Historical Figures


Ioane Petritsi – eminent Georgian ecclesiastical figure, philosopher – Neoplatonist, hymnographer and translator from the turn of the 12th century, studied at the Academy of Mangana, Constantinople. For his original world view, in Renaissance Studies he is considered a founder of significant phenomenon such as Eastern (Georgian) Renaissance of the 11th-13th centuries; on invitation from king Davit IV of Georgia Ioane Petritsi came to Georgia and headed Gelati Academy together with Arsen Iqaltoeli.

Petritsi’s translation of “The Considerations on Proclus Diadochus and Platonic Philosophy” from Greek into Georgian is considered a document of particular value in the study of Georgian traditional music and polyphony. The work deals with the thinking of a Georgian philosopher with profound knowledge of classical and contemporary philosophy. Proclus Diadochus’ work “Fundamentals of Theology”, which was taught at European academies in Middle Ages, is supplied with the philosopher’s comments.

In “Interpretations” Petritsi reveals particular interest to music. He recognizes the   idea of “God the artist” – entire universe is constructed and set to music according to His reflection. In the philosopher’s opinion music can “see” and feel “one” better than anything else. In the final part of “Interpretations”, when discussing the most important theological dogma – unity of Holy Trinity, Petritsi applies music as most principal argument to reveal theological thesis. Petritsi sees the reflection of the three hypostases – Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Georgian polyphony, in simultaneous sounding of three different voices (mzakhri, zhiri, bami) – mortuleba (equivalent to Greek harmony). The names of voice parts are original – Georgian; equivalents of these names are still encountered in folk music.

Petritsi’s vocabulary includes valuable material from the musical terminology of his epoch which is directly related to polyphony. Of particular interest is also the fact of ignoring the category “harmony” – acknowledged in his contemporary philosophical lexicon. Instead of “harmony” denoting single-part linear musical dialectics, the Georgian philosopher applied Georgian terms related to polyphony: narti, rtva, mortuleba, etc. In terms of understanding musical dialectics Greek “harmony” and its corresponding Georgian notions have different contents. Petritsi’s musical narti, rtva are musical analogues of Holy Trinity, implying dialectic unity of three parts realized in simultaneity, vertical.

Musical terminology of polyphonic thinking in the work of the 12th-century Georgian philosopher clearly testifies to the existence of polyphony in Georgia at least in the 11th century.

St. Karbelashvili brothers

The Karbelashvili brothers’ activity is noteworthy in the history of Georgian church. The five brothers were active ecclesiastical and public figures at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries. In church history there is hardly another family with so many clergymen five of whom have been canonized. Karbelashvili family had five sons (Pilimon, Polievktos, Stepane, Petre and Andria) and one daughter – Sidonia. Their father – Grigol Karbelashvili was a good connoisseur of church chant and reading. He was educated at Shio-Mghvime Monastery in 1820-1824. In 1849 Grigol was ordained a clergyman and was a priest in Kvemo Chala. The sons received thorough knowledge of church chant and other disciplines from their father. It is known, that the brothers also led active pedagogical life in different villages and cities, and taught not only church chant and reading. On their initiative and with their effort East Georgian church chant was transcribed to Western five-line notation system.

Eldest brother Pilimon (1836-1879), who had received education first from father at home, and then at Tbilisi Theological Seminary made particular influence on the brothers. In 1860 after ordination Pilimon returned to his native village and started active ecclesiastical activity. It is known that the Divine Liturgy performed by Pilimon and accompanied with his brothers’ chanting was attended by the parish from the villages neighbouring with Samtavisi and the church was overcrowded. Pilimon opened a school for village children and taught them history of Georgia, chant, reading-writing and counting. He was also distinguished for the ability to preach, chant and teach, for this was referred to as “exemplary”. Pilimon passed way prematurely and was interred in the yard of Samtavisi Church.

Hieromartyr Andria Karbelashvili (1851-1924) was a second child in the family, received elementary education from the family. isHis His brothers and villagers talked about him as an intelligent person and chanter, exemplary clergyman and preacher of Christ’s teaching. In 1903 he was appointed prior at the church of the Dormition of the Mother of God in the village of Kvemo chala. After the establishment of Soviet Power the priest was oppressed and was obliged to give up religious service. At the time the Bolsheviks

 destroyed the nobility’s property (including that of the Amilakhvari palace), precious and historical things. Big part of these survived thanks to Deacon Andria’s efforts. During the 1924 revolt together with other representatives of the intellectuals from Kartli brothers Andria and Petre were taken for interrogation to Gori and executed on Tiripona valley together with other suspects.

St. Hieromartyr Petre Karbelashvili (1860-1924) received education at Theological School in Gori. From 1878 he was a psalm-reader at various churches and taught reading and writing. From 1889 he taught Kartli-Kakhetian chant at Tbilisi Theological Seminary. In 1900 he was ordained a priest and continued his activities first in his native village of Sakorintlo, then in various churches and monasteries throughout Shida Kartli. From the 1920s he worked in Mukhrani parish, from where together with his brother Deacon Andria and other countrymen was executed on Tiripona valley.

St. Polievktos the Confessor (1855-1936) was actively involved in the country’s public-cultural and political life together with his brothers and like-minded people, as the turn of the 19th-20th centuries was very difficult time for Georgia’s statehood and autocephaly of the Georgian Church. He was involved in the restoration of Georgian Autocephalous Church, preservation of Georgian language, protection and inventory of ancient Georgian manuscripts and treasure, architectural monuments. Particular is his merit in the preservation of Georgian chant.

The Karbelashvilis correctly evaluated the state of Georgian chant, threat for the loss of this cultural achievement and necessity of its notation, which they did later. Thanks to them chants for vespers, matins, Christmas and Great Feasts have survived to this day and are referred as “Karbelashvilis’ Mode”. It unites chant traditions from different churches and monasteries in East Georgia. Deacon Polievktos is the author of a number of works and books: “Historical Survey of Georgian Secular and Sacred Modes”, “Hierarchy of Georgian History”, “Old Anchiskhati Church in Tbilisi” and others publications and letters dedicated to the history of Georgian church and lives of saints.

Saint Stepane the Confessor (Vasil Karbelashvili. 1855-1936) received elementary education in the family, in 1881 he graduated from Gori Theological Seminary. In 1882 he entered the Moscow Conservatory, but soon returned to Georgia in 1883.

In 1883 he was ordained a Deacon, and a priest later the same year, he was a priest at the churches and monasteries in Tbilisi and Kakheti, on 24 October 1925 Deacon Vasil was consecrated a monk and given the name Stepane and was appointed Bishop of Bodbe. At various times he taught at parochial schools and Seminary; he taught Georgian language, Catechism, music, chant to young generation often with his own enthusiasm.

It is known, that the significant process of transcribing Georgian chants to Western five-line system of notation started in 1882. West Georgian chants were notated by Pilimon Koridze, notation process of East Georgian chants was guided by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, Bishop Alexandre Okropiridze was responsible for finding the connoisseurs of chant, he considered Karbelashvili brothers (Vasil nad Polievktos), Grigol Mghebrishvili and Alexandre Molodinashvili as such. Notation process of Kartli-Kakhetian chants was successfully completed and first volume of Kartli-Kakhetian mode “Vespers” was published in 1896, second volume “Matins” was published in 1898. Father Vasil was editor to the publication of The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom in 1899.

In 1928 Bishop Stepane was transferred from Bodbe Diocese to Alaverdi Diocese. From 1934 he was unable to perform Divine Liturgy, and had to retire. Bishop Stepane passed away in 1936. In his life Father Vasil was persecuted, exiled and oppressed. But he never stopped ecclesiastical and public activity. His numerous letters on important and problematic issues were published in the 19th-20th century press.

The Karbelashvilis were devoted fighters for the preservation of Georgian song- chant and national identity in difficult and historically significant years for Georgia. For their unselfish and exemplary activity Holy Synod of Georgia canonized the five Karbelashvili brothers on 20 December, 2011 and September 6 – the day of Petre’s and Andria’s martyrdom on Tiripona Valley has been announced their Memorial Day.