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Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Gelati
გელათის მეცნიერებათა აკადემია
Gelati Academy of Sciences

Das Grabmal von
დავით აღმაშენებლის
The Epitaph of
Davit Mepe (Mosaic) David dem Erbauer
David the Builder

David's Epitaph: Click to enlarge

Draft Silogava p. 140 Ⴕ ႤႱႤႠႰႱႢႠႬ
ქ ესეარსგან
k(risṭe) esearsgan

ქრისტე! ესე არს განსასოჳენებელი ჩემი ოჳკოჳნითი ოჳკოჳნისამდე.
ესე მთნავს, აქა დავემკჳდრო მე.

krisṭe! ese ars gansasowenebeli čemi owḳowniti owḳownisamde.
ese mtnavs, aka davemḳwdro me

Christ! This is my resting place for eternity.
It pleases me; here I shall dwell.

There is no indication whatsoever in King David's Vita or any other reliable source relating to him (cf. E. Gabiʒašvili's account of the material available today) which might be taken as a proof that he was buried in Gelati and that the present epitaph is his, the so-called "Testament" of the king being anything but authentic (cf. Enukiʒe e.a. on this question). From M.F. Brosset's treatise of 1851, it is clear that today's popular belief was already valid in the 19th century. The most detailed information available on this subject is M. Sabinin's note of 1882 which, however, can hardly be taken seriously if we consider the curious reading of the inscription it contains. If we further consider that J.A. Güldenstädt mentions not King David but Queen Tamar as being buried in Gelati (in the report on his visit to the site of August 13, 1772), we may assume that the opinion prevailing today emerged only in the first half of the 19th century, superseding a former view according to which the tomb belonged to Queen Tamar, and that the case of an independent "oral tradition" persisting since the 12th century (cf. V. Silogava's treatise in this sense) is rather weak.

As against all this, it seems much more likely that the present epitaph covers the grave of David's son, Demetre I (r. 1125-1154). Several observations speak in favour of this assumption. First, it was Demetre, not David, under whose reign the construction of the church was accomplished and the monastery was consecrated (in 1130 A.D.). Second, the entrance gate building contains the iron gate of the town of Ganja (Ganjak) which Demetre brought to Georgia after he had defeated the town in 1139 A.D., and a contemporary wall inscription, which was still conceivable when Brosset visited the site, reports this fact. Third, the Chronicle of the time of King Laša Giorgi, part of the Georgian chronicle Kartlis Cxovreba, preserves the information that Demetre was transported to Gelati and buried there after having died in another place (K.Cx. 1 ed. S. Q̣auxčišvili, 367,5-6):

დემეტრე მეფე ბელტის ციხეს მიიცვალა და გელათს წარიყვანეს მისგან-ვე კურთხეულსა ახალსა მონასტერსა. "King Demetre passed away in the stronghold of Belṭi and was brought to Gelati, to the new monastery he himself had consecrated."
ქრონიკონი იყო სამას სამოცდათოთხმეტი. "The chronicon was 374 (i.e. 1154 A.D.)."

The fact that the information regarding Demetre is missing in one of the older manuscripts of Kartlis Cxovreba, viz. the so-called Chalashvili ms. (C = Q-207) of the 16th century, cannot disprove its authenticity. Interestingly enough, it is only this manuscript which mentions the name of Gelati in the account of the foundation of the monastery by David the Builder.

The association of the epitaph with king David may well have been supported by the fact that the inscription it bears is modelled on a verse of a psalm, given that daviti is the usual word denoting psalms in Old Georgian. The verse in question is

Ps. 131 (132), 14:

Old Georgian redactions A and G:
ესე არს განსასუენებელი ჩემი უკუნისამდე;
ამას დავემკჳდრო, რამეთუ მთნავს ესე.
ესე არს განსასუენებელი ჩემი უკუნითი უკუნისამდე,
ამას დავემკჳდრო, რამეთუ მთნავს ესე.
Αὕτη ἡ ϰατάπαυσίς μου εἰς αἰῶνα αἰῶνος,
ὧδε ϰατοιϰήσω, ὅτι ᾑρετισάμην αὐτήν·
This is my rest for ever:
here will I dwell; for I have desired it.
Dies ist meine Ruhe ewiglich,
hie will ich wohnen; denn es gefällt mir wohl.

Bibliographical notes:

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Copyright Jost Gippert / Manana Tandashvili Frankfurt 1999-2002. No parts of this document may be republished in any form without prior permission by the copyright holder. 31.12.2002