Аbkhazia is my land
Within steep hills to be laid
And by a vivid sunshine being whelmed…
Such lofty skies above are not obscured.
There are some various versions of the original Christianity being spread into the territory of the ancient Abkhazia. According with a legendary as early as in the 1 st century A.D. St. Andrew The Apostle disseminated the origins of Christendom together with his companion Simon The Apostle arriving through Cappadocia and maritime town of Trebizond.
As per evidence of famous church historian Metropolitan Makary (Bulgakov) St. Andrew The Apostle has passed with homiletics from the south coast of the Black Sea to Viphinia and Pont up to the town of Sebastopolis in Abkhazia. By legend, when Simon The Apostle enlightened the Abkhazian minds and being persecuted in 55 th year A.D. he suffered a martyr death on the banks of Psyrtskha whereas he was buried as well. Subsequently the church has been erected and consecrated in his favor at this very place and it is assumed that the body of Simon The Apostle is reposed within this old temple. Probably these early Christian conventional realities have caused further to establish the oldest Christian diocese in the territory of Abkhazia and, namely, in Pithhyus (Pitsunda).
In compliance of some church authors the Christian faith started to be proliferated here from that five apostles including four (of the twelve) such as Andrew, Matthew, Bartholomew and Judas plus Thadeus, (one of the seventies), have visited and sermonized at the northern and eastern shores of the Black Sea. Pithyus was so significant and prominent center in Abkhazia of the late classic period that its representative Stratophil, bishop of Pithyus, was honoured to take part in the First Ecumenical Nicene Council in 325 th year A.D. This name of the Abkhazian church primate had been mentioned in all lists of bishops participated in this council which remained in such documents of the early Middle Ages as Venetian manuscript (Greek language) of the 13 th century, manuscript of the British Museum (Latin and Syrian languages) of the 7 th century, Copt (11 th century), Arab and Armenian manuscripts respectively. During the Nicene Council the Pithyus Diocese was subordinated to the Pont Poleymont Diocese in its ecclesiastic terms.
No doubt that the Christianity came to the ancient Abkhazia earlier than to any other Transcaucasus states. Not only such irresistible argument as the fact of the abovesaid bishop participated in the First Ecumenical Council has proven eloquently but also the establishing the Pithyus bishopric as the oldest within entire Transcaucasus. Thus, Pithyus as one of the most ancient venues of late classical Abkhazia takes its exclusive part in the Caucasian Christendom history.
The first Christian temples in Abkhazia were constructed as far back as in early 4th-5 th centuries A.D. inside of the relevant Roman and Byzantine fortifications (Pithyus, Sebastopolis). Starting from the middle of the 6 th century such temples appeared outside too (Alakhadzy, Dranda, Lykhny etc.) and the final Christianization process of local population was performed in the same century as well.
Two distinct stages can be defined evidently as per development of the Abkhazian temple architectural and construction process of the early Middle Age period.
In 6 th -7 th centuries some basilicae with its wooden floors were constructed here preferably. This period of time has been noted with some peculiar seeking in the realm of central compositions on the basis of basilica which resulted in several temples having large cupolas erected in general from the second half of the 8 th century up to the middle of the 10 th century (Pitsunda, Bzyb, Lykhny, Mokva etc.) while any previous basilicae have been modified significantly.
The Abkhazian temples of early Middle Ages are characterized by its altar apses projected in the eastern part of the building. Here versions with three apses preferred although some memorable constructions appeared with one-two apses available. In most cases outside these apses have had its five facets even though in the 6 th -10 th centuries any central faceted apses were combined with side semicircular apses as well. The latest and most prominent monument of the Abkhazian temple architecture of early Middle Ages is the famous cathedral in Mokva constructed in forties and fifties of the 10 th century.
During period of transferring from early to developed Middle Ages the Abkhazian kingdom became gradually to be the Abkhazian-Georgian feudal state which formed perfectly by the end of the 10 th century. At the same time the monumental structures of Abkhazia also varies and, firstly, in relation to its temples when along with any other alterations these constructions lose its Byzantine faceted apse which assumes a rectangular outer design in accordance with relevant traditions of the Eastern Georgian temple architecture.
In the fourteenth century a certain rise was occurred in the ecclesiastic architecture when the role of monasteries developed. At the time some minor temples were constructed while the old churches were attached with its new accessory buildings along with restored or newly established paintings under Byzantine and West European (Italian) influence revived.
In the second half of the 19 th century and in the beginning of the 20 th century within Abkhazian territory some towns' centers were created (Sukhum, Gagra, Ochamchirs), small churches were created and structures of the New Athos monastery occurred.
See also: History of Christianity in Abkhazia