Dadiani Dynasty: Churches and Monastaries

Many churches and monasteries still stand in Samegrelo as testaments to the Dadianis’ patronage of the Orthodox Church. Many of them predate the House of Dadiani itself by centuries, bearing witness to the long history of Christianity in Georgia.

The impressive Bedia Cathedral, located in the village of Agubedia, Abkhazia, was built in the 11th century by King Bagrat III, who united the western and eastern Georgian kingdoms, laying the foundation for the medieval Kingdom of Georgia. Several Dadiani rulers are listed as later patrons of this church. Architecturally, the domed cruciform structure stands out among its peers in several ways, such as the negligible Byzantine influence on its exterior and its unusually narrow interior. Contemporary murals of King Bagrat III and members of the Dadiani family adorn its southern wall.

Another structure of note is the 10th century Tsaishi Church, located about ten kilometers southwest of Zugdidi in the Kolkheti valley. This was a seat of the first Georgian Patriarchs. It was constructed near the place where Saint John of Patmos died, after banishment from Ephesus drove him to Turkey and Georgia. (John is famous in Orthodox Christianity as the father of eastern monasticism, and is known to all Christians as the author of the biblical Book of Revelation.) The church that currently stands on this site is the outcome of extensive rebuilding in 18th century; the only remnant from the original structure is a three-step pedestal.

The 14th century Cathedral of the Savior is located on a high hill in the outskirts of the town of Tsalenjikha. Just outside the walls of the Cathedral complex, the ruins of a old Dadiani palace can be found. Bilingual Greek and Georgian inscriptions on a Cathedral pillar reveal that Vamek Dadiani (r. 1384-1396) invited the Byzantine artist Cyrus Emanuel Eugenicos to decorate the church; the frescoes he created are the only known surviving examples of art from the era of the Byzantine Palaeologian dynasty that carry a date and artist’s signature. At the request of Bishop Eudemon Jaiani, Levan II Dadiani (r. 1611-1657), the most powerful Principal in the history of Samegrelo, commissioned an adjoining chapel with interior murals. Unfortunately, only fragments of these murals survive today.

Two churches in the village of Martvili—Martvili Chkondidi and the Church of the Virgin—date back to the seventh century, although both were extensively altered over the course of the many centuries since their initial construction. Modifications to the Church of the Virgin included the addition of a number of now-famous mural paintings in the 14th-17th centuries; the Getty Foundation recently funded a project aimed at conservation of the Church’s frescoes. The Church is also known for its displays of portraits of donors and patrons who supported it over the centuries. Several Dadiani Principals and other family members are buried in the village of Martvili, including the last of the line: Levan V Dadiani (r. 1804-1840) and his wife Martha; their son David Dadiani (r. 1840-1853) and his wife Ekaterine; and their sons Nikolas, David, and Andria.

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