Skhalta Cathedral is a Georgian Orthodox monastery and cathedral church in Adjara, Georgia, dating from the mid-13th century. It is a large hall church design, with fragments of the 14th or 15th century Paleologian-style wall painting.
Skhalta is the only medieval church in Adjara that survived both the Ottoman and Soviet periods to become functional again in 1990. It currently serves as a seat of the Georgian Orthodox bishop of Skhalta.
The Skhalta monastery is located on a hill in the eponymous river valley, at the village of Q'inchauri, Khulo municipality, along a road, which, in the Middle Ages, strategically linked Adjara with Artani (modern Ardahan, Turkey). The written sources on Skhalta are scarce. A legend attributes the construction of the church to Queen Tamar (r. 1184–1213), who presided over the 'Golden Age' of medieval Georgia. Modern studies date the church to the middle of the 13th century. At that time, the Skhalta valley was in possession of the noble family of Abuserisdze.
After the Ottoman conquest of the region in the 16th century, the church was abandoned. The monastery was rediscovered and sketched by Giorgi Kazbegi, the Georgian officer in the Russian service, who was in Ottoman Georgia on a reconnaissance mission in 1874. After Adjara passed in the Russian hands in 1878, Skhalta—then lying in the estate of the Muslim Georgian chief Sherif-Bey—was visited and described by the students of Caucasian antiquities such as Dimitri Bakradze and Countess Praskovya Uvarova. Bakradze cites a document from the period of King Alexander I of Georgia (r. 1412–1442), according to which Skhalta belonged to the patriarchal see of Mtskheta.
The revival of religious activity and rising influence of the Georgian Orthodox Church in the closing years of the Soviet Union led to the restoration of the Skhalta church to Christian use. In June 1989, Catholicos-PatriarchIlia II of Georgia paid a visit to Skhalta and held a requiem for those who had died in landslides and floods earlier that year. In 1990, Skhalta was consecrated as a male monastery of the Nativity of Mary.
The Skhalta monastery is a large hall church, with a protruding, seven-faceted apse, two principal portals on the south and on the west and an additional door on the north. It is built of gray-white stone. A spacious interior hall is crowned with arches and a cylindrical vault, resting on prominent pilasters. The side walls of the hall are decorated with arches. The conch of the apse and the vault are separated from the lower vertical walls with simple cornices.
The interior walls are faced with hewn blocks of white stone, which had formerly been extensively frescoed. Small fragments of the original paintings of the New Testament scenes—examplifying the Paleologian art of the 14th or 15th century—were uncovered by the Georgian expedition in 1997. The façades are also covered with hewn blocks and the windows are ornated. Some of the ruined structures to the west and south are later additions.References:
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.