Archaeological Research on Great Basilica of Nekresi

21 June 2016

Since May 2016 The Georgian National Museum expedition resumed studies of the land of "Dolotchopi"- territory near the municipal city of Kvareli, on the right bank of the Duruji river. There was revealed the ancient temple, which was the oldest and the largest among Christian churches preserved underground.

Since 2012, selected archaeological excavations, as part of the Nekresi settlement rehabilitation works, are implemented with the initiative and financial support of the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Reservation of Georgia. 

The temple was discovered in 2004. According to the excavations held in 2012-2014, the general outline of the grand hall of the V century basilica was revealed. Its sizes are significantly bigger than any other basilicas of Georgia. The main hall of the building was divided into 3 naves by 5 pairs of cross-shaped columns. At the eastern corner of the central nave was the altar apse which had a shape of a horseshoe. In the apse four-pedestal royal throne was discovered. On the extreme eastern part of the gallery baptistery had been arranged.

Including the newly revealed structures, the sizes of this ancient basilica were 44Х27 meters, thus it has no analogue in the Caucasus and neighboring regions of the Christian world. The sophisticated design and artistic solutions of this building make it as important as early Christian basilicas of the Roman-Byzantine world.

During the excavations another sensational discovery was made: It turned out that this temple was built on the ruins of earlier church which was 25 meters long and about 15 meters in width. The initial excavation of this church revealed IV century characteristic material, confirming that the building was definitely built in this period. It is considered that the ancient basilica was destroyed by an earthquake in the first half of the V century and in the second half the new basilica was built.

The current expedition, during this - 2016 season, obtained the additional information about the basilica Near Duruji. It was discovered that the Basilica had powerful tower-like structures on both corners. These structures were made for strength and resistance and also were creating the aesthetics of the front plane. Front plane tower-equipped basilicas were widely used in the Christian Roman Empire and early Byzantine church architectures. Later, they transformed into the Roman temple and the Gothic art.

The architecture and engineering of this basilica confirmed that after a few decades from the adoption of the Christianity, the high standards buildings were built in Georgia.

The curator of the expedition is archaeologist, art historian, Professor Nodar Bakhtadze. The expedition is attended by Georgian National Museum archaeologists - Vaja Mamiashvili, Bachana Gabekhadze, Jimsher Chkhvimiani, Giorgi Gogoladze and Giorgi Kurtanidze. The expedition is joined by the members of the University of Warsaw (Poland), Fridrich Shciller University Jena (Germany) and the Philosophy Theology and Religion University.