Part Eight: Late Medieval Period
From the 16th to the 18th centuries the Georgian states were dominated by the great powers in the region – the Ottoman Empire, the Safavid Iran, and, later, the Russian Empire. This period also saw occasional peace and a certain revival in the development of the arts. Old churches were restored and sometimes endowed with new murals (such as the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and the Gelati Monastery). In both architecture and painting, influence was taken from the High Medieval Georgian churches as well as from Islamic Persia and later from Russia and, through Russia, from Europe.
The best examples of the churches of the era can be found in the fortified cities of Gremi and Ananuri.
23. Gremi Citadel
Church of the Archangels – 1565-1577
Gremi was the capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti since its establishment through the division of the Kingdom of Georgia in 1465. The kings resided in the Gremi Citadel, which also contained a church.
The Church of the Archangels was built in 1565 under King Levan. It is a cross-in-square church with a vertical orientation. As in the previous periods, the dome is supported by two piers and the corners of the sanctuary apse. The façades with pointed blind arches show the influence of the contemporary Persian architecture. The church may have originally been covered with glazed tiles.
In 1577, the interior of the church was covered with frescoes in post-Byzantine style.
The church is very similar to the contemporary New Shuamta Monastery.
Of the citadel also survives the three-storey royal palace with a belfry on the top.
Remains of the citadel also include the walls, the wine cellar and a secret tunnel. Among the remains of the lower city are the ruins of the market, the baths and the caravanserai.
Gremi was severely devastated during the Persian attack in 1615. The kings of Kakheti transferred their capital to Telavi in 1664.
24. Ananuri Castle
Church of the Saviour – late 16th or early 17th century; Church of the Assumption of the Mother of God – 1689
The Ananuri Castle was a seat of the eristavis (dukes) of Aragvi, the rulers of the area since the 13th century. It is located on the Georgian Military Road, on a strategic spot at the entrance to the Greater Caucasus. It stands on a shore of the Zhinvali Water Reservoir, which has beautiful turquoise water.
The castle was built between the 16th and 18th centuries. It consists of two parts, joined by a crenellated curtain wall with a number of turrets. The upper castle is well preserved, while the lower castle is mostly in ruins.
The most important structures are in the upper castle: the smaller Church of the Saviour from the late 16th or the early 17th century, and the bigger Church of the Assumption of Mother of God from 1689. These are both cross-in-square churches. The latter church has a rich façade decoration, showing big crosses and images of humans, animals and plants. Its interior was originally painted, but most of its frescoes were destroyed in the 18th century.
There is also a hall church in the castle, as well as a Vainakh tower from the 14th or 15th century.