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The Blue Frescoes of Khintsvisi

November 1980

 

Khintsvisi lies in an ethnically restless region of southwestern Kartli, far off the beaten track. Because of the exceptionally beautiful frescoes on lapis-blue background in its church, I had long prevailed on Merab to take us there. He was evasive until one day in 1980 he appeared in our hotel with the necessary permits. There were other parts of the country where he was reluctant to go. Betania a few kilometers south of Tbilisi was another such place. I never did find out what caused his reluctance, but in Urbnissi on the way back from Khintsvisi the village children pelted his car with stones.... According to him they weren't Georgians.

The famous church of St. Nicholas dates from the 13th century, its frescoes are from the same time. But there are ruins of two older churches, of one only the apse conch remains with a magnificent fresco of the Madonna - unprotected from the elements.

Because adequate photographs of these frescoes are hard to find I include all of mine despite some duplication in their angles of view. Missing is a picture of the Last Supper in an unusual location above the entrance door. There the contrast was too high for a free-hand photo without flash or additional lighting - besides the custodian objected to my taking pictures, and I had to work fast as long as Merab kept him mollified and occupied in some other part of the building. Maybe Rolf Schrade will one day send me a picture of this detail. I also resisted the temptation of manipulating the photographs digitally to intensify and lighten the colors. This could, within limits, be done, should someone desire an improved copy for some purpose beyond mine....

The iconostasis and its frescoes. On the left wall the famous painting of Queen Tamara and Lasha - her second, Ossetian husband - backed by Christ. The Madonna in the apse dates the frescoes to before 1300.

 

 

The unadorned classical architecture of the church

 

 

Queen Tamara and her barely visible father to her left

 

 

The left side arm and the angel. The unimportant donor(?) underneath the window has been saved digitally from the ray of sunlight that fell on him. I was allowed no time to wait for the sun to do me that favor.

 

 

A better view of Tamara and the angel.

 

 

The custodian's wife

 

 

The free-standing apse of the older church ruin. The lowest tier of church fathers has practically disappeared... The contrast and brightness of these daylight photos has been slightly increased.

 

 

 

 

The left half of the lower frescoes in the older church ruin. I have not been able to decipher the depicted scenes - Maybe Brigitta can help?

 

 

Especially this scene remains a mystery. It appears as if the saint is presenting the chalice to a man with a donkey's head?

 

 

Right half of the lower frescoes - equally difficult to read.

 

 

Unidentified saint in a side conch to the right of the apse. Notice the Greens in the frescoes of the ruin, they are absent in those of the main church

 

 

A larger view of the Madonna

 

 

Saying good-bye to the custodian and his wife. Merab was, as you can see, very good at such formalities. Barbara, Sophiko, and tall Cornelius.

 

 

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