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Cave cities of Crimea

In the years 1914-1918, hypothesis were advanced which were linked to the views of one by the name of Tunmann. His work on the Crimean khanate was published in 1936. Another by the name of A.Ya. Gidalevich, interpreted the catacomb dwellings of Tepe-Kermen to have been Jewish cemeteries. This idea was developed by A. Magtid, who attributed the cliff side spaces to Hellenised Judaeo-Christians of the first century AD. Two scientists, A.L. Bertie-Delagard and Yu.A. Kulakovskyi pinpointed the origin of the catacomb edifices to middle age works and not related to pre-history or antiquity.
N.L. Ernst considered that a leap was made when there appeared catacomb monasteries and settlements with cliff side places of worship. The "catacomb cities" of the Crimea appeared in the XII-XIV centuries and the idea itself of creating cliff side architecture was exported to the Crimea from Anatolia. His view that the catacomb cities appeared in the XII century is thought to be erroneous. His assertion that all catacomb edifices appeared simultaneously with the catacomb places of worship is untenable. In addition the notion that all the types of man-made catacombs could have existed simultaneously is questionable as were dug-out places of worship in the cliff sides. However the essential idea of the importation of cliff-catacomb architecture from Asia Minor extolled by N.L. Erst is true to fact.
Archaeological work of the 1920s and 1930s brought new understanding of the question of "catacomb cities" and in particular Eski-Kermen. The appearance of this community was related to the development of the medieval society's social workings in a milieu predicated by the local population. The works of V.Il Ravdonikas and N.I. Repnikov are considered to cover the state of archaeological discovery that laid the basis for two tenets formulated during the forties thru the seventies. In the first case, which has much in common with the two aforementioned authors, the "catacomb cities" that appeared in the V-VI centuries were linked to the development of economic and social practices of local tribes. The scientist most notable in this view point was E.V. Veinmarn. However he held on to the hypothesis of Yu. A. Kulakovskyi. A large part of the study by E.V. Veinmarn focuses on the catacomb edifices built on the edges of cliffs and which were interpreted to be defensive in purpose. It is thought that too much importance to the fortification aspect of catacomb building was given in the interpretation of their purpose. E.V. Veinmarn's work was presented at symposiums and in many works published during the nine
The authors M. A. Tikhanova and A. L. Yakobson, whose notion was that the "catacomb cities" were Byzantine fortresses, built to defend Byzantine territories from outside threats during the reign of Justinian I, encompassed the second tenet expounded. The "catacomb cities" built in conjunction with the "long walls" built in the Crimea during the reign of Emperor Justinian I in Constantinople. E. V. Veinmarn rejected this notion. However in his later work, he found some possible connections between the two.
A. L. Yakobson investigated the catacomb churches of Tepe-Kermen and Inkerman to find supporting data to Yu. A. Kulakovskyi's hypothesis on the appearance of catacomb monasteries during the iconoclastic period. In his work "Medieval Crimea" he dated the type of catacomb edifices of Eski-Kermen, to the period of the XII to the XIIIth centuries which in most part was correct. The work of D. L. Talis focuses on the military uses of the catacomb edifices. Some of the edifices he dated at the end of the Vth century thru the beginning of the VIth century, namely the pre-Justinian era; Chufut-Kale and Syuren he dated to the XI-XIIth centuries; Bakla and Kalamita to the Vth-VIth centuries. The author of this review, Yu. M. Mogarichev, believes that at first glance this appears to be a logical scheme which is flawed however. The non-existence at Chufut-Kale of military catacombs is in this author's view a glaring mistake in D. L. Talis's analysis.
At the 1982 Tibilisi-Yerevan conference of catacomb preservation and restoration, the term "speleististica" was coined. It refers to a scientific discipline based on architecture, archaeology and the study of cliff-built edifices.
The findings of the archaeological digs as well as the data from the Chufut-Kale cemetery, which was initially used in the second half of the VIth century and continued into the VIIth century, have allowed Yu. M. Mogarichev to conclude that the date of the erection of the fortress on the plateau of Chufut-Kale was in the same time frame. It is believed that the lull in newly dug catacombs took place because the South-Western Crimea become part of the Khazar Kaganate. The new lords of the fortresses, and the new settlers were unaccustomed to such construction techniques.
The accepted notion in the published materials is that the catacomb monasteries appeared in the VIIIth thru the IXth centuries.
In 1877-1878, V.G. Vasil'yevskyi published two hagiographic sources - the lives of Stephan the New and John the Goth. On the basis of these he concluded there was a sizeable icon worshiper migration to the Crimea, as a result of which, the peninsula became a safe-haven for icon-worshipers. Yu. A Kulakovskyi closely adhered to this author, and promulgated the hypothesis of the appearance of the Crimean monasteries in the VIIIth thru the IXth centuries and their ties to the icon worshipers. He concluded that no earlier catacomb monasteries existed, based on the similarity to ones found in southern Italy and Sicily. A large number of adherents to this line followed, some as late as 1986.
Yu. M. Mogarichev finds flaws in this hypothesis.
The list of catacomb monasteries of the VIIIth thru the IXth centuries include Inkerman, Shuldan, Chelter-Kobu, Chilter-Marmara, Uspenskii, and Kako. A.L. Yakobson added Tepe-Kermen to the list. The analysis by E.V. Veimarn and the digs of D. L. Talissa, however have demonstrated that Tepe-Kermen initially was erected as a fortress and consequently, if a monastery was there at all, then in all likelihood it was at the foot of the fortress plateau and appeared no earlier than XIIth to the XIIIth centuries, that is the time of the resurgence of the settlement.
The author then poses the question. Are there any traces of catacomb monasteries for the VIIIth thru the IXth centuries? The inscriptions found in the catacomb edifices is of the period not earlier than the XIIth century. Only one inscription in a poor condition is paleographically dated to the IXth thru the Xth centuries. The analysis of frescoes in the catacomb monasteries of which there are two, at Mangup and Shuldan, are dated for the former to the XIVth thru the XVth centuries, and the latter to the XIIth thru the XIIIth centuries. Non-monastery catacomb church frescoes of the Taurid peninsula date to no earlier than the XIIth century.
The absence of archaeological ground in the catacomb edifices, makes such analysis practically impossible. The probability that some monasteries were founded in close proximity to early settlements in no way makes there dating any easier. In this case the archaeological investigations of the surrounding area of the catacomb monasteries, has taken into consideration that generally speaking they appeared in populated areas, in areas where the monasteries appeared and in the confluence of trade routes. The "catacomb" period of a monastery was not its initial phase and its move to catacombs might have taken place much later after its founding. Unless otherwise proven, the archaeological work on catacomb monasteries have not found any groups of edifices dated to the VIIIth century thru the IXth century, which are in some way tied to the catacomb edifices.
The catacomb monasteries of the Crimean peninsula have been historically linked to those in Southern Italy and Asia Minor. Furthermore their characteristics are the same, and catacombs such as the Uspenskyi monastery dating from the XIXth century are similar in appearance to those that are much earlier. The historical similarity of Crimean catacomb monasteries to those in Georgia and Bulgaria in particular, whose appearance was linked to the spread of the schismatic movement, in the opinion of Bulgarian specialists, date no earlier than the Xth century.
As pertains to Asia Minor, the Catacomb Monasteries of Byzantine Cappadocia, by L. Rodli, found that monasteries erected on cliffs appeared no earlier than the XIth century. Some structures date to the end of the IXth - the beginning of the Xth centuries. Those catacomb churches which the historians of the XIXth - the first half of the XXth centuries, dated in most cases to the time of icon worshipers, are now dated to a later time. Mr. Yu. M. Mogarichev's argument is that those catacombs could not have been "transplanted" and therefore can in no way have been built before those of the Crimea. The source for this conclusion is Epstein A.W. The "iconoclast churches of Cappadocia," in Iconoclasm. Birmingham: University of Birmingham, 1977.-- p.103-111.
Providing a short analysis of the architectural characteristics of the Taurid catacomb monasteries, as has been noted before, that even Yu. A. Kulakovskyi could not find anything more ancient than the XIIth century. A. L. Bert'ye-Delagard considered that they appeared only in the Xth thru the XIIth centuries. N. L. Ernst, based his analysis on Christian architectural types, and found that the man-made catacombs dated to the XIIth thru the XIIIth centuries.
The adherent to the postulate of an earlier time frame, A. L. Yakobson, could only produce two church structures, in his opinion of the VIIIth thru the IXth centuries. These were the catacomb churches at the Inkerman monastery and on Tepe-Kermen. He bases his findings on the limited span of time the basilicas were in use and on analogous ones in Khersones. He correctly found that the architectural forms used in the basilicas where borrowed by the builders from Khersones. If such similar edifices were built in the VIIIth century, then they could have likewise been built later. An additional contrast was that of Tepe-Kermen to a church near the village of Basarab in Rumania and a catacomb monastery in the vicinity of Constantinople. All comparisons lead to an earliest date for the Crimean cliff architecture to the period of the Xth thru the XIIIth centuries.
A topographical analysis shows that the catacomb monasteries were in the vicinity of populated areas. The great majority of the populated areas have traces of settlements which existed in the VIII-IXth centuries. No catacomb monasteries are known that were fortified, and what's more they all are accessible by convenient approaches. One gets the feeling that the monks where the masters of the situation and had nothing to fear from anyone. Not the least of whom were the iconoclasts, who were entrenched in Khersones and the Taurid peninsula, nor their allies the Khazars. The vast array of undefendable monasteries, that sprouted alongside routes, is a clear indication of peaceful times. But in the second half of VIIth up to the first half of the IXth it can in no way be said that there were peaceful times in Crimea. It should be noted that the catacomb monasteries in Asia Minor and to a considerable extent those of Southern Italy were in hard to reach areas and not out in the open. It is a known fact that only the most fanatical monks ran to places inaccessible to emperors opposed to icon worshiping. The majority of monks simply made themselves subservient to the government's demands. In this author's opinion it is highly unlikely that persecuted fanatical monks founded monasteries in the tumultuous Crimea.
The types and lay out of the monasteries speaks volumes on their late appearance. The type of monasteries that have been singled out are of the dormitory type. The legislation of Justinian stipulated the establishment of monastery dormitories, and this was also demanded by the ideology of the icon-worshipers Fyodor Studit. The feverish adherents to icon-worshiping, who fled from Byzantium were supposed to establish such monasteries. However there are no such monasteries known to have existed in the Taurid peninsula. In the Xth thru the XIIIth centuries, communal dormitories were an exception (in that place), which in the author's opinion can be used to determine the time frame of the monasteries.
At this point the author addresses the written sources. Only one source touches on the topic of monastic immigration to the northern shores of the Black Sea. This is, The Life of Stephan the New. The other sources of information are used in most cases to prove that a icon-worshiper immigration took place, or do not mention this at all, or focus not on the flight, but on the deportation to the Crimea of representatives of the icon-worshiping opposition.
This Life of Stephan the New, relates that one of the ideologists of icon-worshiping -- Stephan the New, became aware that the empire was shifting its support to the iconoclasts, who were turning to repressive measures against the fanatical icon-worshipers, and he informed his followers of three regions, where the emperor's rule is not in force. These are first of all the northern shores of the Pontus Euxinus, regions in close vicinity that lie in the oversee of the Zecchia (Tamatarcha). This reference is to the shore-line of the Caucasus, which was in fact icon-worshiper in orientation (one just needs to recall for instance that John the Goth was duly installed as a priest in Iberia). Relative to the Bospore and Khersonese and Nicopsis in the direction of "Endless Gothia": If one is to make this South-Western Crimea, or as others would see it as the southern coast, then immediately many questions need answers. Can the South-Western Crimea, that is the region where are located the catacomb monasteries be called "Endless Gothia," when the region is mountainous? No other sources refer to this region in such terms. The two historical-geographic regions are situated between Khersones and the Bospore, however neither one is being pointed to in this source, and if Endless Gothia -- is the Crimea, then what does Nicopsis have to do here, which has no relation to the peninsula in any way. Nicopsis was the metropolis associated with the archbishopric of Zecchia, which was in the Abasgia or Abkazia region of the Caucasus.
The author believes that the writer of the life of Stephan the New was referring to cities with which he was familiar in pointing out which areas to stay away from. Thus, the bishopric of Zecchia, the region to the east of the Crimea and the "Endless" -- being the Danube region, geographically speaking to the west of the peninsula. It is a known fact that the named region was in Byzantine sources always known as Gothia. The Crimea as is evident in the sources was not in the sphere of influence of the icon-worshipers. The idea set forth here would be more acceptable if one recalls that in the Life of Stephan the New, Italy and Palestine as well as in other sources are known as icon-worshiping regions, but not one source does not have anything to say about the voluntary arrival of icon-worshipers in the Crimea. In addition the latest research sheds light on the fact that the numbers of monks fleeing Byzantium was grossly exaggerated.
The author asks us to look at the question from another angle. If there was a flow of icon-worshipers to the Crimea, then when? The time when Stephan the New, makes his pronouncement is directly preceding the council of 754. However, could there have been many who had fled at that time on the peninsula and furthermore who would have created catacomb monasteries? In order to clarify this question let us turn to another source, the Life of John the Goth.
The Life of John the Goth gives clear indication that Constantine V, appointed the bishop of the Crimean Gothia eparchy, for having given support to the policy of the iconoclasts, to be the metropolitan of Heraclea in Frakia. Consequently then the Gothia bishop was a feverish promulgator of the policies of the Isaurian dynasty, who the emperor-iconoclast raised up to the rank of metropolitan, and even transferred from far away Crimean Gothia to the large city not far from the imperial capital. Therefore it is unlikely that the bishop of Gothia, which some authors relying on some unknown sources, call him by the name of John and state that he allowed icon-worshipers in his eparchy. Thus if one understands the information in the Life of Stephan the New, in the manner as was previously done, then there are contradictions that arise not only with the source of the material itself, but with the real religious/political situation in the Taurid peninsula of that time. Let us say we are right. The iconoclast fight did not come to an end after the council of 754. Perhaps in the last period of rule of Constantine V, under bishop John the Goth, monks did in fact escape to the Crimea and built their monasteries. But even such a source as the Life of John the Goth, which was aimed against the iconoclasts, does not recount the flow of icon-worshipers to the Crimea. If it had in fact taken place, then the author would have said so. "The Life" does not mention also anything relating to booming construction of monasteries in the Crimea, and does indeed cover at length the fact that John founded one monastery in his native land, Parthenitikakh. One does not have to mention the flow of icon-worshipers to the Crimea following the death of Constantine V, because Leo V, the Khazar followed a liberal policy towards the monks, and soon icon-worshiping was renewed in the empire. The Crimea was never on the side of the icon-worshipers in the second period of iconoclasm. Even more so than in the first period it remained a partisan supporter of the emperor-iconoclasts. The author Yu. M. Mogarichev then attempts to argue the given postulate.
Khersones and in all likelihood the outlying territories was the place of exile of all political and ideological enemies of the ruling dynasty. In the aforementioned Life of Stephan the New, we read that during the reign of Constantine V, a soldier was sent to Khersones for having shown reverence to an icon and "having resolved to be killed, he ran to Khazariya. It is evident from this segment (of the Life), that the icon-worshipers in Khersones did not feel safe there.
According to the account of Theophane, in 776, Leo V, put down the rebellion of Niciphora, "encarcerated them and with measures taken for because of the security risk," exiled them to Khersonese and to the climati. It was unlikely that no sooner than Leo V had solidified his position on the throne in September 775, that he would have exiled a contender, one who already had made an attempt at toppling his rule, his own brother Niciphore, to a place, where the opposition to Leo V, namely the icon-worshipers where entrenched. Surely in such cases, it was taken into account that the exiles would not be able to find there strong allies, since this would have threatened to topple the one who expelled him, (recalling the history of Justinian II). This is greatly emphasized in the source where it states directly: "incarcerated and due to security issues." It pointedly shows that the emperor was confident of the loyalty of the inhabitants of Khersones and of the climati. Others that were exiled to Khersones were: Leo the Armenian, and Josaph The Hymn Writer, during Phillip's reign and is countlessly recalled by Theodor Studit. All this is confirmation that the emperor's power in Khersones was firm.
Thus we do not have any information relating to the building in the South-Western Crimea in the VIIIth thru the IXth centuries, of catacomb monasteries. The archaeological evidence allow a time frame said to be not earlier than XI-XIIth centuries. In fact, the construction of such large, in Byzantine scale, monasteries would have been built in accordance with the social-economic situation. First of all, a level of feudal system development had to have been reached in which a monastery could have been the feudal landlord and have an agricultural base and secondly the local population would have had to have been Christianized, providing the monastery with the necessary contingent and funding and one that would not resist its activities. These kinds of conditions could not have been present in the South-Western Crimea before the XIth thru the XIIth centuries. This corresponds to the over-all process of the cliff architecture culture in Byzantium, in particular the appearance of monasteries in Cappadocia. It is necessary to note that the "catacomb" period in the life of a monastery -- is a late development, and the portrayal of catacomb monasteries as the haven for those fleeing persecution, is a false notion. The building of catacomb monasteries was coincidental to a highly Christian mission. For instance, in Cappadocia they appeared in the XIth century replacing the earlier (end of the IXth thru the Xth century) recluse cells of the period of Christianization, which were cites of memorials.
Yu. M. Mogarichev states that the possible analogous situation was observed in an another Byzantine province -- Gothia, where catacomb monasteries appeared in the XIIth thru the XIIIth centuries in place of "holy sites" of pius recluses. However if such a process did in fact take place, then the number of such monastic cells was small, a maximum of 10-15, taking into account the number of monasteries, and, consequently this cannot have a bearing on our conclusions.
The essential characteristics of the catacombs were established when three separate sites were found which contained surface dwellings with catacombs as storage facilities, for grain and flour, water, etc. Later their use extended to livestock sheltering. Catacombs were also used as cisterns, and storage of water holding vessels known as "pifosy." These presumably where made of animal skin. The time frame was of the XIIth, when the domestic life in the Taurid peninsula grew, but now not in feudal traditions of agriculture, but based on cattle raising, that is the population of the South-Western Crimea began to produce that product, the secondary sale of which had been its former occupation. In the XIIth century, the Byzantine rule in the Taurid peninsula was still in place, however it was not so wide-spread and was not of such long duration. At the end of this century, the Crimea ceases to be under the rule of the empire, and in 1204, Byzantium itself falls under the rule of the crusaders. On the other hand, in the XIth century, the Pechenegs, a new political force made its debut on the historical arena. In the middle of the XIIth century, the coastline to the east of Yalta was already under their control. In the middle of the 13th century, according to William De-Rubruk, the "cities and fortresses" situated between Khersonese and Sugdae, paid tribute to the Pechenegs. Herding domesticated animals became the principal occupation in the countryside. Wheat growing fell to such an extent that the region had to buy grain elsewhere. In the XVI-XVth centuries, the valley dwellers increasingly built catacomb dwellings on the plateaus, where livestock could be easily herded down into cliff bored protected enclosures. While the inhabitants found safety in the upper rooms both inside the hill-side and on the plateau surface. Amongst the number of reasons for the development of cliff side architecture for monasteries, it is necessary to point out the feudal system and the Christianization of the population, which brought about the monasteries, who also were herdsmen and lords of their domains. Reasons for the ending of cliff side architecture traditions were essentially political: the Golden Horde pogroms, the Ottoman invasion of the Crimea, and the annexation of the peninsula into the Russian empire. At Chufut-Kale, the so-called "new city" took shape as a direct result of the emergence in the XVth century of the Crimean Khanate. The city was the appanage town of the first capital Staryi Krym.

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