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About Sapara Monastery
Sapara Monastery is located in Samtskhe-Javakheti region, Akhaltsikhe municipality, near the village of Ghreli. The monastic complex includes several buildings of the X-XIV centuries: the Main Church of St. Sabbas the Sanctified, the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, small chapels, a bell tower, a palace and a fortress of the Jaqeli family, cells, and buildings from the time of Russian monks. Previously, Sapara was one of the residences of the Atabeks (rulers of small states that made up the Seljuk monarchy in the 11th - 12th centuries) Samtskhe, the Jaqeli clan, and the monastery has been here since the 10th century. In fact, in historical sources, nothing is known about the construction of monastery buildings, although the inscriptions of the church of St. Sabbas provide interesting information for dating it, as well as about its founders. The name "Sapara" first appears in written sources of the 10th century, there are known figures under Sapar: Ivan Sapareli (10th century), Catholicos of Kartli Gabriel Sapareli (11th century), John Mtbevar-Sapareli (12th century). In one of the documents of 1630, we read the following about the Sapara monastery: "the godless Mussulmen (Muslims) plundered the great monastery, took away the icon, destroyed villages and lands", and in the first half of the 18th century there was only one priest here. In 1828, when the Russians captured Akhaltsikhe, Sapara was declared a state church. In 1891-1892, Father Athanasius, who moved from the Zedazeni monastery, settled in Sapara with three followers, but soon the Georgians were expelled from the monastery, and instead of them Archimandrite Paisius was resettled from Russia, along with the nuns-priests and novices. They erected a two-story building and cells at the entrance to the monastery, whitewashed the chapels, and erected Russian domes to the churches of St. Sabbas and the bell tower. Today the monastery buildings have returned to their original appearance and a Georgian monastery functions here.
The Sapara Monastery is a rather large complex and includes buildings from different periods, these are the Main Church of St. Sabbas the Sanctified, the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, small chapels, a bell tower, a palace, and a fortress of the Jakeli family, cells and buildings from the times of Russian monks, as well as buildings of various destination. The earliest of the buildings of the ensemble is the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the 10th century, to which the main church of the complex, the Church of St. Sabbas (XIII-XIV centuries), was later added. At the beginning of the ensemble, on the edge of the cliff, there is a small chapel named after St. Stephen. There are also vaulted dwellings here. A little further, rather high, are the ruins of the palace. The buildings in the center of the complex are very close to each other, there is a bell tower to which, on the north side, is the chapel of John the Baptist. Standing on a wide platform of the promontory of the rock, the Church of St. Sabbas is surrounded by other small churches and the Church of the Assumption. At the top of the monastery, on the western side, are the ruins of the castle, which housed the summer residence of Beka Jakeli. A large fence begins from the castle, which is lost in the western part of the forest, then descends from the north to a steep cliff and goes into a rocky ravine, on the left side of the entrance to the monastery.
The temple named after St. Sabbas is a cross-domed building that stands on a specially designed platform. Initially, the temple had three entrances - from the west, south, and north, but soon, when painting the temple, the southern entrance was walled up. The eastern part of the church is apsidal, while the rest are rectangular. The apse and bema (elevation in synagogues with a pulpit for reading the Pentateuch and the Prophets) are covered with a lancet conch and a vault. To the south and north of the altar, there are an altar (a table in the altar of an Orthodox church, on which a Prothesis is performed - a sacrifice is prepared for the celebration of the Eucharist: bread and wine) and a sacristy (a place in the altar or a separate room at a Christian church for storing the liturgical vestments of priests and church utensils ), both of which end in a deep apse in the east. Secret rooms are arranged above these pantries. The dome rests on the corners of the altar and the western pylons. The interior of the building is illuminated by eight windows at the base of the dome and one window in each arm of the cross. Each window illuminates both the altar and the storeroom. Under the sacristy, there was a vaulted crypt. In the western part of the temple, on top of the side naves, there are linens on both sides (the upper open gallery or balcony inside the church, usually at the level of the second floor). The south side of the western gate of the church is occupied by a small chapel, the north side is a wall with a small door, and the west side opens with three pointed arches. An exit to the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is cut from the Church of St. Sabbas. None of the facades of the temple is overloaded with decorations. The eastern facade, the exact analog of which cannot be found, is distinguished by its individuality. In the central part of the ledge of the facade, there are three windows, of which the central window is large and high, above this window, on the right and left, there are very small windows, these windows are also called "Kharistvala" (which means "with the eyes of a bull"). The interior of the church was painted shortly after the construction of the temple. The church named after St. Sabbas, with its individual characteristics and artistic value, is one of the brightest and most interesting examples of its time.
The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a hall building. In the western part of the temple, there is a pole, which rests on pillars. The building has a gate. The interior was painted in the XIV century. The church was decorated with a unique 11th-century iconostasis, carved out of greenstone with railings and decorated with reliefs, the surviving parts of which are now kept in the Tbilisi State Museum of Art.
Sapara's bell tower is the oldest in Georgia. It is built of cut stone and is a two-story building. On the first floor, there was the family tomb of Lasurisdze, who were subordinate to the Jakeli clan, and the second floor was an arched bell tower-gazebo. The bell tower facades are completely unembellished.
The palace is located northwest of the Church of St. Sabbas. It is badly damaged, only the first floor has been preserved, which makes it difficult to imagine its original appearance. The layout is a rectangular building, the ground floor of which is divided into two parts. The interior of the palace is illuminated by very small windows.
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