Nino Bagrationi
Giorgi Bagrationi
Giorgi Bagrationi
Gia Shervashidze

Khakhuli was a large and a strong monastery in medieval Georgia. It was from Khakhuli that King David IV Aghmashenebeli (David the Builder) of Georgia took the icon of the Mother of God, adorned and later housed it in the Gelati Monastery built especially for the icon. Khakhuli is a cross-domed church. It is relatively smaller than other major churches of Tao yet extremely impressive and monumental thanks to the high quality of its architecture and plain simplicity of its adornment.

Built of neatly hewn yellowish stone, it is a semi-free cross-type church. The dome is carried by two masses projecting from the wall in front of the apse and two free-standing columns. The west arm is elongated and divided into three sections by means of three pairs of columns and arches. The apse has tall niches accommodating seats for the clergy, while the central niche contains an image of a dove representing the Holy Spirit.

Additional niches for the royal persons and bishops are provided in the columns. There are two entrances, one on the west and the other on the south. Both are installed in the west arm.

The west arm is enclosed by a gallery on both sides. The gallery is a later addition. There is one large hall on the west and one narrow and oblong, on the south. The original richly adorned portal of the south porch was partly damaged due to this extension.

Khakhuli is characterised by a restrained use of decoration. It lacks twisted ornaments, yet there are several important reliefs the most remarkable being a three-dimensional figure of an eagle holding a small animal with claws represented atop the coupled window.

The west tympanum stone shows a relief of a Tree of Life, while the west wall of the south cross-arm features the Virgin Hodigitria. The largest composition appears on the south portal. The doorway is adorned with reliefs on three sides representing griffins, St Peter and a rooster, Alexander the Great and the Ascension of the Cross by Four Angels in the centre. Each of the scenes is associated with the Ascension.

The church has neither a construction nor a donor inscription. Architectural and conceptual features assign the building to the period marked by construction campaign launched by King Davit Kuropalates of Georgia, i.e. the second half of the 10th century.