CULTURE
Batumi’s Neo-Gothic Cathedral with century-old priceless frescoes
01 October, 2017
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Batumi, the seaside capital of Georgia, is notable not only for its incredible landscape and sea, but for many historical and cultural buildings as well. The Church of the Mother of God, present Georgian Orthodox cathedral, originally built as a Catholic church early in the 1900s by famous Brothers Zubalashvili, a family of Georgian businessmen and benefactors, represents one of the most valuable cultural treasures of the city. This former Catholic Church is distinguished by its
rare Gothic Revival design, exquisite architecture, heavenly frescoes and stained glass windows.

As it is known Stepane Zubalashvili constructed this incredible church to honor her mother Elisabed, who before passing away asked her son to build a Catholic church in Batumi. Georgian businessman fulfilled his word and precisely for this church in 1897-1902 invited Italian painters and architects, who decorated the interior with astonishing frescoes depicting biblical scenes that serve as a real masterpiece. As we discovered from Natia Natsvlishvili, the architectural historian who has been working on this subject and who personally visited the building this summer, in total over 250 000 rubles (Russian currency) were spent for its construction that was quite a big sum at that time.
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The church is built with white stone, has three domes and the interior is masterfully decorated with red stone, golden and blue sophisticated ornaments typical to the Neo-Gothic style. Upon entering the church you find yourself in a heaven built by a human hand or, moreover, have a feeling as if you are in a little Sistine Chapel of Vatican. Before the Soviets invaded the country in 1921, the church used to function and regular religious services were held for its Catholic parishioners. During the Soviet period the church was closed and used for various purposes. This holy place was transformed into a high-voltage laboratory by the Soviets and at one time it served as an archive as well.

In 1980s the church was restored and the unique frescoes were renovated. The government was planning to transform the building into a concert hall and due to this reason invited Georgian restorers from Tbilisi who fulfilled their task and brought new life to the paintings maintaining their original appearance. Later in 1989 the church was transferred to the possession of Patriarchy of Georgia and was sanctified by Catholicos-Patriarch Georgia, Ilia II.

Sadly, the unique cathedral’s interior has been in poor conditions for years, its beautiful century-old frescoes have been damaged and, moreover, some of them have already disappeared. The murals needed urgent restoration works. One year ago Georgian Journal tried to attract the attention of public and the local government to take serious measures and repair the unique heritage that has been crumbling in front of us.



The opening of the cathedral
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This year we decided find out whether certain steps have been taken in order to improve the decrepit conditions of the cathedral and save this unique building together with its precious works of art. With this aim Georgian Journal contacted Sopo Chanishvili, the representative of Adjara Cultural Heritage Agency to learn about the current conditions inside the cathedral. As Sopo Chanishvili said, currently the group of specialists and restorers from Tbilisi are examining the interior of the cathedral.

“The examination and restoration process is underway in the historic cathedral for 2 months already. The damages will be fixed and the interior of the cathedral, in particular the century-old frescoes will be fully restored”, - Sopo Chanishvili reported.

Concerned with the cathedral’s issue, Georgian Journal questioned the future of the cathedral, whether it will be handed back to its original owners, catholic parishioners or remain in the hands of Patriarchy of Georgia, but we could not get an exact answer to this question.

Author
: Lika Chigladze


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Cathedral in winter , Batumi

Check out galley bellow:

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Old frescoes in the cathedral
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