Georgian inscriptions on the tomb of Jesus Christ and the Holy Land
15 April, 2017
Georgian inscriptions on the tomb of Jesus Christ and the Holy Land
‘Golgotha chapel belonged to a Georgian brotherhood and the inscriptions were left by the monks who served there’.

‘The interesting fact is that Georgians were leaving inscriptions on the gates of Lord’s burial place. We couldn’t find any other place where Georgian inscriptions were left with such a frequency. They are visible only on the southern wall, on one of the gates. Several inscriptions are also seen on another church’, - Giorgi Gagoshidze says.

Gagoshidze is the head of the Documentation Department of the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia.

- The tomb of Jesus is remade numerous times. As you may know, Jerusalem was conquered by crusaders and in 12th century they practically rebuilt this church. As for the Georgian inscriptions, there are close to twenty of them on the southern gate, more specifically on marble columns and all of them are already deciphered. The copies are made and some of them have been published. Apart from that, it is planned to make a big book, which will be called: ‘Georgian Inscriptions on the Holy Land’. All the inscriptions found in various churches will form part of that book. We think there will be more than 100 of them. Most of these inscriptions are made by pilgrims and Georgian monks who served on this land. They are of approximately 13-16th centuries and Alexandre Tsagareli saw them before me. They had been noticed even earlier, when Timothe Gabashvili traveled here in 18th century. Lavrenti Okribeli, a pilgrim, had also seen them… However, some of these inscriptions do not exist anymore. One of them was left by Leon the King of Kakhetians and Joachim the Father of Cross Church. It was totally eliminated by the fire in 1808.
- What do the inscriptions on Jesus’ tomb say?

- Most of them are prayers, asking the Lord to have mercy. For example, one of them says: ‘the Holy Tomb of Jesus, have mercy on Sopron’. The identification of Georgian pilgrims and monks is another interesting thing. Somebody named Sopron has left another inscription on the wall of Saint Nicholas’ Church. We noticed in historical sources someone named Soproni and it may be the same person who left these inscriptions. There is another lettering left by one Nikoloz Grdzeli, which datebs back to approximately 13-14th centuries. We think he was a local monk. One interesting inscription says: ‘Cross of Jesus and the Tomb of Jesus,
have mercy on Jvaradze. Thomas, the former Joachim, let God have mercy on him’. That means we are talking about by some Thomas Jvaradze, whose religious name was Joachim. All the letterings are made in Asomtavruli alphabet, but there are also some letters from Nuskhakhutsuri.

- Where did you find Georgian inscriptions apart from the Tomb of Jesus?

- There is Saint Abraham Monastery close to the Tomb of Jesus and we found an inscription made by one Giorgi Abashidze (Imereli). It is a Georgian-Greek inscription. It was removed from trhe wall due to renovation works but they plan to return it later. Anyway, we have a photo that shows this inscription. We also know that in 12th century, there was a Georgian brotherhood in Golgotha. There was one Ioanne Golgotheli (of Golgotha), who rewrote a manuscript. I am quite confident that there were some Georgian engravings there too. Apart from that, Georgian inscriptions are ‘lost’ among the engravings that were made in other languages, like Arabic, Greek, Armenian, etc.

- Overall, the most Georgian inscriptions are made on the walls of the Holy Cross Monastery. You may know that this temple belonged to Georgians up till the end of 17th century. We see letterings on the walls, icons, cloths, etc. That means Georgians are quite well represented here, on the Holy Land. The book I was talking about will be published in 2017.

By Manana Gabrichidze for

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