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Excavations at the Georgian Monastery of Gialia (Pafos)
05/12/2006



The Department of Antiquities announces the completion of the first excavation season by the Georgian Archaeological Mission, at the Monastery of Gialia (Pafos) from 7 September until 3 October 2006. The excavation was directed by Prof. Dr. Iulon Gagashidre (Ministry of Culture of Georgia) and by the Archaeological Officer Georgios Filotheou (Department of Antiquities). In 1981 Pr. Vakhtang Jobadze tracked down ruins of a medieval Georgian monastery in the forest, at 5km east of the village Gialia, Pafos region. The monastery is mentioned in ancient Georgian written sources as Ghalia, or Zhalia Monastery.

According to the sources Georgians served in the monastery already from the 10th century and it continued to belong to the Georgians until the 14th century. Inscriptions carved on the buttress of the south portico of the monastery are also dated from the 14th century. Particular care of the monastery was taken by the Queen of Georgia Tamar (1184-1210).

After the 14th century, information about the Georgian monastery in Cyprus disappears in written sources.

After an agreement between the governments of Cyprus and Georgia, and following the permit issued by the Director Cyprus Department of Antiquities and with the blessing of the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II, the Georgian Ministry of Culture commissioned an expedition to Cyprus under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Iulon Gagoshidze on 5 October 2006 to carry out archaeological studies on the Gialia Monastery.

During the four weeks of excavation the expedition performed a large amount of work. The main constructions of Gialia Monastery have been cleared in an area of over 500sq. metres, their layout has been defined more precisely, building layers (building phases) have been elaborated and their chronology has been resolved.
The oldest building of the monastery is a three-aisled dome church which must have been built in the 10th century and was dedicated to the Virgin. Later, apparently at the end of the 11th century or at the beginning of the 12th century, a minor church was attached to the north, which is dedicated to St. George, as it became clear from the old Georgian mural inscriptions found in the process of excavating this church. The badly damaged monastery was restored at the beginning of the 13th century, apparently with Queen Tamar΄s sponsorship. One more extensive restoration was undertaken at Gialia Monastery at the end of the 13th c. or at the beginning of the 14th c.

The material obtained through archaeological excavations – architectural details, fragments of frescoes, window-panes, a bronze cross, a silver coin, fragments of ceramic vessels – among them some glazed examples – are mainly dated from the 13th-14th c. although there are also objects of the 15th-16th c. In the 16th century the abandoned monastery was barbarously plundered, the floors were dug out in every building phase and it was then exploded. Despite this destruction it is still clear that the Gialia Monastery used to be very wealthy, as attested by the quality of the archaeological finds, the marble floor and the high quality of the wall painting fragments.

It is expected that archaeological excavations at Gialia Monastery will continue.

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