Lower Bethlehemi Church

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Church of Saint Stepanos of the Holy Virgins
Կուսանաց Սուրբ Ստեփանոս վանք
ქვემო ბეთლემის ეკლესია
Tbilisi, Bethlehem Quarter.jpg
Basic information
Location Old Tbilisi, Georgia
Geographic coordinates 41°41′21″N 44°48′04″E / 41.689230°N 44.801091°E / 41.689230; 44.801091Coordinates: 41°41′21″N 44°48′04″E / 41.689230°N 44.801091°E / 41.689230; 44.801091
Affiliation Georgian Orthodox Church
Architectural description
Architectural style Armenian
Completed 1868–1870

The Lower Bethlemi Church(Georgian: ქვემო ბეთლემის ეკლესია), also known as the Church of Saint Stepanos of the Holy Virgins (Armenian: Կուսանաց Սուրբ Ստեփանոս վանք) or Koosanats Sourb Stepanos Vank[1]) – is a 14th–19th-century church at the foot of Narikala fortress in Old Tbilisi, Georgia.[2] It was rebuilt between 1868 and 1870 [1] and operated as an Armenian church. In 1988 it was given to the Georgian Orthodox[3] and its Armenian identity was "Georgianized" in 1991.[1][unreliable source?]

Georgian appropriation[edit]

From 1989 to 1995, the church underwent a heavy process of "Georganization", during which time all evidence of Armenian religious iconography was destroyed or removed and was replaced with Georgian ones.[4]

The alterations to remove the church's original Armenian characteristics included:[4]

  • the destruction of the ground floor portal and mausoleum of Mother-Superior Peprone in 1990
  • the removal of the iron gratings of the windows and the covering of windows with bricks in 1995
  • the removal of Armenian high-reliefs stretching all around the drum of the church from 1991–1993
  • the destruction on the top of the western pediment of the church (blown up on February 9, 1990)
  • the destruction of the marble Armenian "khachkal" in the middle of the apse in 1990
  • the removal of a marble cross, altar stone, and other fragments for safe-keeping at the Cathedral of Saint Gevorg in 1990
  • the razing of the high altar and khachkal (1990–1991)
  • the destruction of the baptistery font which had been in the northern wall
  • the removal of the marble washing-basin (1870) and taken to safe-keeping at Saint Gevorg
  • the destruction of the Armenian inscription on the interior of the drum that recounts the repairs of the cupola roof
  • the removal of the Armenian inscription from 1870 that recounting the erection of the column with deaconess Hripsime Begtabeguiantz's means (removed in 1991)
  • the removal of a marble inscription slab (1870) recounting deaconess Katarine Yerkainabazouk-Arghoutiantz's construction activity removed in 1990)
  • the removal of the marble inscription slab which recounts the construction of activity of the Ourdoubekiantz couple (disappeared in 1990)
  • the removal of the marble inscription slab recounting the construction of the upper floor of the church
  • the removal of the inscription specifying that the metal spiral stairs leading to the upper floor were built in 1885 on the initiative and means of arch-deaconess Evpimia Behboutiantz
  • the throwing away of other Armenian lapidary inscriptions during the abolition of the Armenian characteristics of the church between 1990–1991
  • the removal and destruction of the memorial inscription carved on a marble slab on the wall of Mother-Superior Heprosime Abamelikian's burial vault under the portal in front of the northern entrance of the church (the mausoleum was also destroyed) in 1990
  • A painting in the style of a Georgian fresco was placed on the tympanum of the altered northern entrance in June 1995


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Koosanats Sourb Stepanos (St. Stepanos of the Holy Virgins) Church, Tbilisi". Research on Armenian Architecture. Retrieved 15 July 2009. 
  2. ^ Thierry, Jean-Michel (1989). Armenian Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams. p. 586. ISBN 0-8109-0625-2. 
  3. ^ "Tbilisi Explorer: Lower Bethlehem". City of Tbilisi, Georgia. Retrieved 15 July 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Karapetyan, Samvel (1998), The State Policy of Georgia and the Monuments of Armenian Culture (1988-1998) (in Armenian) (1st ed.), Yerevan: Research on Armenian Architecture, pp. XIII–XX, ISBN 5-8080-0144-7