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Jvari Monastery (Cross)

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 Jvari Monastery (Cross)

Jvari or Jvari Monastery is a Georgian Orthodox monastery of the VI century (have been built between 605 and 642) near Mtskheta, eastern Georgia. Jvari Monastery stands on the rocky mountaintop at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, where, according to traditional accounts, St. Nino erected a large wooden cross on the site of a pagan temple. Jvari is one of the masterpieces of architecture in its perfection of architectural forms and first Georgian UNESCO World Heritage Site.

By the year 545 on the “cross” mountain has stood the temple of a smaller size; it is in ruins now. A larger church in the tetraconch form (22 by 18.4 meters) was built in 590-604. Perhaps the architect of this church was Miquel Theli.

Erected on top of solid rock, the church is its organic completion and a center of the surrounding landscape. Unity with the landscape is highlighted by the fact that the monastery itself is related to the size of the rock exactly as 1 to 7. The shape of the temple is the result of a lengthy search of the Georgian architects who refused form the basilica and sought the optimal shape of the central cruciform church, with a unified interior space. These searches are reflected, for example, in the temple-Gavazi Dzveli Kakheti and Cathedral in Ninotsminda.

The Jvari church is a tetra conch (four-apsed) with a slightly elongated east-west axis. The deep niches between the four semi-circular conches lead to corner rooms. The south-western conch, the only one with an external entrance, was, according to an inscription, designed to be used only by women. The broad and open octagon of the central room is crowned by a cupola that rises from the supporting walls by means of three tiers of squinches. The well-proportioned interior of this church evokes tranquillity, harmony, and a mysterious spiritual grandeur, no doubt reinforced by the absence of mosaic or other decoration, although the eastern apse was originally covered in mosaic. These same qualities inform the exterior. Its uniformly dressed stone blocks and the careful balance of the four facades forming the arms of the cross are an extraordinary achievement, especially in the face of the technical difficulties of the site's steep western slope.

In 2004 Djvari was listed in the International Fund for monuments, as one out of a hundred, which is threatened to be ruined, but restoration work in 2007 allowed its removal from the list. Meanwhile, on the walls of the monastery can still be seen barbaric inscriptions of visitors from all over the Soviet Union in the last 60 years.

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