The Tkhaba-Yerdy Christian temple is one of the oldest Christian shrines in Russia. There are numerous tower architecture landmarks in the Targim basin, it is the heart of the mountainous Ingushetia. This is the very place where the ancient architecture styles originated and were later spread across the mountains of Ingushetia. Ancient Christian religious architectural monuments also stand here. However, the best known of them and the oldest in Russia and Ingushetia is the Christian temple of Tkhaba-Yerdy (VIII cent.), different fr om other shrines of the North Caucasus with its large size and rich décor.
The temple stands 4 km far from Targim, on the right bank of the Assa river, between settlements of Khairakh and Pui. In the course of two hundred years the temple was repeatedly described by Russian and foreign scientists.
L. Shteder, quartermaster of the Russian army, was the first to discover Tkhaba-Yerdy (1787). First built in VIII-IX centuries, the temple is one of the great religious architecture monuments. Its architectural composition and sophisticated decorations prove the high artistic value of the structure. Throughout its existence the temple underwent several reconstructions and modifications. The complex we have today dates back to XIV-XVI centuries. It took four construction stages to create it.
This religious building was built on the place wh ere once a pagan shrine stood, the one greatly revered by the Ingush. This fact is proved by the temple`s fence: it features carved pagan symbols and stones with depressions, the so-called bowl stones inserted under the fence. scientists believe these stones could be used by the priests as a star chart or a calendar. Byzantine, Armenian and Georgian influence can be seen in the temple`s design and decorations. There are specific details peculiar to Armenian and Georgian Architecture here, and they belong to different periods. The influence of the Armenian Church can be seen on the eastern part of the wall, which bears biblical scenes. Here, above the two arches of window opening, there is a picture of 4 people, one of whom is struggling with a lion.
Byzantine missionaries came to the mountainous Ingusheita in 842 – 867, regnal years of Emperor Michael III. The missionaries were concerned about local people worshipping pagan gods in a Christian church. Some measures, only peaceful ones, had to be taken: bribery and rich gifts should have helped to persuade the locals to adopt Christianity. There are chronicles and findings directly or indirectly proving the fact that those missionaries stayed here. Coins – solids – with the face of Byzantine Emperor Michael III on them were found near the temple of Tkhaba-Yerdy. Christianization of the mountain Ingush people is also proved by the parchment hymnals found here. Another similar manuscript was found in the beginning of the century in the Mago-Yerdy sanctuary. Influence exerted by the Georgian Church is confirmed by reliefs and floral ornament, decorations typical for the Georgian Church architecture of the XII century.
In the Middle Ages, this temple was the legislative body of the region. Certain days were dedicated to religious rituals and settlement of disputes, and on those days people from Khamkhi, Galgay, Chulkhoy, Tskhoroy and Fyappy flocked to the temple. The “Mekhkha Khel”, Court of the Land, was also located close to Tkhaba-Yerdy.
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