Church of Kish

Church of Kish
Church of Kish
Church of Saint Elishe
Սուրբ Եղիշէ Եկեղեցի
Holy Mother of God Church
Սուրբ Աստուածածին եկեղեցի
Church of Kish is located in Azerbaijan
Shown within Azerbaijan
Basic information
Location Azerbaijan Kiş, Shaki, Azerbaijan
Geographic coordinates 41°14′56″N 47°11′35″E / 41.248933°N 47.193067°E / 41.248933; 47.193067Coordinates: 41°14′56″N 47°11′35″E / 41.248933°N 47.193067°E / 41.248933; 47.193067
Affiliation Caucasian Albanian
Architectural description
Completed 12th-13th century

The Church of Kish (Azerbaijani: Kiş məbədi), also known by different sources[1][2][3] as Church of Saint Elishe (Armenian: Սուրբ Եղիշէ եկեղեցի)[4] or Holy Mother of God Church (Armenian: Սուրբ Աստուածածին եկեղեցի),[4] is a 12th or 13th century church located in the village of Kiş approximately 5 km north of Shaki, Azerbaijan.[4] It has functioned at different times as an Caucasian Albanian Apostolic church[5][6][7][8][9][10][11] a Chalcedonian church within the Georgian Orthodox Church and as an Armenian Apostolic church.[4]



According to the 7th century Armenian historian Movses Kaghankatvatsi, in the 1st century A.D. St. Elishe, a disciple of Thaddeus of Edessa, arrived to a place called Gis (Գիս), where he built a church and recited a liturgy. The church became the "spiritual center and the place of enlightenment of people of the East". On his way from Gis St. Elishe was killed near the pagan altar in the small Zerguni valley by unknown people.[12]

According to the Armenian historian on architecture[13] Samvel Karapetian, the geographical position of Kish does not seem to match that described by Kaghankatvatsi. Karapetian believes that they have identified Gis as the village of Bomen/Bum 60 km to the south-east of Kish,[4] in Gabala district.

According to a Georgian historiographer, in the 10th century, the population of Kish converted to the Georgian Orthodox Church (Chalcedonism). The church of Kish was turned into a residence of a Georgian bishop, functioning till 17th century.[14] By the time when Russia took possession of the region the village of Kish had Udi population.[15] According to Robert H. Hewsen, the Udi language appeared to have been prevalent north of Kura River until the nineteenth century, and the Armenian population appeared to be of relatively recent arrival. While many Armenians undoubtedly settled there fleeing the Turko-Mongolic invasions, many more entered the region with the coming of the Russians in the early nineteenth century.[16]

In 1836, the Albanian church, along with all active churches in this region that were not Georgian or Russian, was incorporated into the Armenian Apostolic Church, and the Church of Kish was refounded in 1860s and became a place of pilgrimage due to the belief that it was associated with St. Elishe (Yegishe).[14]

Research and dating

In 2000-2003 the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs funded a joint project between Azerbaijan Architecture and Construction University and the Norwegian Humanitarian Enterprise for the archaeological research and restoration of the church of Kish. Dr. Vilayat Karimov of Baku's Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography served as the director of excavations, and the archaeological advisor for the project was J. Bjørnar Storfjell. Radiocarbon analysis of various objects found on the site showed that the cultic site found beneath the altar of the church dates to about 3000 B.C., while the construction of the existing church building dates to about the 12th century (990-1160 A.D.).[17]

The existing church building cannot be dated to the times of St. Elishe, but the archaeological evidence demonstrates that the church is located on an ancient cultic site. It is very unlikely that St. Elishe built in Kish a church in the modern understanding of this word. Even if the person did exist, it appears likely that he built only the altar or used an existing pagan cult structure.[18]

Bjørnar Storfjell stated that there's clear evidence that this church was built as Diophysite church. Excavations revealed that the church represented two different periods of use, with two different corresponding floor levels. According to Storfjell, since the architecture of the apse of the original church in Kish suggests a diophysite Christology, and since the Georgian Church was the only diophysite church existing in the Caucasus in the late medieval period, it seems reasonable to suggest that the Kish church was built as a Georgian church and was later taken over by monophysites.[19]



  1. ^ Alban-udi xristian kilsəsi
  2. ^ Azərbaycanda din
  3. ^ Alban-Udi kilsəsi
  4. ^ a b c d e Karapetian, Samvel. "Kish". Research on Armenian Architecture. Retrieved 2009-06-20. 
  5. ^ Wegge Born - From Jerusalem to Gis: An investigation of the Eliseus-tradition in Courcasis. Paper Presented at the Conference Caucasus Albanians in the Past and Present. B, 2003, səh 35
  6. ^ M. Th. Houtsma - E. J. Brill's first encyclopaedia of Islam 1913-1936, Стр. 346
  7. ^ Вилаят Керимов, Бьернар Стурфиел. Киш. Б., 2003, səh 23
  8. ^ Моисей Каланкатуклу. Albaniya tarixi, I kitab, VI fəsil, Bakı,1993
  9. ^ Крымский А.Е. Страницы из истории северного или Кавказского Азербайджана (Классическая Албания) II Шеки – İ.Marrın xatirəsinə həsr olunmuş məcmuə. M-L, 1938
  10. ^ Ямпольский З.Н. К изучению летописи К. Албании. AMEA-nın xəbərləri, Bakı, 1957, в„–9
  11. ^ Azərbaycan Respublikası Mədəniyyət və Turizm Nazirliyi - Kiş alban məbədi - Havari kilsəsi
  12. ^ Movses Kaghankatvatsi. History of Albania. Book 1, Chapter VI
  13. ^ Georgians, Armenians Row Over Vanishing Monuments
  14. ^ a b Samvel Karapetian, "Research on Armenian Architecture", Online Version
  15. ^ Игорь Кузнецов, "Удины".
  16. ^ Robert H. Hewsen. "Ethno-History and the Armenian Influence upon the Caucasian Albanians," in: Samuelian, Thomas J. (Hg.), Classical Armenian Culture. Influences and Creativity, Chicago: 1982, 27-40.
  17. ^ Azerbaijan International Magazine. About the Kish Church Reconstruction Project
  18. ^ Official website of Baku eparchy of Russian Orthodox Church. Architectural heritage of Caucasian Albania
  19. ^ J. Bjornar Storfjell, Ph.D. The Church in Kish. Carbon Dating Reveals its True Age. Azerbaijan International, Spring 2003 (11.1)

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