Ateni Sioni Church (Region of Kartli)
The Ateni Sioni Church is an early 7th-century Georgian Orthodox church in the village of Ateni, some 10 km (6.2 mi) south of the city of Gori. It stands in a setting of the Tana River valley known not only for its historical monuments but also for its picturesque landscapes and wine. Near the church there are the ruins of the medieval fortified town of Ateni (modern-day villages of Didi Ateni and Patara Ateni). The name “Sioni” derives from Mount Zion at Jerusalem. Sioni is an early example of a “four-apsed church with four niches domed tetraconch (between the four apses are three-quarter cylindrical niches which are open to the central space).
The church’s cruciform interior measures 24m x 19.22m, and its façades are faced with carved rectangular greenish-gray stones, richly decorated with ornaments and figurative reliefs. The church is not dated but is very similar to the Jvari Monastery at Mtskheta, which is generally held to have preceded it. The walls of the church contain the first inscriptions in Nuskhuri or Nuskha-Khutsuri, one of the versions of the early Georgian alphabet, dating from 835. The first examples of Mkhedruli, a currently used Georgian script, are also found in the Ateni Sioni church and date back to the 980s. One of the inscriptions at the church commemorates Adarnase, the first documented Georgian Bagratid nobleman who was the father of Ashot I, the founder of the new royal line of Georgia.