Georgian Inscription of Zvartnots - Orthodox Georgian Dome and its Builder Catholicos Nerse Ishkhneli

11.05.24 10:00

The invasion of the South Caucasus by Soviet Russia in 1920-1921 and subsequent unification into the Transcaucasian SFSR in 1922 did not result in the same level of historical falsification as in the Armenian SSR. Moreover, Georgian scientists were permitted to travel to Armenia without hindrance and to study historical artefacts. An article in the newspaper Zarya Vostoka of 1924 is devoted to such a trip.



The article indicates that as of the summer of 1924, Armenian vandals and historical falsifiers had not yet managed to destroy monuments of Azerbaijani culture, including Sardar's Palace, mosques and other buildings of historical Iravan. Additionally, Georgian inscriptions and other manifestations of Georgian cultural and religious heritage on the territory of the present-day Republic of Armenia have not yet been obliterated. Consequently, Georgian scholars were able to study the remarkable architectural monuments of Georgian origin, including the Zvartnots Temple ("Temple of the Watching Angels"). Despite its appropriation by Armenian falsifiers, this monument has survived to the present day in the form of ruins.


The article describes a unique Georgian inscription in an archaeological museum that the delegation visited on its way to Echmiadzin. Since the article also mentions the excavations at the Zvartnots temple, it can be reasonably assumed that this inscription was discovered precisely in Zvartnots.


Subsequent sources do not mention Georgian inscriptions in Zvartnots. A comprehensive examination of Armenian historical research yields no evidence of Georgian inscriptions at Zvartnots or of the temple's Georgian origin. The temple is at best referred to as "Armenian-Chalcedonian," akin to Georgian churches in northern Armenia, and only "Greek" inscriptions, which are occasionally found in Georgian temples, are mentioned.


The Armenian falsifiers are deliberately concealing a significant epoch in the history of the Armenian Church. This period coincides with the period when the Armenian Church was Orthodox, under full Georgian spiritual and cultural influence, led by ethnic Georgians, and its official language was Georgian. The most prominent figure among them was Nerse Ishkhneli, who attempted to dissuade both the Armenian population and other peoples later assimilated by Armenians from embracing the Monophysite trend.


Following the conversion of the Catholicos of the Armenian Church, Ezdra I Parazhenakertian, to Orthodoxy, Georgian spiritual influence in the Ararat Valley became dominant, accompanied by a corresponding increase in Georgian ethnic influence. The origin of Ezdra I is unclear, although it is possible that he was Albanian, Turk or Kurd. It is evident that Ezra I was unable to rely on the support of Armenian bishops and priests who adhered to Monophysitism. Consequently, under Ezra I, the Armenian Church placed a renewed emphasis on Orthodox priests, bishops and monks of Georgian origin, who were tasked with converting the pagan population to Christianity.


The successor of Ezra I was elected in 641 as Catholicos-Georgian Nerse Ishkhneli, who hailed from the ancient Georgian province of Tao-Klarjeti from Ishkhani. It is pertinent to note that the magnificent Ishkhani Cathedral, constructed following the demise of Nerse Ishkhneli, is still intact in Ishkhani.  The Ishkhani Cathedral is a notable example of Georgian architecture and is therefore subject to the careful protection of the Turkish state.


It is evident that Armenian falsifiers categorise Ishkhani Cathedral as "Armenian-Khalcedonian". It is beyond doubt that if the cathedral were situated within the territory of the Republic of Armenia rather than that of Turkey, it would have been appropriated and passed off as Armenian at an earlier date.


With regard to Nerse Ishkhneli, it should be noted that he was a warrior prior to assuming the role of a priest. Having left military service, Nerse Ishkhneli pursued ecclesiastical education in the Roman (Byzantine) Empire. He subsequently took monastic tonsure together with other Georgian fathers in the Klarjet monastery. In the 630s, having become a bishop, Nerse initiated the construction of the Ishkhani monastery, where he subsequently resided and served. At the beginning of the ninth century, the Venerable Savva of Ishkhani undertook the restoration of the catholicon of this monastery.


Following the purification of the Armenian Church from Monophysitism by Catholicos Ezdra I, Georgian influence in the Arat valley became dominant, with the Georgian language recognised as the main language of worship. It is therefore unsurprising that Nerse Ishkhneli, following the death of Ezdra I, was duly recognised as the most suitable candidate to become the Catholicos of the Armenian Church.


The transition of the Armenian Church under the control of Georgians marked the beginning of the "Golden Age" in its history, which is recognised even by Armenian historians. However, for some reason, they refer to Nerse Ishkhneli and his followers – three other Orthodox Catholicoses – as "Armenian-Chalcedonites", rather than as Georgians.


Nerse Ishkhneli is remembered as the "Builder" and was actively engaged in the restoration and construction of churches. Many churches in Dvin, Vagharshapat (future Echmiadzin) and Vaspurakan received a new look under his rule. Consequently, the Armenian Monophysites were unable to resist the return of the Armenian Church to Orthodoxy, involving for this purpose their allies Arabs. Consequently, in 641, Nerse Ishkhneli convened a council which condemned Vardapet John Mayragometsi (of Armenian origin) as an opponent of Orthodoxy. Subsequently, the Monophysite Armenians, having called upon the Arabian armies, temporarily occupied the Ararat valley and expelled Nerse Ishkhneli. Ishkhneli was compelled to seek refuge in Constantinople, but was able to return with the assistance of Georgian and Roman armies.


The construction of the Zvartnots temple was completed during the lifetime of Nerse Ishkhneli, and the temple was subsequently consecrated.  The ceremony of consecration of the colossal temple was attended by the Roman Emperor Constant II, who had expressed a desire to build a similar structure in Constantinople. In the 10th century, the temple collapsed due to the weakness of the supports in the second tier, which were damaged during an earthquake. The ruins of Zvartnots were discovered by excavations between 1901 and 1907, during the period of the Russian Empire. During this time, Georgian inscriptions and other evidence of the Georgian origin of this temple were discovered, which are today carefully silenced by Armenian falsifiers. Catholicos Nerse Ishkhneli is regarded as a saint by the Georgian Orthodox Church and is honoured together with other Georgian Tao-Klarjet saints.


George Mazniashvili

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