Buildings for communal use and places for worship

21 February 2018

Buildings for communal use and places for worship

The cults of the sun, the moon and stars were dominant in the heathen pantheon of Georgia and in people’s imagination they had the images of this or that deity (called “djvar-khati”). In eastern Georgia djvari (cross) and khati (icon) are synonyms and designate patrons and protectors of this or that tribe or community. Quite a few such complexes have survived in Tusheti.

Each of them comprises not only a place of worship but also a fairly large agricultural area, including arable lands, forests, pastures, etc. Tushetian place of worship “djvar-khati” usually consists of three types of buildings: that of used for worship, then- agricultural and finally a dwelling place. Main places of worship are halls and hall gates (southern main gate of a hall). Other sacred buildings include towers for various purposes: for lighting candles, a bell tower, a baptistery, for banners, etc.

These buildings are solid and quadrangular in shape. In Pshav-Khevsuretian architecture the term for such a construction is ‘koshki’ (tower), as for Tusheti, they call it ‘miliona’ (stone pillar). It is a dry stone laying structure. Vessels and banners are kept here. Tushetian cult miliona’s roof is either flat and covered with ‘sipi’ (flat smooth stone) or is covered with flat thin stones gradually ascending little by little towards the centre, decorated  with horns of wild animals.

A hall is a small, quadrangular in shape building close to a shrine with a pitched roof covered with flat smooth stones. If there is no tower by the shrine, then both banners and vessels of the khati are kept in the hall.

Jvar-khati complex is usually built with shale stones and save one or two exceptions they are  built without a foundation.

Tower-bells are among the most important sacred buildings. They are of four kinds: those of with four pillars, with three pillars, with two pillars and finally, with one pillar. It is believed that those with four pillars are the oldest. The four pillar tower consists of faceted pillars and a gradually pyramiding roof leaning on them.

The agricultural buildings among the sacred ones are rooms for keeping vessels e.g. large pots and kettles for brewing unique local beer, as for residential – these are rooms for priests and also, there are assembly places. 

The chief place of worship of Tusheti is Lasharis Jvari (Cross of Lashari) which is situated near the village of Chigho, within two kilometers’ distance.