Bolnisi Sioni

Bolnisi Sioni

The town of Bolnisi in Kvemo Kartli Region is famous for it’s gold and tuff stone mining, great wine, story of Georgian Germans and some important Christian worship sites. One of those is the church named after the Dormition of the Mother of God, also known as Bolnisi Sioni, one of the oldest and most important monuments of ancient Georgian architecture.
Kvemo Kartli

The History and Architecture of the Bolnisi Sioni Cathedral

Bolnisi Sioni is located in the Kvemo Kartli region, in the town of Bolnisi. It was built in the 5th century, during the years of 478-493, eventually constituting a three-nave basilica-type building, and one of the primary types of Christian architecture. This monument highlights the similarity between the Georgian and other Christian basilicas and, at the same time, showcases the distinguishable Georgian style.

One can’t help but marvel at its walls, covered with perfectly cut turquoise-green tuff, which is one of the most important materials sourced in Bolnisi.

Cathedral Painting

Bolnisi Sioni was the first monument in Georgia territory to be decorated with bas-reliefs and carvings. The carvings were clearly made with great skill, and the walls depict the image of an animal typical of pagan times, namely the head of a bull. At the same time, a symbol of Christianity – the cross - can also be found in various parts of the Cathedral, in different shapes and forms. One of them is the Bolnuri cross, inscribed in circle, which is still used in many ways - from jewelry and wine branding to state symbolic.                                       

Three inscriptions on the walls of the Cathedral are particularly noteworthy - after the Georgian inscriptions of Palestine, they are the oldest known fragments of Georgian writing.

One of the inscriptions reports the start and end dates of the building’s construction (the stone on which this inscription is carved is currently exhibited in the National Museum in Tbilisi). Another inscription stipulates that the construction of Bolnisi Sioni was related to David Bolneli, who served during the reign of Vakhtang Gorgasali. The third inscription mentions two unknown persons.

A small chapel is also built on the eastern side of the Cathedral, dating back to the 8th century, while the bell tower next to the Cathedral was built at the end of the 17th century. Around that time, the Cathedral was restored to repair the damage done by multiple invasions over time. 

Bolnisi Sioni as of Today

Since 2006, Bolnisi Sioni has been an Immovable Cultural Monument of National Significance. Moreover, liturgical services are regularly held at the Cathedral. 

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