Pitsunda Cathedral

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St. Andrew the Apostle Cathedral
Pitsunda cathedral.jpg
Affiliationde facto: Abkhazian Orthodox Church/
de jure: Georgian Orthodox Church[1]
DistrictGagra District
LocationPitsunda, Gagra district,  Georgia/ Abkhazia [2]
Pitsunda Cathedral is located in Georgia
Pitsunda Cathedral
Shown within Georgia
Geographic coordinates43°09′36″N 40°20′20″E / 43.159889°N 40.339°E / 43.159889; 40.339Coordinates: 43°09′36″N 40°20′20″E / 43.159889°N 40.339°E / 43.159889; 40.339
TypeTriple-nave, domed cruciform plan
StyleGeorgian; Byzantine
Funded byKing Bagrat III of Georgia
CompletedEnd of 10th century
Height (max)29
Pipe organ of Pitsunda

The Cathedral of St. Andrew the Apostle, also known as the Pitsunda Cathedral or Bichvinta Cathedral (Georgian: ბიჭვინთის ტაძარი) is a Georgian Orthodox Cathedral located in Pitsunda, in the Gagra district of the de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia, internationally recognised as constituting a part of Georgia. The cathedral is currently used by the Abkhazian Orthodox Church and serves as that body's seat, although this usage is disputed by the Republic of Georgia and is considered irregular by the Eastern Orthodox communion.

Pitsunda Cathedral was built at the end of the 10th century by King Bagrat III of Georgia. It served as the seat of the Georgian Orthodox Catholicate of Abkhazia until the late 16th century when Abkhazia came under the Ottoman hegemony. According to 17th century French traveller Jean Chardin, Catholicos, who no longer lived in Pitsunda, visited the cathedral once a year with the retinue of bishops and princes to perform the sanctification of chrism.[3] The cathedral was reconsecrated in 1869 when Abkhazia was already a part of Russian Empire.[3]

It is a cross-domed cathedral with three naves and three apses, shaped as a rectangle with extending semicircular apses. The cathedral is notable for its impressive size, reaching 29 m high (including the dome), 37 m long and 25 m wide; the walls are up to 1.5 m thick. The building rests on heavy slabs of grey sandstone; the walls are made up of alternating rows of stone and brickwork, a typical technique for late Byzantine architecture. The cathedral contains vestiges of wall-painting from the 13th and the 16th centuries. A 12th-century Georgian manuscript of the Four Gospels, found at the cathedral in 1830, is now preserved at the Georgian National Center of Manuscripts in Tbilisi.


Current condition[edit]

The territory is currently occupied by Russia, because of which is impossible to study and to conduct the according works. The main church needs a replacement of roof. The physical condition of construction inside the complex is very difficult. Pitsunda church has been given the status of national importance monument.


  1. ^ See here: Orthodoxy in Abkhazia
  2. ^ Abkhazia is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Abkhazia and Georgia. The Republic of Abkhazia unilaterally declared independence on 23 July 1992, but Georgia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. Abkhazia has received formal recognition as an independent state from 7 out of 193 United Nations member states, 1 of which have subsequently withdrawn their recognition.
  3. ^ a b Акты собранные Кавказскою Археографическою Комиссиею (Acts of Caucasian Archeographic Commission), v. 5, pp. 1069-1070, cited by Экзеков, Мусса (2012). По обе стороны Большого Кавказа. Сборник документов (1-я половина XIX века). Том II. Питер. pp. 574–575. ISBN 9785459008906.

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