Italian missionary’s sketches of 17th Century Georgia displayed in Tbilisi

This is among the new manuscripts by Castelli sent to Georgia for the first time. Photo by Georgian State Museum of Theater, Cinema, Music and Choreography., 18 Aug 2015 - 15:53, Tbilisi,Georgia

Italy and Georgia now both are the keepers of historic manuscripts by Italian Theatine missionary Teramo Cristofero Castelli that portray Georgia about 400 years ago.

From today the 17th Century sketches and illustrations of Georgian landscapes and people are exhibited in both Italy’s coastal town Palermo and in Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi.

Several Georgian institutions teamed up with the National Library of Ireland to bring the manuscripts to Georgia, which are now housed in the Georgian State Museum of Theater, Cinema, Music and Choreography. This is the first time copies of these manuscripts have ever come to Georgia.

This precious collection of work encompasses some of Castelli’s work that have not been published yet. The copies were created through my aunt Medea Kalandia’s financing,” said head of Georgia’s State Museum of Theater Giorgi Kalandia.

Italian missionary Castelli first visited Georgia in 1628 with two other priests and spent most of his time with King Teimuraz I of Kakheti region.

He then moved to Georgia’s region Guria upon the invitation of Bishop Maxime Machutadze but was exiled in 1640 by King Vakhtang Gurieli II.

These sketches are part of the new manuscript collection, now on show in Tbilisi. Photo by Georgian State Museum of Theater, Cinema, Music and Choreography. 

Throughout his journeys Castelli created numerous sketches depicting daily life in Georgia, including seven volumes of travel notes, pen-and-ink sketches and other illustrations, mainly of the people and landscapes of Georgia, but took them with him when he was exiled.

These manuscripts were discovered and delivered to the municipal library of Palermo in 1878 by Priest Gioacchino di Marzo.

Copies of Castelli's Sketches. Photo by Georgian State Museum of Theater, Cinema, Music and Choreography.

In 1910 Georgian scholars discovered the manuscripts were being housed in Italy after Georgian Roman Catholic Priest and historian Michel Tamarashvili photographed half of the sketches and sent them to Georgia.

Soon after, Georgia became part of the Soviet Union, which forbid Georgian scientists of the time to travel to west Europe and study the albums. Because of this the Georgian side based their research on Tamarashvili’s photos as they did not have access to the original albums.

Today some copies of Castell’s other works are kept at the Georgian National Centre of Manuscripts. These albums revealed not only Georgia’s landscapes but those Kings which were unknown before and the type of costumes people wore at that time.

His collection of sketches also depicted what was happening in the 17th Century in different fields of Georgian art, history, geography and more.