The Tsalenjikha Cathedral Church of the Transfiguration of Savior is a medieval Georgian Orthodox cathedral at the town of Tsalenjikha. It is best known for a unique cycle of murals which exemplifies the direct import of Byzantine Palaeologan style and even artists in Georgia.
Built in the 12th-14th centuries, the Tsalenjikha Cathedral is a central cross-domed church with a narthex and three arcaded galleries two of which, that to the south and north, had been converted into the familial chapel of the House of Dadiani. The church is encircled by the circuit wall with a two-storey bell-tower in its north-western corner. Outside the wall, the Dadiani palace lay in ruins. An interesting structure is a tunnel, 40–45 metres long and 3–4 metres high, running in a westerly direction from the church. In the 19th century, a new floor was laid down. Between the 1960s and 1980s, the church was partially repaired and incomplete emergency conservation measures of the frescoes were implemented.
A bilingual Greco-Georgian inscription on the south-western pillar reveals that the interior of the church was frescoed by Cyrus Emanuel Eugenicus, a Byzantine artist from Constantinople, recruited by Vameq I Dadiani(ruled 1384-1396), a high-ranking official at the royal court of Georgia. A Georgian inscription on the north-western pillar mentions two other persons – Makharobeli Kvabalia and Andronike Gabisulava – sent by Vameq to bring the Greek master to Georgia. In the 17th century, old frescoes were repaired at the behest of Bishop Eudemon Jaiani, while Levan II Dadiani, Prince of Mingrelia (r. 1611 -1657), commissioned the adjoining chapel and had its interior covered with murals. Only fragments of these additions have survived, including Levan's family portrait on the southern wall of the chapel.
Eugenicus’s murals are regarded as one of the best examples of the late Paleologian art. The iconographical program is complicated and contains many details not usual for the medieval Georgian wall painting. The murals are presently endangered and need emergency conservation.References:
Sweetheart Abbey was a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway in memory of her husband John de Balliol. His embalmed heart, in a casket of ivory and silver, was buried alongside her when she died; the monks at the Abbey then renamed the Abbey in tribute to her. Their son, also John, became king of Scotland but his reign was tragic and short. The depredations suffered by the Abbey in subsequent periods, have caused both the graves to be lost. The abbey, built in deep-red, local sandstone, was founded as a daughter house to Dundrennan Abbey; this Novum Monasterium (New Monastery), became known as the New Abbey.
The immediate abbey precincts extended to 120,000 m2 and sections of the surrounding wall can still be seen today. The Cistercian order, also known as the White Monks because of the white habit, over which they wore a black scapular or apron, built many great abbeys after their establishment around 1100. Like many of their abbeys, the New Abbey's interests lay not only in prayer and contemplation but in the farming and commercial activity of the area, making it the centre of local life. The abbey ruins dominate the skyline today and one can only imagine how it and the monks would have dominated early medieval life as farmers, agriculturalists, horse and cattle breeders. Surrounded by rich and fertile grazing and arable land, they became increasingly expert and systematic in their farming and breeding methods. Like all Cistercian abbeys, they made their mark, not only on the religious life of the district but on the ways of local farmers and influenced agriculture in the surrounding areas.
The village which stands next to the ruins today, is now known as New Abbey. At the other end of the main street is Monksmill, a corn mill. Although the present buildings date from the late eighteenth century, there was an earlier mill built by and for the monks of the abbey which serviced the surrounding farms.