Establishment and reconstructions: Shamkoretsots (Shamkhoretsonts) Sourb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) church, which is located next to the former Preobrazhenskaya street of Tbilisi, now named after Figner (Peristsvaleba St. №21, Avlabari), due to the red-covered Gospel kept in the High Altar, was also known as Red Gospel church.

Regarding the date of the construction of the domeless church, the professional literature reports two probable dates: 1775 and 1809. Firstly it was put forward by the Georgian researcher Egn. Ioseliani: "In the middle of Avlabari, in the center of the popular buildings, there is a church called Shamkoretsots, named after the Mother of God, without a dome and covered with wood, which was built at the expense of the people in 1775[1]". Armenian researcher P. Muradyan considers 1809 to be the most likely date. His point of view was based on the list of churches made by Archbishop Nerses in 1827 which states: "Holy Mother of God Shamkoretsvots, built by public in 1809 [2]".

P. Muradyan comments that Egn. Ioseliani does not indicate the exact source of the information about the church's construction in 1775 and considers the report of Nerses Ashtaraketsi more reliable since the information about the churches was mainly obtained from the local clergy.

Priest Rev. Father Gyut Aghanyants also provides information about the church being built in 1809 in his "Historical records on the construction of Armenian churches in Tiflis" [3].

Despite existing disagreements about the date of construction of the domeless church, researchers agree that the church is Armenian and was built in 1723 by the people of Shamkhor who moved from Gandzak to Tbilisi by Ibrahim Pasha [4].

The period of construction of the domed church is considered to be the 40s-50s of the 19th century. This is evidenced both by archival documents and inscriptions preserved on the walls of the church [5].

ՇԱՄՔՈՐԵՑՈՑ ՍԲ ԱՍՏՎԱԾԱԾԻՆ ԵԿԵՂԵՑԻ XXՐԴ ԴԱՐThe documentation known to us about the thorough renovation of the church began in 1841-1842. Particularly, in 1842, the consistory of the Diocese of Georgia and Imereti of the Armenian Apostolic Church appealed to the Echmiadzin Synod regarding the process of church renovation and wall construction (the cost was about 1,600 rubles in silver). The permission to build the church was also approved by the Governor of the Caucasus. In particular, letter No. 4584 dated May 17, 1843, addressed to the Etchmiadzin Synod stated: “According to the proposal of the Synod of Etchmiadzin, dated September 11 of last year No.1857, regarding the permission to Tiflis residents of Shamkhor Armenians to restore at their own expense the church in the name of Holy Mother of God, which had fallen into disrepair, located on the outskirts of the city of Tiflis Avlabari, on April 25 of this year for No.1228, the Minister of Internal Affairs expressed his consent to the said construction as soon as its plan and facade are examined and approved...[7]'':

It should be mentioned that the construction took quite a long time. It is worth noting the fact that there were a large number of inscriptions about donations on the walls of the church, especially from 1858, which provides evidence of the continuation of construction works up to that year.

The family of Ter-Ghazaryans made a great contribution to the church renovation works. Later, the latter was also given the right to build a family cemetery in the courtyard of the Shamkoretsots church. This is evidenced by the archival documents preserved in the National Archive, among which is the plan of the northern courtyard of the church designed by A. Tashchyan in 1902, where the memorial statue of the late Grigor Ter-Ghazaryants was supposed to be installed [8].

In 1881, partial repair and completion works of the church were undertaken again. As the churchwarden of the church wrote: "... because the church has significant missing parts needing to be patched from the external side..." [9]. The consistory allows to spend about 300 rubles from the money of the church for necessary repairs[10]. In 1888, the wall on the south side of the church was built from the ground up[11].

In 1912, architect N. Kharazyan designed the narthex ending with a belfry to be built in front of the main entrance of the church[12].

Since the end of the 18th century, the deceased of the Tahiryan, Mirzakhanyan, and Harutyunyan families originating from Shamkor were buried in the yard of Shamkoretsots Sourb Astvatsatsin church.

Architecture: Shamkoretsots Sourb Astvatsatsin is a brick-built structure. It had a large prayer hall (14 x 19 m), which ended in the east with a semi-circular altar, on both sides with rectangular floorplan sacristies. The high dome rises on large, cylindrical pillars. In addition to large windows with rectangular, arched ends, there were round windows in the upper parts of all facades[13].

Clergy: Among the priests of Shamkoretsots Sourb Astvatsatsin church were Senior priest Rev. Fathers Karapet Ter-Grigoryants[14] and Margar Ter-Margaryants[15], who served in the 1860s and 1870s. Additionally, the registers of marriages of Shamkoretsots Sourb Astvatsatsin from 1861-1876 are also preserved in the National Archive[16]. In the 80s of the 19th century, the church had 2 priests, and the number of parishioners reached 1327 [17].

In the 1990s, Rev. Fathers Hamazasp Karapetyan Ter-Hovhannisyants (number of parishes: 145) and Rev. Father Shmavon Ter-Barseghyants (number of parishes: 123) served as priests in the church, [18].

Church and parish school: In 1883 the parish school building was constructed in the churchyard. According to the bulletin of the diocesan schools from the beginning of the 20th century, a mixed-type middle school with 32 students operated next to the church[19]. Perhaps in order to improve the financial condition of the school, in 1908 the parish trustees of the church raised the question of building stalls on the vacant area at the west side of the school building. As chairman and members of the Board of Trustees Hamazasp Ter-Hovhannisyants and Isahak Harutyunyants are mentioned and the secretary was deacon Sargis Ipakiants[20].

Properties: Information about the movable and immovable property of Shamkoretsots Sourb Astvatsatsin church is reported in the documents about the properties of the churches issued by the Diocese of Georgia and Imereti. In particular, according to such a bulletin issued in 1837, the church had real estates in addition to various church items: on the north side of the church - 9, on the south side - 8, on the west side - 10 fathom of land, as well as houses[21]. In the 50s and 60s of the 19th century, the church had 5 rooms intended for pilgrims, the principal amount was 149 rubles and 33 kopecks in silver, annual income: 547rubles and 81 kopecks with silver[22]. In the first year of the 20th century, three rooms belonged to the church, the principal amount was 993 rubles and 48 kopecks with silver, 921 rubles and 79 kopecks silver income were received from properties [23].

Shamkoretsots Sourb Astvatsatsin church in the Soviet period: After the establishment of the Soviet regime, like other Armenian churches in Tbilisi, Shamkoretsots church was also closed. In particular, in 1923-1924, it was among the already closed churches[24].

In 1928-1929, despite being closed, the parish council of the church continued to operate. In particular, the church was included among the churches invited to the election of diocesan deputies of Tbilisi to be held in 1929[25].

During the Soviet period, the church building was used for various purposes; it was repurposed into a bakery and then a warehouse. In the 1980s, it served as a studio for Georgian painters. In those years, the Armenian community sent many requests to the city authorities for permission to renovate the church with their own funds, but in vain. On April 14, 1989, the church collapsed. According to the authorities’ reports, the destruction of the church was a consequence of the magnitude 4.0 earthquake that occurred in Tbilisi the previous day (April 13) [26], but the publications of the Georgian press in the following days unwittingly revealed the intentionality. In particular, according to a publication of April 22, it was proposed to establish the Georgian Mother Church, the residence of the Georgian primate to be built on the site of the "collapsed" church[27]. In the article "Why was Shamkhor destroyed?" published on April 27, the chief architect of the city hastens to declare that the collapsed church is irreparable[28].

On February 19, 1990, an extensive article was published proposing the construction of a new Georgian church on the site, suggesting the removal not only of the ruins of the dilapidated church but also the demolition of a large part of the residential buildings in the Avlabari district for this purpose.[29]. In the end, it was decided to build the Georgian church not on Shamkoretsots, but on the site of the destroyed Armenian Khojivank church and cemetery, and a significant part of Shamkoretsots was also demolished in order to make it less dangerous for the environment.

As of 1999, only the eastern facade and some adjacent parts of the southern and northern facades were preserved from the church. In 2004, the Armenian Diocese in Georgia appealed to the government of Georgia and the related authorities, expressing their desire to fence the church, at least partially, in order to secure the ruins of the church, and later to build an adjacent diocesan headquarters. This idea also was immediately prevented, because in the same year, a Georgian secondary school named "Momavali" (Future) was founded and quickly built in a place suitable for the diocesan headquarters.

In 2009, the Armenian Diocese in Georgia appealed to the Prime Minister of Georgia, Nika Gilauri, with the issue of returning Shamkoretsots Sourb Astvatsatsin church to the Diocese, among other churches. In 2012, the Armenian Diocese in Georgia appealed to the authorities of Georgia to return the church buildings to the Diocese, and in 2015, to the Ministry of Culture of Georgia, the National Agency for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, asking them to present the results of the legal evaluation of the churches.

Since December 2016, construction works have started near the church, the foundation of a large apartment building has been dug, which has created a structurally unstable condition, complicating the further maintenance of the church. The Armenian Diocese in Georgia has sent many letters to the relevant bodies, but the issue has not been resolved. At present, the construction works have not ceased, posing an ongoing threat to the future preservation of the architectural structure with each passing day.

[1] L. Melikset-Bek, Georgian sources about Armenia and the Armenians, Vol. 3, Yerevan, 1955, p. 270:

[2] P. Muradyan, Armenian Churches of Old Tiflis, Yerevan, 2009, p. 161:

[3] NAA, ֆ. 332, ց. 1, ֆ. 102, թ. 17:

[4] P. M. Muradyan, Armenian Epigraphy of Georgia, Yerevan, 1988, p. 92-93.

[5] See the records P. M Muradyan, in the same place, p. 93-96:

[6] NAA, ֆ. 56, ց. 1, գ. 1146, թ. 1-2:

[7] NAA, ֆ. 56, ց,1, գ. 1146, թ. 6:

[8] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 1, գ. 1474, թ. 22, 27, 28-30, 36:

[9] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 1, գ. 2273, թ. 403:

[10] In the same place, թ. 403-ի շրջ.:

[11] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 1, գ. 2282/2/, թ. 392 և շրջ.:

[12] Norashen 2008/2 (14), p. 2-4:

[13] M. Hasratyan, The architecture of the Armenian churches of Tbilisi, “Etchmiadzin”, 2009/6/, p. 72:

[14] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 2, գ. 2267, թ. 2, գ. 2270, թ. 2:

[15] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 2, գ. 2277, թ. 2:

[16] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 2, գ. 2263-2278:

[17] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 1, գ. 3877, թ. 20:

[18] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 1, գ. 3885, թ. 182 շ.-183:

[19] NAA, ֆ. 35, ց. 1, գ. 174, թ. 18 շ.-19:

[20] NAA, ֆ. 35, ց. 1, գ. 369, թ. 3:

[21] NAA, ֆ. 56, ց. 6, գ. 39, թ. 69 շրջ.-72 և շրջ.:

[22] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 1, գ. 3830, թ. 7-ի շրջ., 12:

[23] NAA, ֆ. 56, ց. 15, գ. 795 /մաս 3/, թ. 291 շ.-292.

[24] Documents of the History of the Armenian Church, Book 3, Yerevan, 1997, p. 525:

[25] NAA, ֆ. 409, ց. 1, գ. 3218, թ. 81-ի շրջ.:

[26] “Evening Tbilisi” (“Вечерный Тбилиси”), April 17, 1989.

[27] “Tbilisi” („თბილისი“), April 22, 1989:

[28] “Tbilisi” („თბილისი“), April 27, 1989, p. 6; “Youth of Georgia” (“Молодежь Грузии”), April 27, 1989:

[29] “Tbilisi” („თბილისი“), February 19, 1990, p. 4:

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