TOKALI (BUCKLE) CHURCH

This is the oldest known rock-cut church in the region, and comprises of four sections: The Old Church with one nave; the New Church; the Lower Church under the Old Church; and the Parecclesion to the north of the New Church.

The single-naved, barrel-vaulted Old Church, built in the 10th century, today acts as the entrance to the New Church. Its apse collapsed when the New Church was added to the east wing. Frescoes are to be found on the vault and at the top of the walls. The life of Jesus is told on separate panels on the vault, running from left to right.

Scenes:Portraits of the saints are in the center of the vault. On the top panel of the right wing are Annunciation, Visitation, Proof of the Virgin, Journey to Bethlehem, and Nativity. On the top panel of the left wing are, Adoration of the Magi, Massacre of the Innocents, Flight into Egypt, Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and Killing of Zacharias. On the middle panel of the right wing are, Pursuit of Elizabeth, Calling of St. John the Baptist, Preaching of John, John meeting Jesus, Baptism and Marriage at Cana. On the middle panel of the left wing are, Miracle of the Wine, Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, Calling of the Apostles, Healing of the Blind Man and Raising of Lazarus. On the lower panel of the right wing are Entry into Jerusalem, Last supper, Betrayal and Jesus before Pilate. On the left lower panel of the left wing are Way of the Cross, Crucifixion , Descent from the Cross, Entombment, Women at the Tomb, Anastasis and Ascension. Beneath this panel are portraits of the saints , and Transfiguration is painted over the entrance.

The New Church is transversally rectangular with a simple barrel voult. On the east wall there are four columns joined by arches, behind which there is a raised corridor in front of the main apse and two side apses. On this barrel vaulted nave is the story of Jesus in chronological order in mainly bright red and blue colours. The dark blue colour serves to distinguish the Tokal? Church from the other churches.

On the transversal nave are scenes from the life of St. Basil, portraits of some saints and pictures of the Miracles of Jesus. The Church is dated back to last decade of the 10th century and the first decade of the 11th century.

Scenes: On the north wing of the vault are Annunciation, Visitation, Proof of the Virgin, Nativity and Adoration of the Magi. On the north wall of the vault are Joseph's Dream and Journey to Bethlehem and below these in the niches are portraits of 8 saints. At the very bottom are Calling of St. John the Baptist, John meeting Jesus, Baptism, Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Calling of Matthew, Calling of the Apostles and Marriage at Cana; on the west wing Flight into Egypt, Temptation of Christ and Christ in the Temple when Twelve Years Old, on the south wing of the vault are the First Diacons, Pentecost and Blessing and Mission of the Apostles; on the south wall of the vault are some unidentified angels, below them, in the niches, are portraits of saints; at the very bottom are Healing of the Nobleman's Son, Raising the Daughter of Jairus, Healing the Paralytic, Raising of Lazarus, Entry into Jerusalem and Last Supper. On the west wing is Washing of the Disciples' Feet, on the main apse conch are Crucifixion, Descent from the Cross, Women at the Tomb, Anastasis, on the front wall of the apse are the First Diacons and Jesus and the Samaritan Woman; inside the niche is Mother Mary and baby Jesus; and on the apse to the north is Prophetic Vision and angels.

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