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:
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.