitate the gravity centre of the building.
In some Georgian churches the dome part of the building on the four pillars was made as separate construction, so that during an earthquake it provided a single strain. Walls and other elements of structure were strengthened by build in oak polygonal frames. In general, small buildings had better seismic resistance. That is why small churches and chapels surrounded by numerous outbuildings are likely to be seen on the slopes.