Over dinner at our guest house in Kashveti I asked our host Vaktang about the village church. “We have an 11th century church with original frescos” he informed me, “but it’s closed to the public.” Naturally, I was disappointed, but of course there were so many other wonderful sites in this UNESCO protected region of Georgia, that I didn’t dwell on it.
After we finished breakfast the following morning, Ana, our host’s teenage daughter, slipped on her boots and said to us “Let’s go to the church.” “But isn’t it closed to the public?” “Oh yes” she smiled “But I have a key!” And just like that, we went out into the rain, past cows making their way out for their daily cud-chewing circuit.
Here’s all I know about the church: it’s called Archangel church and it’s built in the 11th century, with unrestored frescos from the 12th century. Modestly scaled with clean lines and an overhanging roof on the outside. On the inside….
These frescos! Super-dynamic, vibrant, expressive FRESCOS! [Pauses for a moment to do a happy fresco dance.]
Anyone belonging to the art history turbo-nerd club, of which I am a high-ranking member, would freak at an opportunity like this. It was so, so glorious.
Archangel Gabriel in his polka dot socks is letting Mary know she’s knocked up with a little savior. I do hope this is the very archangel the church is named after.
Mary reclines, ignoring the gift-schlepping wise men and a curious sheep. I wish our photo was clearer so you could see how the ox and ass seem to be snacking on baby Jesus in his manger.
A positively German Expressionist John the Baptist baptizes Jesus who now is being nibbled by fish.
Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Notice the fellow to the right of Lazarus, pulling of his mummy wrappings. He’s holding his sleeve in front of his nose in a fairly accurate depiction of “He stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.”
Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. Please do me a favor and click on the image so you can enjoy all the lively detail, especially the guys in the palm tree, the dude throwing his red cloak on the ground, and OMG, the donkey!
Jesus yanking folks out of purgatory like a boss.
What’s with the puppy pile of soldiers?
We’ve seen a lot of art from the 12th century that is stiff and formulaic. The frescos in Archangel church are human and expressive.
Dudes with WTF faces.
Mary’s all like “So what if I’m wearing my son as a pendant around my neck?”
Many of the portraits are almost sculptural.
Apparently the 12th century was a great age for righteous beards.
Old Georgian writing on the iconostasis.
Archangel church’s icons have been much loved and kissed. Me: I’d like to kiss the who place. What an incredible privilege it was to spend a rainy morning here.
How we got to Kashveti: overnight train from Tbilisi to Zugdidi followed by a marshrutka ride from Zugdidi to Mestia Kashveti is about a 45 minutes walk from Mestia.
Where we slept: Guest House Folk Music. Price: €42 for a double (including meals). Recommended: highly.