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‘Royal Icons’ of Medieval Georgia

‘Royal Icons’ of Medieval Georgia

Lecture by Nina Chichinadze

Given online by Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut, on Mya 22, 2021

Abstract: Icons, together with Christian relics, had a special semantic value among the symbols of Byzantine imperial power. Acheiropoieta images of Christ and miraculous icons of the Virgin, that were associated with the imperial court, were perceived as sacred objects charged with multiple meaning. Such icons and their cults became incorporated into the overall imperial ideological system and served as models for other Christian Orthodox rulers. Medieval Georgian monarchs developed their own “icon politics” adapted to the current political situation and their own ideological agendas.

My presentation deals with “Royal Icons” in medieval Georgia (from the eleventh to the thirteenth century), which have held a particular religious and political-ideological significance throughout the centuries. Written and visual traditions connected to their veneration reveal a whole range of issues concerning power, identity, and patronage. The focus of my inquiry is the royal strategy of establishing and promoting the “Royal Icons” documented in texts and works of church arts. Particular attention will be paid to the miraculous icon of Christ, known as Anchiskhati, which represents one of the earliest preserved images of the Holy Face of Edessa, and enjoyed a special royal patronage, and the Virgin of Khakhuli, another miraculous icon, closely tied to the Georgian royal dynasty. The transformation of historical memory reflected in the cult of these icons during later historical periods will be also analyzed and contextualized.

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Nina Chichinadze is senior research fellow at the Giorgi Chubinashvili National Research Center for Georgian Art History and Heritage Preservation and Professor at the Ilia State University, Tbilisi. Click here to view Nina’s Academia.edu page.

Top Image: Ancha Icon of the Savior, dated to the 6th/7th century (Art Museum of Georgia, Tbilisi) – Wikimedia Commons

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