Nino Bagrationi
Giorgi Bagrationi
Giorgi Bagrationi
Gia Shervashidze

St John the Baptist’s, the principal church of Oshki Monastery, is a monumental building. It was the largest and most important church not only in Tao, but across Georgia. The large building inscription on the church wall ascribes the building to the 10th century.

This cruciform-domed church is of triconch type. The intersection of cross-arms is surmounted by a dome supported by four massive piers. Each pier stands on a strong base.

The thin west piers have niches for thrones towards the east edge. The transition from the piers to the drum of the dome is effected through fan-like squinches and pendentives.

The church interior is grand and harmoniously organised. Nothing impedes the articulation of the cruciform space. The lateral chambers are independent and isolated. The interior appears festive and rich thanks to the lavishly used stone carvings. The capitals of the under dome piers and bases are richly adorned with ornaments. The exterior of the church retains a cruciform shape. The church facade is lavishly decorated. A broken cornice runs along the south stoa of the church.

The elevated proportions of the church, its large scale and the lavish use of sculptural decoration, lapidary and fresco inscriptions lends expressiveness to the church. The richness of architectural ornamentation is not widespread in Georgian architecture. The abundance of zoomorphic motifs is noteworthy.

The decoration of the columns in the stoa is distinguished by numerous relief carvings and ornaments.

The east part of the south facade has the most extensive five-figured inconographic version of the composition of the Deesis with the donors on the edges – David Magistros and his brother, Bagrat Erisrtav of Eristavs holding a church model.

The interior of the church was painted. Murals date from different periods. The paintings in the diaconicon are from the 10th century, while the apse and the south gallery in the apse have murals from the 12th century.

According to the fresco inscriptions discovered in the chancel, the latter was painted by a certain Jojick, in 1036. Other inscriptions preserved in the church mention that in around 1022-1035 the church was re-roofed on the orders of Emperor Basil II and Emperor Constantine.