Ishkani (İşhan) Church

Ishkani (İşhan) Church

Ishkani Church is situated in the picturesque Işhan village, which overlooks the stunning valley of Çoruh (Chorokhi) River. This village was once a part of the historic Tao region in the medieval Georgian Kingdom.

Ishkani Church played a significant role as an important ecclesiastical center until the Ottoman administration took over the region in the 16th-17th century. Currently, the site comprises the remains of a grand domed church and a small hall chapel, with several other churches and structures recently discovered through archaeological excavations. The entrance to the chapel bears a Georgian inscription indicating that it was dedicated to the Holy Mother of God by King Gurgen I, who passed away in 1008.

The main building of the site is a large cross-domed church that measures 36.60 meters in length, with a width of 19 meters at the crossing. Its western arm is 15 meters long and 9 meters wide, with a height of approximately 35 meters, and a dome height of 11.4 meters with a diameter of 7.86 meters. The building facade is constructed using smoothly cut stones, while the tall, cone-shaped roof is adorned with dark red and green tiles. Following its restoration, the four arms of the church were covered with stone slabs, which have also been decorated with tiles in a similar style.

Ishkani (İşhan) Church

The Church of Ishkani boasts an unusual plan that resulted from several reconstructions over time. Its eastern side features a raised apse, surrounded by open exedrae, which is covered in decorative elements. The vaulted apse showcases an open exedra, and a horseshoe-shaped arcade rests on eight monoliths adorned with cubic capitals. A rectangular ambulatory frames this space, while a corridor with openings on the side leads to two chambers. The adjoining rooms are taller and have double arched windows that face inward into the open center of the church.

The church was once adorned with frescoes, though they have mostly survived on the dome, while the wall frescoes have faded over time. The Chapel's dome is decorated with Lapis lazurite, depicting the Ascension of the Cross. The dome features four figures of angels floating the cross in the sky. On each side, four two-wheeled chariots are drawn by four winged horses, driven by a standing figure. Above each chariot is a Georgian inscription that talks about the colors of the horses. Most scholars believe this scene depicts the "Vision of Zachariah" from the Old Testament, where he saw four colored horses and their riders, red, black, white, and gold. Within the drum of eight windows, eight busts are set on arches, while the adjacent blind arcade alternates with these figures and the windows below.

Opposite the main church on the south side stands a chapel with plain facades, built in 1003 as per Armenian letter inscriptions. The small chapel features fresco paintings depicting a scene of communion in the apse wall and Christ Pantocrator in the conch.

As part of the rehabilitation efforts for the monastery in Ishkhani, several chapels and churches were uncovered. These included a large basilica, two hall churches, and various monastic buildings. Additionally, several burials were also discovered, mostly from the medieval period and during the Russian-Turkish war.

During the period of Turkish rule, a mosque was established in the western arm of the church. Unfortunately, the church is not accessible to visitors today.

Ishkhani is a fascinating monument of Georgian history and culture, boasting intricate decoration, intriguing architecture, and lavishly painted murals. It is a monument that truly deserves recognition as one of the world's most significant landmarks.