Transfiguration Cathedral in Tsalenjikha

Transfiguration Cathedral in Tsalenjikha

Tsalenjikha Transfiguration Cathedral is one of the most famous religious monuments in western Georgia, primarily because of its paintings.
Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti

History, paintings, and structure

According to the inscriptions in the church, the cathedral was painted by a master from Constantinople Manuel Eugenicos, who was invited by the Samegrelo ruler Vamek Dadiani I. There is no other information concerning this artist, however his highly professional painting is the only surviving example of the school of Constantinople, with the artist's signature and the date of the painting (1384-1396, period of the rule of Vamek Dadiani I) clearly visible. 

The complex includes a church and a bell tower, built in the 10th-13th centuries. One of the most interesting details here is the 45-meter-long and 4-meter-high tunnel from the church to the west.

The old foundations of the church fence prove that there was once a fortress before the cathedral was built. The name Tsalenjikha, which actually means the fortress of Chani, also proves the presence of a fortress here at one time. Chans, also known as Lazs, are a sub-ethnic group of Georgians.

The Tsalenjikha Transfiguration Cathedral is cross-dome-shaped and built of carved stone. Compared to the plain façade, the interior is richly decorated and painted with frescoes which are very impressive. You can find paintings of public figures here as well, including family portraits of the region’s royals. 

During the Soviet era, the cathedral was closed for 70 years. However, religious rites were restored in 1988 and today its doors are open to everyone.

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