The Official Website of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia > Orthodoxy in Abkhazia > Churches > Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar). Temple on Mount Aquy (Ақәи-ныха) in the village of Ankhua

Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar). Temple on Mount Aquy (Ақәи-ныха) in the village of Ankhua

THE TEMPLE ON THE MOUNTAIN OF AQUY (АҚӘИ-НЫХА[1]) IN ANKHUA VILLAGE

 Location

Mount Aquy (abh. Ақәи/Ақәҩы, later named Mount Athos)[2] and the village with the same name Aquy are located above the city of New Athos (ill.1) [Кәарҷиа, 2002, ад. 227-228]. The mountain stretches from New Athos to the northeastern village of Guma and occupies the territory of the Ankhua village from the southeastern side. The height of this mountain is more than 1200 m. The ruins of the temple are located on the very edge of Mount Aquy from the south-west side, at an altitude of 500 m above sea level (ill.2).

There are two ways to get to the ruins of the temple. On foot from Orlinoye Gnezdo Street in New Athos and further along the mountain path (about 1 h. of walking), either by road on Jeep, passing through the north-western slope of the Anakopia Mountain through the village of Aquacha. (ill 4) On this road, the distance from New Athos to the ruins of the temple in Aquy is 8.5 km.

 Description

It was a small temple with a tiled roof (many fragments have been found). The general parameters of the ruins of the temple are approx. 6 x 12 m (we can get more accurate dimensions only after the walls’ clearing from debris, illustration №1). The walls in some places are preserved in height up to 1.5 m. (illustration №2). The temple is elongated from west to east, with a protruding semicircular apse and a vestibule adjacent on the west side (illustration №3).

The walls inside are lined with small, treated limestone (illustration №4). It is not possible yet to establish the thickness of the walls due to blockages (we can assume that they are more than 1 meter thick). Whitewash is mixed with sand. The internal dimensions of the semicircular altar apse are 2.6m wide and 1.5–2m deep (illustration №5). The size of the temple’s hall inside is approximately 3 x 4 m. Several rows of inner masonry of the northern and eastern walls of the central hall of the temple are well preserved, and it makes possible to measure the distance between them – 3 m. The courtyard is square in shape, its dimensions are approximately 1 m smaller than the rest of the temple’s building (approx. 5 x 5 m).

Apparently, the tiled roof of the temple collapsed and high blockages were formed (illustration № 6).

The lack of high blockages inside the central hall of the temple and the apse means that they were already cleared by “grave robbers”.

 

 History

Russian archaeologist Countess P. S. Uvarova (1840–1924) in her work “Christian Monuments”, published in 1894, referring to the church located not far from Sukhum (near the Beslet bridge, on the left bank of the Basla River), reports the following: “Similar small churches built from the same material, we found not very far from the church of Simon the Canaanite, on a high mountain peak, in the area named Ankhua, a few miles from the village of Eshera … among the area, covered with wood, named Abgyrzykh ”[Uvarova, 1894, p. 18].

If we compare the plan of the church in the area of the Besletsky bridge, which was published by P. Uvarova (ill. 7), with the plans of the famous temples from Ankhua, it becomes clear that in the above message we are talking about the temple on Mount Aquy.”
Indeed, all of the known churches on Mount Aquy, the temple of Ankhua is situated on the highest point (500 m above sea level)[3].

Unfortunately, no other historical information about the temple on Mount Aquy is currently known.

It is strange that this object was out of sight of the monks of the New Athos monastery, who built a number of outbuildings and a narrow-gauge railway in the late of XIX century[4].

There is no description of this temple in the Soviet period. It is not specified among the objects of historical and cultural significance, marked on the topographical plan of New Athos and Ankhua, compiled in the middle of XX century (allegedly V.P. Pachulia) and kept in the funds of the Abkhazian State Museum (Ill. 8).

The ruins of the temple on Mount Aquy were re-discovered and identified in the middle of XX century by artists, local historians, well-known people like G. Sh. Smyr (1945-2016) and R. V. Pandariya.

It is impossible to find out when the temple was built without archaeological excavations.

On September 24 2018, an expedition consisting of Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar), R. V. Pandariya, A. V. Argun, and O. T. Trapsh went to the top of Mount Aquy.
Expedition members set a goal to establish the exact location of the temple’s ruins. The only resident of the Aquy village, V. Smyr, helped to establish the location of this object.

During this expedition, a preliminary clearing of the ruins from the vegetation was carried out, which made it possible to measure the territory and took pictures of the temple (https://anyha.org/expedition-to-acqui/).

On 20 October 2018, after receiving the permission from the Archeology Department of Abkhazian Institute, the staff of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia and the parishioners, under the leadership of Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar), cleared the ruins of the temple on Mount Aquy from wild plants (Ill. 9-11).

During the clearing, 15 fragments of red clay tile roof (Ill. 12), two fragments of red clay pottery (Ill. 13) were found on the surface of the earth, and an interesting detail was found as well, it is the base of pottery (Ill. 14, 15) (https://anyha.org/acqui-ceramic/).

After the arrival of monks from the Holy Mountain of Athos (Greece) in the middle of XIX century and the foundation of the New Athos monastery by them in Abkhazia, Mount Aquy became known as “Mount Athos”.
At the top of the Greek Athos at an altitude of 2033 meters above sea level a small church is situated. The church is in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord. It would be logical to consecrate the temple on Mount Aquy in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord newly (celebrated on 6/19 August).



In the future, the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia plans: 1) to conduct a laboratory analysis of the fastening solution, fragments of tiles and fragments of ceramic dishes from the temple in Aquy; 2) to conduct archaeological works together with specialists; 3) to preserve the surviving parts of the temple; 4) to build a wooden fence around the temple; 5) to build a green building (wood and tile) over the ruins of the temple for the subsequent preservation of the monument; 6) to install road signs of European standard along the road from New Athos to the ruins of the temple on Mount Aquy.

 Bibliography (in Abkhaz and Russian): Керамика из руин храма на горе Акуи // https://anyha.org/acqui-ceramic/; Кәарҷиа В. Е. Аԥсны атопонимика. Ақәа, 2002. — Ад. 226-229; Экспедиция на гору Акуи (Афонская гора). 26.09.2018 // https://anyha.org/expedition-to-acqui/; Расчистка руин храма на горе Акуи (Афонская гора). 22.10.2018 // https://anyha.org/acqui-nuha-adrytskjara/; Рукописный план земельного владения Ново-Афонского св. ап. Симона Кананита монастыря (кон. ХІХ в.) // https://anyha.org/amonastyr-adgilkua-ahsaala/; Стражев В. И. Руинная Абхазия // Известия Абхазского научного общества, 1 (1925), с. 147; Топографический план с указанием историко-культурных памятников Нового Афона и с. Анхуа (Абхазский государственный музей); Уварова П. С. Христианские памятники // Материалы по археологии Кавказа, 4 (1894), с. 18.

References::

[1] The name «Ақәи-ныха» was entered by us (translated as “the temple of Aquy”).

[2] In the manuscript plan of the land ownership of the New Athos monastery, written by a New Athos monk (the name is unknown) in the end of 19 century, Mount Aquy is listed as “Хребет Аккую” (https://anyha.org/amonastyr-adgilkua-ahsaala/). It is curious that in Italy, not far from Genoa, we saw the toponym “Aquy” (Italian Acqui) located in the Piedmont region. The patron saint of Acqui Terme is Saint Guido (1004-1070), who was the bishop of this city.

[3] V.I. Strazhev (1879–1950), in his work “The Ruined Abkhazia”, published in 1925, mistakenly believed that in the above quoted report by P. S. Uvarova, it was the ruins of the church in the village of Aquacha (Ankhua) [Strazhev, 1925, p. 147].

[4] ] We are not aware of any documents indicating that the New Athos monks knew about the ruins of the temple on Mount Aquy.
In the manuscript plan of the land ownership of the New Athos monastery, written by a New Athos monk (the name is unknown) in the end of 19 century, there are also no instructions regarding the ruins of the temple on Mount Aquy (https://anyha.org/amonastyr-adgilkua-ahsaala/).

Maps:

  1. Mount Aquy (abh. Ақәи/Ақәҩы, later name – Mount Athos).
  2. The location of the ruins of the temple on Mount Aquy.
  3. Walking route to the ruins of the temple on Mount Aquy.
  4. Route to the ruins of the temple on Mount Aquy.

Illustrations:

  1. The ruins of the temple on Mount Aquy. October 20, 2018
  2. Fragment of the northern wall of the temple on Mount Aquy. October 20, 2018
  3. Preliminary plan of the temple on Mount Aquy.
  4. Fragment of the masonry wall of the temple on Mount Aquy. October 20, 2018
  5. The altar apse of the temple on Mount Aquy. October 20, 2018
  6. Debris on the walls of the temple on Mount Aquy. October 20, 2018
  7. Plan of the temple in the area of the Besletsky bridge, published by P. S. Uvarova. 1894
  8. Topographical plan with indications of the historical and cultural monuments of New Athos and Ankhua village.
  9. The ruins of the temple on Mount Aquy before clearing. October 2018
  10. Clearing of the temple’s ruins on Mount Aquy. October 20, 2018
  11. Participants of the clearing on Mount Aquy. October 20, 2018
  12. Fifteen fragments of red clay tiled roof from the temple on Mount Aquy.
  13. Two fragments of fine red clay ceramic dishes from the temple on Mount Acuy.
  14. Two fragments of red clay ceramic dishes from the temple on Mount Aquy.
  15. The fragment of pottery (ceramics) from the temple on Mount Aquy.