11th Century King’s Tomb Unearthed at Dilapidated Monastery in Georgia

Historians in Georgia made a surprise discovery during restoration work, when they happened upon the location of the tomb of a renowned king from the 11 th century. Workers uncovered the gravestone at an abandoned monastery and it hosted an inscription that signified its regal occupant.

King’s Resting Place

The team of conservators uncovered the king’s burial place at the St. John the Baptist Monastery in the village of Kalauri in eastern Georgia’s Gurjaani Municipality this week, as reported by Just who the crypt belonged to was revealed in a lengthy epitaph that named the entombed as King Kvirike.

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The discovery at the Kalauri village complex was made during ongoing restoration works. (Credit: Cultural Heritage Agency)

From the epitaph and historical evidence, the historians have asserted that it refers to King Kvirike III, also known as Kvirike the Great, of the 11th century Kakheti-Hereti kingdom.

According to a statement by the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia statement and reported by, the epitaph contained an "extensive text in Asomtavruli [script]” referring to the monarch. Asomtavruli is one of three scripts that are used to represent the Georgian language, although it is now obsolete in everyday use and only used in religious contexts.

Kvirike III’s Reign

Kvirike III ruled as king within the eastern Georgian feudal system, governing the kingdom of Kakheti-Hereti from 1014-1037 or 39. Although his reign got off to an uncertain start, later he was successful in uniting the kingdoms of Kakheti and Hereti and for a time the region became autonomous from the rest of Georgia.

Kvirike initially came to rule the region as successor to his father, David, thus becoming a prince and also the chorepiscopus (a Christian clergy position that is ranked below Bishop) of Kakheti. One presumes that his religious positions are what guaranteed his place of rest in the monastery.

At the time, Georgia as a whole was governed by the Bagrationi Dynasty, a monarchal dynasty that would play a part in the governing of Georgia until the 19 th century. The Bagrationi patron of the day, King Bagrat III, rejected Kvirike’s succession, took him prisoner and claimed Kakheti. When Bagrat III died, Kvirike not only reclaimed his crown, but took charge of the neighboring province of Hereti too, thus forming the combined and independent kingdom of Kakheti-Hereti.

Coin of Kvirike III, arabographycal type without Georgian letters ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The region prospered under his rule and he formed his capital in Telvadi, building a palace at Bodoji. He later formed coalitions with Bagrat IV and others, successfully defending the country against various invaders, including that of the Byzantine Empire. According to 17 th century Georgian historian, Vakhushti, he was ultimately assassinated by a slave he had taken, as revenge for his killing of the Alan king Urdure who had attempted an invasion.

After his death, the Kakheti-Hereti Kingdom lasted as a sovereign entity until 1104, when Georgia’s King David IV merged it with his united Georgian kingdom.

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The burial place was unearthed in the southern section of the monastery. (Credit: Cultural Heritage Agency)

The Tomb

The recently re-discovered tomb that has housed the remains of King Kvirike III for around a millennium, was constructed from cut stone, and is situated in the southern section of the 9 th century monastery, reports The discovery was made after two years of reconstruction work had already been completed at the previously deteriorating religious site. Such a discovery makes the restoration effort and investment all the more worthwhile.

St. John the Baptist monastery principal church in early stages of restoration ( LikeGeorgia)

The 9th century monastery complex is located in a forest outside Kalauri village, and includes the St. John the Baptist church and the residence of the chorepiscopus, amongst other buildings.

The epitaph is scheduled to be analyzed by experts, before further archaeological delving is started at the site by the Cultural Heritage Agency.

    Explore Armenia’s Medieval Monasteries in Interactive 360-Degree Panoramas

    I'm sitting in my living room, peering down through a virtual reality headset into a dirt pit in Khor Virap where legend says St. Gregory the Illuminator was held for 15 years before curing his captor, King Trdat, of an ailment and convincing him to convert to Christianity. Fable or not, by the early 300s AD Trdat had declared Christianity the official state religion, making Armenia one of the first, if not the first, countries to institute a national Christian church.

    Armenia’s claim to be the first Christian nation is contested by some—particularly the nation of Ethiopia, which also purports to be the first. The early history of Christianity is murky, but overall, many scholars today agree that Armenia holds this designation.

    “Though there were Christians in Ethiopia—a few at least, very early—the same was true everywhere,” Dr. Dickran Kouymjian, Berberian Chair of Armenian Studies, Emeritus, at Fresno State, told “The Armenian Church claims an official conversion of the nation to Christianity in [the year] 301, though many scholars speak of 313 to 314.” Kouymjian says the actual date differs among Armenian historical sources, but researchers prefer to use a date of 314, because it comes after the Edict of Milan, which allowed the open practice of any religion throughout the Roman Empire. Even so, he said, this is still “some decades before Ethiopia, where we learned that a majority of the inhabitants converted after 340.”

    Historians believe Trdat's decision may have been motivated both by a desire to consolidate power over the growing community of Christians within Armenia and as a political move to demonstrate to Rome, who at the time offered protectorate support, a parting of ways with Rome's region rival, the pagan Sasanian regime.

    Regardless of the reasoning, with Trdat's support, St. Gregory became the first Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church and went about the region spreading the faith and constructing churches on top of pagan temples. 

    Today, the Armenian landscape is dotted with spectacular churches, the most notable of which date back to the medieval period when the development of communal monasteries transformed these remote locations into centers of art and learning. Today, many of these historic monasteries are still off the beaten path, perched overlooking vast gorges or hidden away in forested valleys. 

    This is part of what the 360GreatArmenia VR app and website is trying to solve for by making virtual tours available from anywhere. In addition to the Khor Virap Monastery​, the project has captured more that 300 virtual reality tours of ancient sites within modern Armenia.

    The project's founder, Vahagn Mosinyan, said seeing a 360-degree image of another town online back in 2012 "triggered. an interest to make the same 360-degree platform for Armenia, because it is a great tool to preserve and to archive cultural heritage." The resulting stitched images, taken both by drones and photographers on the ground, allow viewers to switch from aerial to street views, navigate through interiors and view relics and historical art. Users are invited to annotate the destinations with information and stories. Backed by Ucom, an Armenian internet service provider, the project was also recently featured in a special exhibit at the National Gallery of Armenia in Yerevan that focused on the more than 50 cultural monuments the project has captured in historical Western Armenia, in modern day Turkey.

    The monasteries below can be explored through interactive 360-degree panoramas or navigated virtually using the project's smartphone app (iOS, Android) and a VR headset.

    Map of Gelati Monastery

    Since the retreat of the controversial Bagrati Cathedral, Gelati Monastery can shine in its own right. And what a sight this is. Its wall paintings are overwhelming and intriguing at the same time, because the depicted people far exceed the average list of Christian holy figures. They show saints and historical figures from Georgia and the Byzantine empire in their most beautiful clothing.

    The 12th century Gelati Monastery dates back to the Golden Age of medieval Georgia. The complex consists of 3 churches, a free-standing bell tower and an academy building. It was for a long time the cultural center of Georgia, with its own academy where the best scientists, theologians and philosophers worked.

    From the center of Kutaisi a minibus leaves 5 times a day directly to this monastery. It starts from a small parking lot with some other local minibuses at the back of Meskhishvili Theatre. The ride costs 1 lari (0.30 EUR). The 4pm bus that I took only transported women: a few living along the route who had gone shopping in the city, another tourist and me. We two were the only ones that remained on the bus til the end. You can already see the monastery from a distance, on a hill amongst the greenery. The drive takes only a short 20 minutes.

    The complex has the (for Georgia) usual set of souvenir and snack stalls in the parking lot. A small courtyard contains the 3 churches, the bell tower and the academy building. I immediately went for the main church. Its interior is covered with murals over the entire surface. There are innumerable scenes and portraits, clearly made in different periods. I was happy that I brought my Bradt travel guide with me: in its 2 page description of the Monastery the names of the most prominent persons depicted are given.

    Above the altar in the dome there is a golden mosaic of Mary with Child - a Byzantine-inspired mosaic that is unique in Georgia.

    There is more to see at the corners of the courtyard. At the south gate for example, which contains the tomb of David 'the Builder' - the 12th century king who founded this monastery and many other important buildings in the Golden Age of Georgia. Everyone who left the monastery had to walk over his grave. The remains of an 11th century iron door from Persia are still hanging in the gate, once taken back to Georgia by David's son as war booty.

    Of the 2 smaller churches the St. George is the most beautiful. Just like with the big church they are restoring its exterior and it is partly covered in scaffoldings. You can not enter it (it is reportedly only open at weekends and is often used for marriage ceremonies). But the doors leave an opening through which you can see the inside: this is perhaps an even bigger wall painting than the main church. A lot of bright red and blue has been used.

    The minibus schedule allows one to have 1 hour at the Monastery, which is really too little. I spent about 1.5 hours there and waited for the last bus of the day (6.20 pm) to bring me back to Kutaisi. Distance wise this is walkable as well as it is 8km, but there are one or two nasty climbs en route.

    Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

    The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (Georgian: სვეტიცხოვლის საკათედრო ტაძარი , svet'icxovlis sak'atedro t'adzari literally the Cathedral of the Living Pillar) is an Orthodox Christian cathedral located in the historic town of Mtskheta, Georgia, to the northwest of the Georgian capital Tbilisi. A masterpiece of the Early and High Middle Ages, Svetitskhoveli is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is currently the second largest church building in Georgia, after the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

    Known as the burial site of the claimed Christ's mantle, Svetitskhoveli has long been one of the principal Georgian Orthodox churches and is among the most venerated places of worship in the region. [1] Throughout the centuries, the cathedral served as the burial place for kings. The present cross-in-square structure was completed between 1010 and 1029 by the medieval Georgian architect Arsukisdze, although the site itself dates back to the early fourth century. The exterior archature of the cathedral is a well-preserved example of typical decorations of the 11th century.

    Svetitskhoveli is considered an endangered cultural landmark [2] it has survived a variety of adversities, and many of its priceless frescoes have been lost due to being whitewashed by the Russian Imperial authorities. [3]

    11th Century King’s Tomb Unearthed at Dilapidated Monastery in Georgia - History

    Georgian religious architecture is renowned for its unique intermingling with nature. Monasteries were not only spiritual sanctuaries but also defensive fortresses, where nobility and ordinary people found refuge during tough times. Alaverdi Cathedral is one of the few examples of monasteries surrounded by a solid stone fence.

    Alaverdi Monastery was built in the 11th century by Kakhetian King Kvirike on the remains of a monastery established by Joseph, one of the Thirteen Assyrian Fathers. It is one of the biggest cathedrals of the country, built on a cross-like foundation. In 2007, Alaverdi Monastery was listed as a Tentative Heritage site by UNESCO. Alaverdi is 20km north-west of Telavi.

    The communist ban on religionand total destruction of sacred symbols and paintings were not enough to demolish the eight centuries-old frescos preserved on the walls of Alaverdi. The cathedral’s location – in the Alazani Valley, close to the Alazani River – together with rich frescoes and fine Georgian chanting creates a serene atmosphere.


    The first church of the monastery, Surb Astvatsatsin, was built in the 30s and 40s of the 10th century (during the reign of King Abbas I Bagratuni). In 966, King Ashot III the Merciful and Queen Khosrovanuysh built the Church of the Holy Savior, their sons Kyurike (Gurgen) for the work of Smbat [4], founded a congregation, a high school, invited clergymen, scholars, and writers. The founding abbot was Polycarp, who was succeeded by the scholar Hovhannes.

    In 979, by the decree of King Smbat II, the monastery complex of Sanahin became the seat of the newly formed bishop of the Kyurikian kingdom (until the middle of the 11th century), Isaiah was ordained diocese of Tashir. Dioscoros Sanahnetsi (1039-1063), proclaimed a "great orator", was one of the patriarchs. During his time, the library and the chapel of St. Gregory were built, the caring school became a large educational center, the library was enriched, many manuscripts were written and flourished. He was studied, taught and created by scholarly monks Anania Sanahnetsi and Hakobos Karapnetsi. In addition to theology, the school taught philosophy, rhetoric, music, medicine, calendars, and other sciences. According to the legend, he taught at the school - Grigor Magistros Pahlavuni, and the hall built between him and Surb Astvatsatsin and between the churches of Surb Amenaprkich was called "Magistros Seminary".

    During the Seljuk invasions and their rule, which began in the second half of the 11th century, as well as after the fall of the Kyurik kingdom (1113), the Sanahin monastery experienced a bad period. At the end of the 12th century, becoming a part of the Zakarid (Zakaryan) princes as part of the Tashirk province, the monastery restored its role in the care and scientific and cultural life of the country. Large-scale construction works were carried out in that period. From the 80s of the 12th century to the 30s of the 13th century the vestibules of the Holy Savior and Surb Astvatsatsin churches were built, the bell tower, the bookstore, the guest house (not preserved), the Zakarid family tomb, the high art of Grigor Tuteord and Sargis were erected khachkars, the Church of the Holy Savior was renovated. At the end of the 12th century, the famous Sanahin bridge was built on the Debed river, through which the road leading to the monastery passes, and a spring in the village.

    In the 12th-13th centuries, the fathers Grigor Tuteord (which means san of Tute), Hovhannes Khachents (teacher of Zakare and Ivane Zakaryan princes), Vardan were famous in Sanahin monastery. The abbot Grigor Rabunapet (Grigor son of Abbas, he was the abbot of Sanahin monastery from 1214) had a great reputation, whose book "Because of the broad and delicate writings on the question of the saints" also served as a textbook. Rabbi Grigor donated 13 manuscripts to the monastery, wrote other works. The normal activity of the monastery was interrupted again during the Mongol invasions starting from the 1230s and during their rule. At the beginning of the 14th century it weakened ին at the end of the century the ruling house of the Zakaryans was torn apart, and the village of Sanahin with its surroundings and monastery became the property of the Arghutyan-Yerkaynabazuk (Arghutyan "the Long Arms" until the beginning of the 20th century).

    In the 14th-15th centuries, the art of writing experienced a new rise in the Sanahin monastery (35 of the manuscripts written there are kept in the Matenadaran). The most memorable is the "Kotuk" of Sanahin (manuscript No. 3032), which contains the chronology of the monastery, valuable information about the history of the congregation.

    In the middle of the 17th century, during the leadership of Archbishop Sargis Arghutyan, the main structures of the monastery, which were damaged by earthquakes, were significantly renovated. In 1831, Archbishop Harutyun Ter-Barseghyants, the tribal leader of the monastery, built a single spring near the northern wall (his verse inscription has been preserved on the front), decoded the inscriptions and repaired the structures. At the beginning of the 20th century the activity of the monastery stopped.

    During the Soviet rule, Sanahin Monastery, as a historical and cultural monument, was under state protection, and structures were strengthened and restored. In 1998, by the decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, it was handed over to the administration of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.

    The architectural complex of Sanahin monastery was formed during about three centuries. Each new building was built taking into account the operational role of the previous ones, the space and stylistic features. The complex includes St. Astvatsatsin and Surb Amenaprkich churches with their vestibules, the seminary, St. Grigor chapel, bookstore, bell tower, St. Hakob church, St. Harutyun chapel, the family tombs of the Kyurikyans, Zakaryans (Zakarid), Arghutyan-Yerkaynabazuk.

    The main building material of the structures is local light gray polished basalt, which was used for roofing. The architectural forms and decoration are generally simple, monumental, with a restrained emphasis on cornices, doors, and window frames on flat wall surfaces. The artistic expression of the interior spaces was created by the combination of roofs, districts, vaulted arches, domes, with the simple, logical and symmetrical structure of the pillars bearing them.

    St. Astvatsatsin (The Church of the Holy Mother of God) Edit

    Church The oldest of the existing buildings is the Church of the Holy Mother of God, which was built during the reign of King Abbas I Bagratuni in the 30s and 40s of the 10th century. The church, around which the complex is formed, is one of the earliest examples of the cruciform dome subtype typical of the Armenian medieval classical architecture. The drum of the dome was originally multi-faceted, which during the renovation of the church in 1652 was transformed into a cylinder and was crowned with a simple conical arch. Some traces of former frescoes have been preserved inside it. Inside the church, on the four corners, there are four vestibules, and the high tabernacle on the east side is high.

    Holy Savior (Katoghike) Church Edit

    St. Amenaprkich (Holy Savior, also called Katoghike) Church is the main and largest building of the complex, built on the south side of St. Astvatsatsin Church, 4 m away. It was built by Queen Khosrovanush, thus laying the foundation of Sanahin Monastery. The church has a dominant position with its powerful volume, it has become the center of gravity of the general composition of the complex. The type of the structure is again the cross dome, but unlike the previous one, it has two-storey apses. The church had two entrances on the north-western side, the first of which was later closed due to the construction of the inter-church hall. The eastern façade of the building, the adjacent parts of the southern and northern façades, are formed by a decorative arch resting on elegant columns. There is reason to believe that it continued, the drum of the original dome of the church and the High Tabernacle, which were destroyed by the earthquake and were restored with simpler tools, were decorated in that way.

    At the top of the east façade of the church, just below the cornice crowning the jacon, is a sculpture in a rectangular frame with images of Kyurike and Smbat (the names are engraved on the top of the frame). Years after the creation of the sculpture, the first of them founded and headed the Kyurikian kingdom, and the second reigned in Ani and was declared "Cosmic". The sculpture depicts them standing tall facing each other, holding a model of a church in their hands. With its content, inventive idea and style, this work became a prominent phenomenon in the Armenian medieval monumental art, it was a precedent for further similar sculptures (Haghpat, Ani, etc.).

    The walls of the Holy Savior Church were also covered with frescoes (insignificant traces have been preserved). According to lithographic data, the church was first completely renovated in 1181 with the efforts of the monastery's leader Hovhannes Vardapet and the support of Grigor Tuteord, a Kurdish amira. The southern wall damaged by the earthquake was completely rebuilt, the dome was completely rebuilt, as a result of which it became lower, fortified, and the other half-ruined or dilapidated parts of the structure were filled. The second major renovation was made in 1652, during the general renovation of the monastery, under the leadership of Archbishop Sargis Arghutyan under the leadership of Justa Sargis. Minor repairs were made later, in 1815 at the expense of Captain Solomon Arghutyan and Prince Zakare, and in 1881 under the leadership and efforts of Arghutyan Hovsep Parsadanyan.

    Surb Astvatsatsin and Surb Amenaprkich (Katoghike) churches had a common vestibule in the 80s of the 10th century, which is mentioned in the proclamation of King Kyurike I in "Kotuk" of Sanahin, by which he presented two magnificent chandeliers to the monastery. This structure was probably demolished during large-scale construction in 1181, during the construction of the new vestibule of the Church of the Holy Savior. The latter is a central, four-column spacious hall with a square plan, built next to the western wall of the church, with the same axis and width. The outer door is installed in the center of the north wall. The thick columns of the vestibule are connected by arches to the corresponding columns of the opposite walls, dividing the interior space into large central, marginal eight small square sections. The central square is crowned by a low dome, the corners have a flat ceiling, and the central middle parts are covered with cylindrical districts. This spatial complex plastic structure is given a special artistic expression by the woven ornaments of the columns, the caps, the symbolic sculptures of the animals' heads. The inscription engraved on one of the frescoes mentions the name of the architect, Zhamhayr.

    The Vestibule of St. Astvatsatsin Church Edit

    The vestibule of St. Astvatsatsin Church was built in 1211 by the order of Prince Vache Vachutyan, which is evidenced by the inscription preserved on the south wall inside the vestibule. The building is located next to the western walls of the vestibule of the church and Saint Amenaprkich that occupies the corner area formed between them. The symmetry with respect to the axes of the adjacent structures is preserved, and the size in the east-west direction, due to which this combination is perceived as a complete structure.

    The plan of the vestibule is a slightly elongated rectangle in the north-south direction, which is divided into three equal vessels by two arched columns in the transverse direction. Each of them is covered with a cylindrical roof with a gabled roof, which forms a series of high ridges with sharp peaks on the western façade. The only fully visible façade of the vestibule is formed by three pairs of wide arched openings, which served as the entrance to the interior. The vestibule had a corridor for churches, the other vestibule for the seminary. The architectural interior is simple, restrained. Low and massive columns , being uniform, are different in the decoration of anchors. Typologically, this vestibule is a unique example in Armenian architecture.

    Lyceum Edit

    The exact time of the construction of the Lyceum is unknown, but according to the construction-stratigraphic analysis it dates back to the first half of the 11th century. The floor plan of the building was created automatically due to the narrow, corridor area between the Astvatsatsin and Amenaprkich churches, which the architect used ingeniously and expediently. It is traditionally said that this was the hall of the lyceum, where Grigor Magistros read his lectures to the students sitting on the stone benches lined up on both sides.

    Bookstore Edit

    The bookstore and St. Gregory's Chapel were built in 1063 on the initiative of Father Dioscoros Sanahnetsi under the leadership of David Anhoghin's daughter, Queen Hranush. The buildings are located in the northeastern part of the complex, at a distance of about 3 m from each other. In the intermediate area, in front of the bookstore entrance, a lobby was built in the first quarter of the 8th century.

    The bookstore is the oldest Armenian bookstore, the largest in terms of its layout. It is a hall with a square plan, the pillars of which are placed in the centers of the four walls, one by one, are connected with each other by arches bent at an angle of 45 ° to the walls. They form a new, smaller square embedded in the perimeter of the hall, on which, at the base, a circular dome rests with the help of sails, and at the top, an octagonal, vaulted dome. The corner parts of the hall are covered in one case with a trumpet, in the other case with intersecting semi-cylindrical districts. The low-mass, massive columns have a rich, different ornamental design. The plane of the walls is thinned by deep niches crowned with semicircular or arrow-shaped arches, which were vaults for books or relics. The bookstore has been declared a rich collection of manuscripts ․ Here, along with the manuscripts, the precious objects of the temple were kept. That is why the library building was called Nshkharatun.

    St. Gregory Chapel Edit

    St. Gregory Chapel is located on the western border of the complex, 12 meters east of St. Astvatsatsin Church. It was built in 1061 by Queen Hranush, daughter of David Anhoghin. St. Gregory's Chapel is a small structure with a three-level anchor, circular on the outside, cruciform on the inside, and a four-altar central dome. The cylindrical plane of the façade and the entrance frame is made of elegant, decorative masonry columns, and the heavier sections of the wall between the tabernacles are lined with vertical, triangular niches in the plan. In 1652, the dome destroyed by the earthquake was completely rebuilt, the upper parts of the walls distorting the original appearance of the chapel and its symmetry.

    Belfry Edit

    The bell tower of the monastery (1st quarter of the 13th century) is one of the earliest examples of this type. It is a three-storey building with a square plan, which is crowned with a bell tower leaning on six columns. The first floor is a simple vaulted hall with a separate entrance from the north. The asymmetrically placed entrance to the western façade leads to the second or third floors with stone steps. The second floor consists of three small adjoining apses, one of which has an insignificant construction protocol preserved on the entrance facade, according to which the bell tower was built by Vag, Abas' son. The third floor is a complete hall, covered with the construction of intersecting arches supported by four pairs of columns, bearing the bell tower. Along the axis of the western façade, a large red granite sculpted cross is embedded in a wide frame.

    St. Hakob Church and St. Harutyun Chapel Edit

    To the south-east of the main monument, at a distance of about 70 - 100 m, [9] there are two small, half-ruined structures: St. Hakob Church and St. Harutyun Chapel. The church is a domed hall built in the second half of the 10th century, with a rectangular exterior and a cruciform interior. Destroyed in 1753, some of the stones were used in 1815 to renovate the Church of the Holy Savior. The chapel (second half of the 13th century) is a simple, rectangular vaulted hall with two equal eastern tabernacles and a richly designed western entrance.

    The Tomb of the Zakaryans (Zakarid) Edit

    The tomb of the Zakaryans is more unique and interesting in terms of architectural composition. It consists of adjacent eastern and western parts. The first (built in the late 10th or early 11th century) is a semi-arched vaulted hall with three small chapels raised on the roof, the central one of which has a rectangular shape and the edge one has a circular plan. The western part is a vaulted hall with a sculpted entrance and a double roof. They were built in 1189 by Ivane and Zakare brothers on the graves of Vahram (gradfather) and Sargis (father). An inscription khachkar is erected in his memory.

    Khachkars Edit

    About 50 khachkars have been preserved in the vicinity of the monastery. The most famous for its historical value and artistic elaboration is the khachkar of Grigor Tuteordi (work of Mkhitar Kazmich), erected in 1184 under the northern wall of St. Harutyun Church, the khachkar erected in 1215 on the tomb of Sargis, one of the victims of the war against the Emirates next to the wall.

    About 190 lithographs from the 10th-19th centuries have been preserved (on structures, khachkars and tombstones). 19 of them are of construction nature (until 1225), the others contain royal, government proclamations, prayers, memoirs, information on donations to the monastery.

    Legend Edit

    The builders of the monastery were father and son. The father laid the walls, and the son cuts the stones. Before he finished the monastery, his son died. Without tearing down the stairs, the father leaves. After a while, he met a man from Shnogh and told him the secret of demolishing the stairs of the monastery. Shnoghetsi comes to Sanahin, demolishes the stairs of the monastery with the horse, as the master says, and gets a lot of money for that.

    From Turrets to Toilets: A Partial History of the Throne Room

    In a catalog assembled for the 2014 Venice Biennale to accompany an exhibition on architectural elements, the bathroom is referred to as “the architectural space in which bodies are replenished, inspected, and cultivated, and where one is left alone for private reflection - to develop and affirm identity.” I think that means it’s where you watch yourself crying in the mirror. As for the toilet specifically, Biennale curator Rem Koolhaas and his researchers, consider it to be the “ultimate” architectural element, “the fundamental zone of interaction--on the most intimate level--between humans and architecture.” So the next time that burrito doesn’t sit right or you had one too many gin and tonics, remember that you’re experiencing a corporeal union with the mother of all arts. Potty humor aside, the privatization and proliferation of the bathroom has really driven new developments in cleanliness and safety and has shaped our buildings.

    The flush toilet was invented in 1596 but didn’t become widespread until 1851. Before that, the “toilet” was a motley collection of communal outhouses, chamber pots and holes in the ground. During the 11th-century castle-building boom, chamber pots were supplemented with toilets that were, for the first time, actually integrated into the architecture. These early bathrooms, known as “garderobes” were little more than continuous niches that ran vertically down to the ground, but they soon evolved into small rooms that protruded from castle walls as distinct bottomless bays (such a toilet was the setting for a pivotal scene in the season finale of "Game of Thrones"). “Garderrobe” is both a euphemism for a closet as well as a quite literal appellation, as historian Dan Snow notes: "The name garderobe - which translates as guarding one's robes - is thought to come from hanging your clothes in the toilet shaft, as the ammonia from the urine would kill the fleas."

    Stepped garderobe shafts at Langley Castle, by Viollet-le-Duc Though it might be named for a closet, the garderrobe actually had a strong resemblance to an aspect of a castle’s defenses. And it works in the same basic way: gravity. And while the garderobe was actually a weak spot in a castle’s defenses, woe be the unassuming invader scaling a castle wall beneath one. Several designs emerged to solve the problem of vertical waste disposal - some spiral up towers, for example, while some were entire towers some dropped waste into cesspools, moats, and some just dropped it onto the ground below. Not all medieval compounds were okay with merely dumping excrement onto the ground like so much hot oil. Christchurch monastery (1167) has an elaborate sewage system that separates running water, rain drainage, and waste, which can be seen marked in red seen in the below drawing, which has to be the most beautiful plumbing diagram I have ever seen:

    Sewage diagram of Christchurch Monastery, Canterbury (1167)

    Today, the toilet has been upgraded from architectural polyp to a central design element. A long time ago, when I had dreams of becoming an architect, I was designing a house for a client who wanted to see the television from the toilet and tub but did not want a television in the bathroom. The entire master suite, and thus a large percentage of the building’s second floor, was designed around seeing the views from the bathroom. And that was the second residence in my short career that began with the bathroom. More commonly though, toilets shape the spaces of our skyscrapers.

    Plumbing arrangement in a 19th century New York house Because we can’t simply drop our waste 800 feet off the side of a skyscraper onto a busy metropolitan sidewalk, and because efficient plumbing depends on stacking fixtures that share a common “wet wall,” toilets (and elevators, of course) are the only elements drawn in the plans for high-rise buildings, whose repeating floor slabs are built out later according to a tenant’s needs. Once relegated to the periphery, the toilet is a now an oasis at the center of our busylives, a place where, as Koolhaas wrote, “one is left alone for private reflection - to develop and affirm identity.” To paraphrase Winston Churchill, we shaped our toilets, then our toilet shapes us.


    Many sources agree that Nino was born in the small town of Colastri, in the Roman province of Cappadocia, although a smaller number of sources disagree with this. On her family and origin, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church have different traditions.

    According to the Eastern Orthodox Church tradition, she was the only child of a famous family. Her father was Roman general Zabulon and her mother Sosana (Susan). On her father's side, Nino was related to St. George, and on her mother's, to the patriarch of Jerusalem, Houbnal I.

    During her childhood, Nino was brought up by the nun Niofora-Sarah of Bethlehem. [2] Nino’s uncle, who was the patriarch of Jerusalem, oversaw her traditional upbringing. Nino went to Rome with the help of her uncle where she decided to preach the Christian gospel in Iberia, known to her as the resting place of Christ’s tunic. According to the legend, Nino received a vision where the Virgin Mary gave her a grapevine cross and said:

    "Go to Iberia and tell there the Good Tidings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and you will find favour before the Lord and I will be for you a shield against all visible and invisible enemies. By the strength of this cross, you will erect in that land the saving banner of faith in My beloved Son and Lord."

    Saint Nino entered the Iberian Kingdom in Caucasus from the Kingdom of Armenia, where she escaped persecution at the hands of the Armenian King Tiridates III. She had belonged to a community of virgins numbering 35, [3] along with martyr Hripsime, under the leadership of St. Gayane, who preached Christianity in the Armenian Kingdom. They were all, with the exception of Nino, tortured and beheaded by Tiridates. All 35 of the virgins were soon canonised by the Armenian Apostolic Church, including Nino (as St. Nune).

    Contrasting with this, the Roman Catholic tradition, as narrated by Rufinus of Aquileia, says Nino was brought to Iberia not by her own will, but as a slave, and that her family tree is obscure. [4]

    Nino reached the borders of the ancient Georgian Kingdom of Iberia from the south about 320. There she placed a Christian cross in the small town of Akhalkalaki and started preaching the Christian faith in Urbnisi, finally reaching Mtskheta (the capital of Iberia). The Iberian Kingdom had been influenced by the neighbouring Persian Empire which played an important role as the regional power in the Caucasus. The Iberian King Mirian III and his nation worshiped the syncretic gods Armazi and Zaden. Soon after the arrival of Nino in Mtskheta, Nana, the Queen of Iberia requested an audience with the Cappadocian.

    Queen Nana, who suffered from a severe illness, had some knowledge of Christianity but had not yet converted to it. Nino, restoring the Queen's health, won to herself disciples from the Queen's attendants, including a Jewish priest and his daughter, Abiathar and Sidonia. Nana also officially converted to Christianity and was baptized by Nino herself. Mirian, aware of his wife’s religious conversion, was intolerant of her new faith, persecuting it and threatening to divorce his wife if she did not leave the faith. [5] He secluded himself, however, from Nino and the growing Christian community in his kingdom. His isolation to Christianity did not last long because, according to the legend, while on a hunting trip, he was suddenly struck blind as total darkness emerged in the woods. In a desperate state, King Mirian uttered a prayer to the God of St Nino:

    If indeed that Christ whom the Captive had preached to his Wife was God, then let Him now deliver him from this darkness, that he too might forsake all other gods to worship Him. [6]

    As soon as he finished his prayer, light appeared and the king hastily returned to his palace in Mtskheta. As a result of this miracle, the King of Iberia renounced idolatry under the teaching of St Nino and was baptized as the first Christian King of Iberia. Soon, the whole of his household and the inhabitants of Mtskheta adopted Christianity. In 326 King Mirian made Christianity the state religion of his kingdom, making Iberia the second Christian state after Armenia.

    After adopting Christianity, Mirian sent an ambassador to Byzantium, asking Emperor Constantine I to have a bishop and priests sent to Iberia. Constantine, having learned of Iberia’s conversion to Christianity, granted Mirian the new church land in Jerusalem [7] and sent a delegation of bishops to the court of the Georgian King. Roman historian Tyrannius Rufinus in Historia Ecclesiastica writes about Mirian's request to Constantine:

    After the church had been built with due magnificence, the people were zealously yearning for God's faith. So an embassy is sent on behalf of the entire nation to the Emperor Constantine, in accordance with the captive woman's advice. The foregoing events are related to him, and a petition submitted, requesting that priests be sent to complete the work which God had begun. Sending them on their way amidst rejoicing and ceremony, the Emperor was far more glad at this news than if he had annexed to the Roman Empire peoples and realms unknown. [8]

    In 334, Mirian commissioned the building of the first Christian church in Iberia which was finally completed in 379 on the spot where now stands the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta.

    Nino, having witnessed the conversion of Iberia to Christianity, withdrew to the mountain pass in Bodbe, Kakheti. St Nino died soon after immediately after her death, King Mirian commenced with the building of monastery in Bodbe, where her tomb can still be seen in the churchyard.

    Nino and its variants remains the most popular name for women and girls in the Republic of Georgia. There are currently 88,441 women over age 16 by that name residing in the country, according to the Georgia Ministry of Justice. It also continues to be a popular name for baby girls. [9]

    The Georgian name "Nino" is "Nune" or "Nuneh" in Armenian, thus St. Nino is known as St. Nune in Armenia. Her history as the only one of the 35 nuns of the company of Sts. Gayane and Hripsime to escape the slaughter at the hands of the pagan Armenian King Tiradates III in 301 is recounted in the book "The History of the Armenians" by Movses Khorenatzi (Moses of Khoren), which was written about the year 440.

    The Phoka Nunnery of St. Nino was established in rural Georgia by Abbess Elizabeth and two novices. They originally lived in a nearby house owned by Georgian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Ilia II, then in 1992 moved to the site of an 11th century church to restore it.

    The Sacred Monastery of Saint Nina is the home of a monastic community of Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Christian nuns in the Patriarchate of Georgia's North American Diocese. It is located in Union Bridge, Maryland, USA, and was established in September 2012. [10]


    The 7th-century Chronicle of Fredegar implies that the Merovingians were descended from a sea-beast called a quinotaur:

    It is said that while Chlodio was staying at the seaside with his wife one summer, his wife went into the sea at midday to bathe, and a beast of Neptune rather like a Quinotaur found her. In the event she was made pregnant, either by the beast or by her husband, and she gave birth to a son called Merovech, from whom the kings of the Franks have subsequently been called Merovingians. [3]

    In the past, this tale was regarded as an authentic piece of Germanic mythology and was often taken as evidence that the Merovingian kingship was sacral and the royal dynasty of supernatural origin. [4] Today, it is more commonly seen as an attempt to explain the meaning of the name Merovech (sea-bull): "Unlike the Anglo-Saxon rulers the Merovingians—if they ever themselves acknowledged the quinotaur tale, which is by no means certain—made no claim to be descended from a god". [3]

    In 1906, the British Egyptologist Flinders Petrie suggested that the Marvingi recorded by Ptolemy as living near the Rhine were the ancestors of the Merovingian dynasty. [5]

    In 486 Clovis I, the son of Childeric, defeated Syagrius, a Roman military leader who competed with the Merovingians for power in northern France. He won the Battle of Tolbiac against the Alemanni in 496, at which time, according to Gregory of Tours, Clovis adopted his wife Clotilda's Orthodox (i.e. Nicene) Christian faith. He subsequently went on to decisively defeat the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse in the Battle of Vouillé in 507. After Clovis's death, his kingdom was partitioned among his four sons. This tradition of partition continued over the next century. Even when several Merovingian kings simultaneously ruled their own realms, the kingdom—not unlike the late Roman Empire—was conceived of as a single entity ruled collectively by these several kings (in their own realms) among whom a turn of events could result in the reunification of the whole kingdom under a single ruler.

    Upon Clovis's death in 511, the Merovingian kingdom included all of Gaul except Burgundy and all of Germania magna except Saxony. To the outside, the kingdom, even when divided under different kings, maintained unity and conquered Burgundy in 534. After the fall of the Ostrogoths, the Franks also conquered Provence. [6] After this their borders with Italy (ruled by the Lombards since 568) and Visigothic Septimania remained fairly stable. [7]

    Division of the kingdom Edit

    Internally, the kingdom was divided among Clovis's sons and later among his grandsons and frequently saw war between the different kings, who quickly allied among themselves and against one another. The death of one king created conflict between the surviving brothers and the deceased's sons, with differing outcomes. Later, conflicts were intensified by the personal feud around Brunhilda. However, yearly warfare often did not constitute general devastation but took on an almost ritual character, with established 'rules' and norms. [8]

    Reunification of the kingdom Edit

    Eventually, Clotaire II in 613 reunited the entire Frankish realm under one ruler. Later divisions produced the stable units of Austrasia, Neustria, Burgundy and Aquitania. [ citation needed ]

    The frequent wars had weakened royal power, while the aristocracy had made great gains and procured enormous concessions from the kings in return for their support. These concessions saw the very considerable power of the king parcelled out and retained by leading comites and duces (counts and dukes). Very little is in fact known about the course of the 7th century due to a scarcity of sources, but Merovingians remained in power until the 8th century.

    Weakening of the kingdom Edit

    Clotaire's son Dagobert I (died 639), who sent troops to Spain and pagan Slavic territories in the east, is commonly seen as the last powerful Merovingian King. Later kings are known as rois fainéants [1] ("do-nothing kings"), despite the fact that only the last two kings did nothing. The kings, even strong-willed men like Dagobert II and Chilperic II, were not the main agents of political conflicts, leaving this role to their mayors of the palace, who increasingly substituted their own interest for their king's. [9] Many kings came to the throne at a young age and died in the prime of life, weakening royal power further.

    Return to power Edit

    The conflict between mayors was ended when the Austrasians under Pepin the Middle triumphed in 687 in the Battle of Tertry. After this, Pepin, though not a king, was the political ruler of the Frankish kingdom and left this position as a heritage to his sons. It was now the sons of the mayor that divided the realm among each other under the rule of a single king.

    After Pepin's long rule, his son Charles Martel assumed power, fighting against nobles and his own stepmother. His reputation for ruthlessness further undermined the king's position. Under Charles Martel's leadership, the Franks defeated the Moors at the Battle of Tours in 732. After the victory of 718 of the Bulgarian Khan Tervel and the Emperor of Byzantium Leo III the Isaurian over the Arabs led by Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik prevented the attempts of Islam to expand into eastern Europe, the victory of Charles Martel at Tours limited its expansion onto the west of the European continent. During the last years of his life he even ruled without a king, though he did not assume royal dignity. His sons Carloman and Pepin again appointed a Merovingian figurehead (Childeric III) to stem rebellion on the kingdom's periphery. However, in 751, Pepin finally displaced the last Merovingian and, with the support of the nobility and the blessing of Pope Zachary, became one of the Frankish kings.

    The Merovingian king redistributed conquered wealth among his followers, both material wealth and the land including its indentured peasantry, though these powers were not absolute. As Rouche points out, "When he died his property was divided equally among his heirs as though it were private property: the kingdom was a form of patrimony." [10] Some scholars have attributed this to the Merovingians' lacking a sense of res publica, but other historians have criticized this view as an oversimplification.

    The kings appointed magnates to be comites (counts), charging them with defense, administration, and the judgment of disputes. This happened against the backdrop of a newly isolated Europe without its Roman systems of taxation and bureaucracy, the Franks having taken over administration as they gradually penetrated into the thoroughly Romanised west and south of Gaul. The counts had to provide armies, enlisting their milites and endowing them with land in return. These armies were subject to the king's call for military support. Annual national assemblies of the nobles and their armed retainers decided major policies of war making. The army also acclaimed new kings by raising them on its shields continuing an ancient practice that made the king leader of the warrior-band. Furthermore, the king was expected to support himself with the products of his private domain (royal demesne), which was called the fisc. This system developed in time into feudalism, and expectations of royal self-sufficiency lasted until the Hundred Years' War. Trade declined with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and agricultural estates were mostly self-sufficient. The remaining international trade was dominated by Middle Eastern merchants, often Jewish Radhanites.

    Law Edit

    Merovingian law was not universal law equally applicable to all it was applied to each man according to his origin: Ripuarian Franks were subject to their own Lex Ripuaria, codified at a late date, [11] while the so-called Lex Salica (Salic Law) of the Salian clans, first tentatively codified in 511 [12] was invoked under medieval exigencies as late as the Valois era. In this the Franks lagged behind the Burgundians and the Visigoths, that they had no universal Roman-based law. In Merovingian times, law remained in the rote memorisation of rachimburgs, who memorised all the precedents on which it was based, for Merovingian law did not admit of the concept of creating new law, only of maintaining tradition. Nor did its Germanic traditions offer any code of civil law required of urbanised society, such as Justinian I caused to be assembled and promulgated in the Byzantine Empire. The few surviving Merovingian edicts are almost entirely concerned with settling divisions of estates among heirs.

    Coinage Edit

    Byzantine coinage was in use in Francia before Theudebert I began minting his own money at the start of his reign. He was the first to issue distinctly Merovingian coinage. On gold coins struck in his royal workshop, Theudebert is shown in the pearl-studded regalia of the Byzantine emperor Childebert I is shown in profile in the ancient style, wearing a toga and a diadem. The solidus and triens were minted in Francia between 534 and 679. The denarius (or denier) appeared later, in the name of Childeric II and various non-royals around 673–675. A Carolingian denarius replaced the Merovingian one, and the Frisian penning, in Gaul from 755 to the 11th century.

    Merovingian coins are on display at the Monnaie de Paris in Paris there are Merovingian gold coins at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Cabinet des Médailles.

    Christianity was introduced to the Franks by their contact with Gallo-Romanic culture and later further spread by monks. The most famous of these missionaries is St. Columbanus (d 615), an Irish monk. Merovingian kings and queens used the newly forming ecclesiastical power structure to their advantage. Monasteries and episcopal seats were shrewdly awarded to elites who supported the dynasty. Extensive parcels of land were donated to monasteries to exempt those lands from royal taxation and to preserve them within the family. The family maintained dominance over the monastery by appointing family members as abbots. Extra sons and daughters who could not be married off were sent to monasteries so that they would not threaten the inheritance of older Merovingian children. This pragmatic use of monasteries ensured close ties between elites and monastic properties.

    Numerous Merovingians who served as bishops and abbots, or who generously funded abbeys and monasteries, were rewarded with sainthood. The outstanding handful of Frankish saints who were not of the Merovingian kinship nor the family alliances that provided Merovingian counts and dukes, deserve a closer inspection for that fact alone: like Gregory of Tours, they were almost without exception from the Gallo-Roman aristocracy in regions south and west of Merovingian control. The most characteristic form of Merovingian literature is represented by the Lives of the saints. Merovingian hagiography did not set out to reconstruct a biography in the Roman or the modern sense, but to attract and hold popular devotion by the formulas of elaborate literary exercises, through which the Frankish Church channeled popular piety within orthodox channels, defined the nature of sanctity and retained some control over the posthumous cults that developed spontaneously at burial sites, where the life-force of the saint lingered, to do good for the votary. [13]

    The vitae et miracula, for impressive miracles were an essential element of Merovingian hagiography, were read aloud on saints’ feast days. Many Merovingian saints, and the majority of female saints, were local ones, venerated only within strictly circumscribed regions their cults were revived in the High Middle Ages, when the population of women in religious orders increased enormously. Judith Oliver noted five Merovingian female saints in the diocese of Liège who appeared in a long list of saints in a late 13th-century psalter-hours. [14] The vitae of six late Merovingian saints that illustrate the political history of the era have been translated and edited by Paul Fouracre and Richard A. Gerberding, and presented with Liber Historiae Francorum, to provide some historical context. [15]

    Kings Edit

      , king of Burgundy (died 592) , king of Austrasia (died c. 656) , king of Austrasia, son of the former (died 679)

    Queens and abbesses Edit

      (died 502) , queen of the Franks (died 545) (died 544) , Thuringian princess who founded a monastery at Poitiers (died 587)
    • Rusticula, abbess of Arles (died 632)
    • Cesaria II, abbess of St Jean of Arles (died ca 550) , queen of Austrasia (died 613) , queen of Neustria (died 597) , abbess in Metz (died ca 600) , abbess of Moutiers (died 645) , abbess of Laon (died 670) , founding abbess of Marchiennes (died 688) , founding abbess of Nivelles (died 652) , abbess of Andenne (died 693) , abbess of Nivelles (died 658) presented in The Life of St. Geretrude (in Fouracre and Gerberding 1996) , abbess of Mauberges (died ca 684) , abbess of Mons (died ca 688) , queen of the Franks (died ca 680), presented in The Life of Lady Bathild, Queen of the Franks (in Fouracre and Gerberding 1996) (died 684)
    • Bertilla, abbess of Chelles (died c. 700) , abbess of Laon (died before 709) , abbess of Pavilly (died 703)

    Bishops and abbots Edit

    Nota bene: All of the listed clergymen are venerated as saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church.

      (c. 584–675) , Bishop of Metz (c. 588–660) chief counsellor to Dagobert I and bishop of Noyon-Tournai , Bishop of Tours and historian , first Bishop of Liège (c. 636 – c. 700), bishop of Maastricht (Tongeren) , Bishop of Autun , Bishop of Rouen , Bishop of Reims who baptized Clovis I

    Yitzhak Hen stated that it seems certain that the Gallo-Roman population was far greater than the Frankish population in Merovingian Gaul, especially in regions south of the Seine, with most of the Frankish settlements being located along the Lower and Middle Rhine. [16] The further south in Gaul one traveled, the weaker the Frankish influence became. [16] Hen finds hardly any evidence for Frankish settlements south of the Loire. [16] The absence of Frankish literature sources suggests that the Frankish language was forgotten rather rapidly after the early stage of the dynasty. [16] Hen believes that for Neustria, Burgundy and Aquitania, colloquial Latin remained the spoken language in Gaul throughout the Merovingian period and remained so even well in to the Carolingian period. [16] However, Urban T. Holmes estimated that a Germanic language was spoken as a second tongue by public officials in western Austrasia and Neustria as late as the 850s, and that it completely disappeared as a spoken language from these regions only during the 10th century. [17]

    A limited number of contemporary sources describe the history of the Merovingian Franks, but those that survive cover the entire period from Clovis's succession to Childeric's deposition. First among chroniclers of the age is the canonised bishop of Tours, Gregory of Tours. His Decem Libri Historiarum is a primary source for the reigns of the sons of Clotaire II and their descendants until Gregory's own death in 594, but must be read with account of the pro-church point of view of its author.

    The next major source, far less organised than Gregory's work, is the Chronicle of Fredegar, begun by Fredegar but continued by unknown authors. It covers the period from 584 to 641, though its continuators, under Carolingian patronage, extended it to 768, after the close of the Merovingian era. It is the only primary narrative source for much of its period. Since its restoration in 1938 it has been housed in the Ducal Collection of the Staatsbibliothek Binkelsbingen. [ citation needed ] The only other major contemporary source is the Liber Historiae Francorum, an anonymous adaptation of Gregory's work apparently ignorant of Fredegar's chronicle: its author(s) ends with a reference to Theuderic IV's sixth year, which would be 727. It was widely read though it was undoubtedly a piece of Arnulfing work, and its biases cause it to mislead (for instance, concerning the two decades between the controversies surrounding mayors Grimoald the Elder and Ebroin: 652–673).

    Aside from these chronicles, the only surviving reservoirs of historiography are letters, capitularies, and the like. Clerical men such as Gregory and Sulpitius the Pious were letter-writers, though relatively few letters survive. Edicts, grants, and judicial decisions survive, as well as the famous Lex Salica, mentioned above. From the reign of Clotaire II and Dagobert I survive many examples of the royal position as the supreme justice and final arbiter. There also survive biographical Lives of saints of the period, for instance Saint Eligius and Leodegar, written soon after their subjects' deaths.

    Finally, archaeological evidence cannot be ignored as a source for information, at the very least, on the Frankish mode of life. Among the greatest discoveries of lost objects was the 1653 accidental uncovering of Childeric I's tomb in the church of Saint Brice in Tournai. The grave objects included a golden bull's head and the famous golden insects (perhaps bees, cicadas, aphids, or flies) on which Napoleon modelled his coronation cloak. In 1957, the sepulchre of a Merovingian woman at the time believed to be Clotaire I's second wife, Aregund, was discovered in Saint Denis Basilica in Paris. The funerary clothing and jewellery were reasonably well-preserved, giving us a look into the costume of the time. Beyond these royal individuals, the Merovingian period is associated with the archaeological Reihengräber culture.

    The Merovingians play a prominent role in French historiography and national identity, although their importance was partly overshadowed by that of the Gauls during the Third Republic. Charles de Gaulle is on record as stating his opinion that "For me, the history of France begins with Clovis, elected as king of France by the tribe of the Franks, who gave their name to France. Before Clovis, we have Gallo-Roman and Gaulish prehistory. The decisive element, for me, is that Clovis was the first king to have been baptized a Christian. My country is a Christian country and I reckon the history of France beginning with the accession of a Christian king who bore the name of the Franks." [18]

    The Merovingians feature in the novel In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust: "The Merovingians are important to Proust because, as the oldest French dynasty, they are the most romantic and their descendants the most aristocratic." [19] The word "Merovingian" is used as an adjective at least five times in Swann's Way.

    The Merovingians are featured in the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (1982) where they are depicted as descendants of Jesus, inspired by the "Priory of Sion" story developed by Pierre Plantard in the 1960s. Plantard playfully sold the story as non-fiction, giving rise to a number of works of pseudohistory among which The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail was the most successful. The "Priory of Sion" material has given rise to later works in popular fiction, notably The Da Vinci Code (2003), which mentions the Merovingians in chapter 60. [20]

    The title of "Merovingian" (also known as "the Frenchman") is used as the name for a fictional character and a supporting antagonist of the films The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.

    Forget France – this Eurasian country is ideal for a post-lockdown wine holiday

    Crossing himself after the earthenware qvevri is unsealed, winemaker Gia Gamtkitsulashvili ladles the fresh rkatsiteli wine into a pitcher to a round of applause from an expectant gathering. His qvevri wine is amber, like sap that has frozen in aspic, from vineyards flourishing in the sun-kissed valleys between the snowy Caucasus Mountains.

    “I’m happy,” he says. “It’s been in the qvevri for six months, the acidity is balanced, the colour is light. This is how the oldest wine in the world looks.” If one word finagles its way into the lexis of travel this summer, it might be “qvevri”. These lemon-shaped clay vessels have been used to ferment Georgian wines since the sixth millennia BC – and if Covid-19 continues to disrupt major wine tourism destinations such as France, Georgia is waiting in the wings, well-placed after becoming one of the first countries to accept fully vaccinated passengers, without test or quarantine.

    Some restrictions remain (including a 9pm-5am curfew), yet the Georgian embassy in London expects these to lift soon as their vaccination programme gets under way. “British travellers can come now to enjoy Georgian hospitality and learn about our distinctive culture and wine,” says ambassador Sophie Katsarava. She notes that interest in Georgian wine was already on the rise, with exports to the UK growing 155 per cent during 2020 to a tremendous half a million bottles.

    I arrived in Tbilisi from Armenia in early April, evading travel restrictions with the help of a BBC exemption to cover the aftermath of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I intended to stay only a few days, but – while exploring my Airbnb’s bohemian locale near Aghmashenebeli Avenue – sought an introduction to Georgian wines at a vintner called Wine Gallery. and promptly extended my stay.

    Wine Gallery’s Victoria Ponomarenko says Georgia possesses 525 grape varieties, of which the white grapes manifest amber under their qvevri technique. This amber colouration is due to the contact of juices fermenting alongside unremoved skins, stems and pips – the tannins remaining high while the natural skin yeast converts sugar into alcohol. But this colour troubles me: it looks like sherry, which I detest, and on my first tasting the amber tannins are overpoweringly bitter.

    Yet Ponomarenko persists, urging me to visit the mountainous eastern region of Kakheti, bordering Russia and Azerbaijan, Georgia’s cradle of winemaking, where 75 per cent of wines are produced. Thus I arrange a three-day tour with Levan Chalauri, who hasn’t guided for a year. “Allowing vaccinated travellers will help our economy to return to normal, as in 2019 we had 6 million visitors, almost twice the Georgian population,” he explains.

    Driving east, vineyards and marani (cellars) dominate farmlands where Chalauri says every household makes its own wine. And upon reaching Kakheti’s wine capital, Sighnaghi, a fortified town overlooking the Alazani Valley, there is little doubt in my mind that wine permeates not just Georgia’s geography, but its spiritual fabric too, transcending a hazy continuum between paganism and Christianity. At Sighnaghi’s 8th-century Bodbe Monastery, where black-robed nuns light crackling candles, are the remains of St Nino, who arrived from Turkey in the 4th century to evangelise the Georgians. She curried favour by hauling a cross made from grape-wood, and her white marble tomb is embellished with a grape motif.

    Her Saintliness probably meant she abstained from partaking in Georgia’s amber nectar, but I didn’t. Wine-tasting is widespread and sessions typically offer flights of five qvevri wines: likely an ubiquitous amber rkatsiteli, a dry saperavi red, and perhaps its semi-sweet cousin, kindzmarauli (enjoyed by Georgia’s most notorious son, the sweet-toothed Stalin). Tastings end – alongside all reasoning – with chacha, a grappa-like spirit with an alcohol content upwards of 50 per cent, distilled from the qvevri pomace.

    I’m already sold on saperavi, but at our first winery in Sighnaghi, Pheasant’s Tears, I undergo a Damascene conversion to the amber side, thunderstruck by a 2018 rkatsiteli: bitter yet minerally, sharply refreshing, and hued like liquid sun. The qvevri they are fashioned in are made by Zaza Kbilashvili, a fourth-generation potter. He is busy making eight 2,500-litre qvevri in his studio nearby, which is open to visitors, hand-building 10cm of clay every three days, before wood-firing them in a brick kiln, the whole process a painstaking three months per jar.

    He coats the interior with beeswax (easier for cleaning with a cherry-bark brush) and applies exterior lime concrete, a natural antiseptic. “Qvevri allow the wines to breathe, and when buried they draw positive energy from the soil and solar system,” he says. Beyond the 11th-century Alaverdi Monastery, radiant in bubblegum-pink peach blossom and where monks ferment a cheeky little semi-sweet red, the seven-room Hotel Babaneuris Winery demonstrates that Georgia has the accommodation to match its wine-tourism ambitions. My room has a Chateau Lafitte view into the Caucasus, framed by lime and elm woodland. The restaurant serves vine-leaf wrapped dolma and allows diners to peer through a glass wall into their production marani where 24 qvevri have disgorged their 2020 vintage.

    “You can watch the harvest and maceration of grapes in September while having breakfast,” says Babaneuris-owner Vakhtang Idoidze, an earnest mountain man from Tusheti, near Chechnya, who learned winemaking from his father and took over this vineyard in 2005. We enter the marani after a breakfast buffet featuring salty mountain cheese and home-made bread.

    “For the first weeks before the qvevri are sealed I stir the wine every three or four hours, or it will end up as vinegar,” says Idoidze. “I am with the qvevri all day long. My wife hates me then.” The grape material that floats upwards must be pushed down into the qvevri depths so it – in his words – can be “reborn”.

    “People think our qvevri technique is unsophisticated, but it’s a technology created over 8,000 years. Who knows how it began? Maybe just wild grapes in a pot that fermented, and the locals got drunk eating them.” We leave late morning to explore ancient Christian sites where wine production features. Kakheti was a kingdom in its own right until incorporation into the Russian Empire in 1801. Archaeologists found evidence at the old capital, Gremi, of winepresses and storage, and when sacked in 1616 by Shah Abbas, the Persian invaders cut out the vines.

    “Throughout history invaders have cut our vines it’s like they wanted to cut out the Georgian soul,” says Chalauri. Likewise, a marani exists at the 6th-century hilltop Nekresi Monastery, founded by an injudicious Assyrian apostle who doused the local Zoroastrians’ fire with holy water and was promptly stoned to death.

    The profoundest impact on Georgia’s wine industry came, however, during Soviet domination. Nuna Kardenakhilishvili, a grandmotherly figure in flowing skirts, remembers it well: her marani in the Velitrikhe Valley uses qvevri she unearthed from the 16th-century. “Qvevri are like us. They are born, they live, and die,” she eulogises. Still, her wines are rustic, indigestibly acidic, although I dare not say anything while she rails against the “snobbish” European winemakers and their fancy vintages. “I say to them my wines are vintage, influenced by the 16th century. They don’t taste of ‘almonds’ or ‘cherries’, just grapes.” She explains that, during Soviet times, villagers – somewhat surprisingly – sold wine to the US. “It was a wild time trying to get it out of the USSR, especially after Gorbachev introduced anti-alcohol prohibition in 1985. The Soviets never cared about quality, only quantity, so grape varieties with low yields like Kisi disappeared.” Then, she laughs. “To up the Soviets’ quota, people were processing grapes in the same tanks as pesticide. Although the Kremlin only got the best wines.”

    By contrast, I found old-world sophistication that evening on Vazisubani Estate, where a serene nobleman’s mansion from 1891 lies amid chestnut and sycamore parkland and 35 hectares of vines. This hotel’s rooms have big bathtubs and parquet flooring, and the wines are smooth and balanced. I love the velvety, appley hint of their 2018 rkhatsiteli and the refinement of a saperavi matured for 10 months post-qvevri in a steel tank, inducing a rioja-like spiciness. Their creator is 11th-generation winemaker Lado Uzunashvili, whose ancestors’ wines were lauded by tsar Nicholas II. He started in wine by cleaning out the qvevri aged 11. “I fell in love with the labour of winemaking, watching the pruning and crushing the grapes,” he says.

    Returning to Tbilisi, my final act entails visiting the National Museum. On its third floor is something profound: the wine equivalent of Lucy the hominin skeleton: a clay-baked qvevri embossed with grapes in which organic and chemical analysis dates Georgian winemaking back 8,000 years. A nascence, either chance or otherwise, that triggered the fermentation of our liquid lust for the ripening grape.

    Watch the video: ΓΗ ο Πλανήτης Φυλακή για το καλό μας (January 2022).