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:
Czocha Castle is located on the Lake Leśnia, what is now the Polish part of Upper Lusatia. Czocha castle was built on gneiss rock, and its oldest part is the keep, to which housing structures were later added.
Czocha Castle began as a stronghold, on the Czech-Lusatian border. Its construction was ordered by Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, in the middle of the 13th century (1241–1247). In 1253 castle was handed over to Konrad von Wallhausen, Bishop of Meissen. In 1319 the complex became part of the dukedom of Henry I of Jawor, and after his death, it was taken over by another Silesian prince, Bolko II the Small, and his wife Agnieszka. Origin of the stone castle dates back to 1329.
In the mid-14th century, Czocha Castle was annexed by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. Then, between 1389 and 1453, it belonged to the noble families of von Dohn and von Kluks. Reinforced, the complex was besieged by the Hussites in the early 15th century, who captured it in 1427, and remained in the castle for unknown time (see Hussite Wars). In 1453, the castle was purchased by the family of von Nostitz, who owned it for 250 years, making several changes through remodelling projects in 1525 and 1611. Czocha's walls were strengthened and reinforced, which thwarted a Swedish siege of the complex during the Thirty Years War. In 1703, the castle was purchased by Jan Hartwig von Uechtritz, influential courtier of Augustus II the Strong. On August 17, 1793, the whole complex burned in a fire.
In 1909, Czocha was bought by a cigar manufacturer from Dresden, Ernst Gutschow, who ordered major remodelling, carried out by Berlin architect Bodo Ebhardt, based on a 1703 painting of the castle. Gutschow, who was close to the Russian Imperial Court and hosted several White emigres in Czocha, lived in the castle until March 1945. Upon leaving, he packed up the most valuable possessions and moved them out.
After World War II, the castle was ransacked several times, both by soldiers of the Red Army, and Polish thieves, who came to the so-called Recovered Territories from central and eastern part of the country. Pieces of furniture and other goods were stolen, and in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the castle was home to refugees from Greece. In 1952, Czocha was taken over by the Polish Army. Used as a military vacation resort, it was erased from official maps. The castle has been open to the public since September 1996 as a hotel and conference centre. The complex was featured in several movies and television series. Recently, the castle has been used as the setting of the College of Wizardry, a live action role-playing game (LARP) that takes place in their own universe and can be compared to Harry Potter.