From time to time in Georgia archaeological sensations often happen. In 2008 the Ministry of Culture, Monuments Protection and Sports organized a TV shoot in the south of the country in Samtskhe-Javakheti: during the restoration of the Chulev monastery unique paintings of the XIV century were found. According to experts, they have no analogues. The image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, images of saints and rulers of this land surprisingly remained safe and sound. Experts say there were no restorations, and it seems that the artist has finished the work yesterday. The find proved to be so high that even the critics put forward the hypothesis that there was a local church school of painting in Samtskhe-Javakheti. According to them, these monastery paintings can change the history of Georgian frescos.
Because of the fact that the secular medieval paintings had not survived, the study of monumental paintings is available mainly in the monastery churches, where the frescos «survived» in spite of all the tests. There is a legend about how the famous paintings of Vardzia “survived”: at the end of XVI century the Turks (who seized the monastery) made a bonfire of the weakened and sick monks in the middle of the Assumption Church. Because of that terrible fire the walls of the temple were covered with a layer of soot. Later Turkish shepherds found shelter in the monastery; of course, they made bonfires to warm up and because of that the paintings were more blackened. But because of that these beautiful monuments of Christian art were preserved.
Georgia christening was accompanied by the creation and spreading of new images and compositions. Georgian art has much in common with the art of «Christian» East, but it also does not interrupt the connection with primordial «pre-Christian» traditions. The most vivid examples of paintings that demonstrate the unique Georgian flavor can be seen in the cave temples of David-Gareja desert, monastery in Bedia (in Abkhazia) and the three largest temples of Tortuma (Turkey): temple Ishkhani (not later than 966 year), temple Hahuli (not later than the first half of XI century) and temple Oshki (1036). Also, I shall name the churches with the most famous surviving samples of paintings of walls: temples of Atensky Sion, temples in Udabno, Zemo Krihi, Gelati, Vardzia, Timotes Ubani, Bertubani, Kintsvisi, Ubisi and Nekresi.
During the days of Arab and Turkish rule, monasteries were like islands. They were used to protect the foundations of national life, language, religion.
The Evolution of painting in Georgia took place on the same stages as the evolution of painting in the Byzantine Empire. Generally, concerning the decoration of Christian religious institutions. It is very regimented art, so the system of painting of Georgian temples in the main outlines repeated the style of decoration of Byzantine churches. A lot of iconographic themes were adopted from the Byzantine sources. Until the XIV century the techniques of archaic styles were used: the lack of volume in the figures and details, a bit of primitive style in compositions and it is wonderful bright and vivid colours: blue, golden yellow, bright green, sometimes lilac and purple colours.
The painting, which can be seen in the temple of Ubisi, formally completes this period – here the painting of the second half of the 14th century is presented, which has a more perfect level of details and stories. Almost in every church you can see the story of the Ascension of Jesus Christ. For example, you can see it on this fresco of Vardzia, where the Angels pick up a medallion with a cross. Equal-pointed Cross symbolizes the foundation of God’s plan of world and man.
The story of Deesis is also special to the Georgian Church. The Deësis or Deisis is a traditional iconic representation of Christ in Majesty or Christ Pantocrator: enthroned, carrying a book, and flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist and sometimes other saints and angels.
Also often can be seen the images of non-Christian origin on paintings and relief sculptures. For example, images of plants, the figures of winged lions sitting opposite each other and doe between them, the image of ox-head with a cross between the antlers. All these images acquired a deep spiritual meaning in Christianity. Some of them: the peacock is a symbol of resurrection, the deer is a symbol of believing soul.
I have to mention that the cultural heritage of Georgia also have got the other art forms. For example, excellent relief sculpture associated with architecture. Gold blacksmithing had reached the high level of development. The art of enamel and design of ancient manuscripts also have a great artistic interest.
Generally, in Georgia there are a lot of things to see and to be inspired with…