For Beauty, Nation and God
The Creation of the Georgian National Treasure
The following paper traces the origins and increased interest in the cultural heritage of Georgia on behalf of the local intelligentsia in the 19th century. After describing the circumstances that may have led the new generation of Georgian scholars to a systematic exploration of ancient remains in the Caucasus and medieval ecclesiastical monuments and treasuries, the paper will focus on the main archaeologists of Christian antiquity in Georgia, Dimitri Bakradze and Ekvtime Taqaishvili. Finally, the study outlines the creation of what has been called the Georgian National Treasure. The treasure items, collected from monasteries and settlements all over Georgia and protected from robberies and impetuous art collectors, were sent into exile in 1921, shortly before the short-lived Georgian Democratic Republic’s annexation to the Soviet Union. The thirty-nine boxes, containing manuscripts, icons, precious liturgical vessels and other priceless items, were sent from Batumi to Marseille, via Istanbul, and stored in France until 1945, when Ekvtime Taqaishvili, who had taken care of and protected them over those 24 years, accompanied them back to Tbilisi.