Involving various peoples and embracing numerous traditions, the East-West cultural dialogue has evolved over a long period of time. Hellenic ‘artistic expansion’ towards the Black Sea, which started as early as the 1st millennium BC and went through transformation in the course of centuries, is one of the striking examples of cultural interchange. Such ‘expansion’, which is still retraceable in modern times, is connected to the Pontic Greeks.
Having emerged in the 19th century in various countries of West Europe and on the east coast of the Black Sea which then made part of Russia, large communities of Pontic Greeks turned into economic and cultural centers. Meanwhile, they maintained close ties with their historical homeland and the entire Hellenic world. The period is often referred to as neo-Hellenic Enlightenment. The Greeks from Turkey assimilated in new countries started construction of their own “cultural space” based on Orthodox culture and by adapting traditions to the new realities and life-needs.
The present paper deals with the church art of the Pontic Greeks, which is the key to revealing the identity of this people. It focuses on the church architecture and their liturgical furnishing preserved in Georgia. Churches and artistic production of the Pontic Greeks surviving on the Georgian territory – an important segment of neo-Hellenic culture, which had remained completely ignored hitherto, demonstrate essential trends of 19th century Hellenic art. Greek church architecture attests high level of craftsmanship of builders, as well as their knowledge of traditional construction techniques. Combination of Byzantine and local traditions which characterizes the architectural types, plans, and structural and decorative elements of the monuments addressed in the paper, gives interesting result with typical features unmistakably indicating on Pontic culture.
Highly valuing their cultural and religious traditions, the Pontic Greeks furnished their new churches built in Georgia with liturgical objects reflecting centuries-old traditions. Devotional images preserved in Greek churches are in the mainstream of contemporary Greek icon-painting and reflect a trend of combining traditional iconography with western elements and folk art features.
Analysis of the artistic heritage of the Pontic Greeks preserved in Georgia, and especially of ecclesiastical architecture and liturgical arts based both on Byzantine visual tradition and Greek popular culture, sheds more light on the forms and ways of cultural transmission in the indicated area.