NEWS: Exhibit of the month February

Swanetian door from the village of Ushguli (Georgia), 18th century7

The door was carved out of caucasian lime and beech trees. It shows the ritual of the village’s eldest, who is appointed as highest Swantian judge (Makhvshi). The Makhvshi was the community’s leader.

The leader was elected by the whole community, which means men and women with more than 20 years of age. Respected by the whole community the Makhvshi had to be rich of intelligence, reliability, honesty and justice. He had to be a devout Christ. In the case of disputes, the Makhvshi had to settle it together with four or five witnesses. Criminals, thieves and others were convicted, banned and excluded out of the community.

Together with all the other villages’s leaders the Makhvshi organized the “Meeting of Khevi”. They talked about inner and outer political matters, prepared battles and elaborated construction projects. Serious crimes were discussed at those meetings too – they even were allowed to send people to death sentences. The Khevi’s decisions were final and irreversible. This door was carved during the 18th century by the village’s eldest’s son.

The three large carvings in the middle of the door show the following:

1.) The village’s eldest can be seen in the first scenario, where he is nominated as Swanetian judge (Makhvshi). He is sitting on a chair, which was exclusively made for him. The eldest people of the surrounding villages give him the Swanetian cap. In his hand he holds the judge’s pole, which he got from his predecessor.
2.) The scenario in the middle shows the judge with a cross, accompanied by the villages’ eldest, walking to court. Every participant has to make a vow in light of the cross to talk nothing but the truth.
3.) The scenario below shows the judge (Makhvshi) holding a typical Swanetian defence tower that is connected to the house in his left hand. The meaning of this presentation is, that the Makhvshi knows, admires and protects all the habits and customs of the Swanetian culture. In his right hand he holds the judge’s pole.

These three scenarios are framed by the 12 Apostles.

The door used to be part of the judge’s defense tower. Later it was part of the private museum of the Charkseliani family in the village of Ushguli.








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