CHURCH OF KISH – HOLY MOTHER OF GOD CHURCH
The Church of Kish also known by different sources as Church of Saint Elishe or Holy Mother of God Church is an inactive 12th or 13th century Caucasian Albanian church located in the village of Kiş approximately 5 km north of Shaki, Azerbaijan. It has functioned at different times as a Caucasian Albanian Apostolic church a Chalcedonian church within the Georgian Orthodox Church and later as Armenian Apostolic Church.
In 2000-2003 the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs funded a joint project between Azerbaijan Architecture and Construction University and the Norwegian Humanitarian Enterprise for the archaeological research and restoration of the church of Kish. Dr. Vilayat Karimov of Baku’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography served as the director of excavations, and the archaeological advisor for the project was J. Bjørnar Storfjell. Radiocarbon analysis of various objects found on the site showed that the cultic site found beneath the altar of the church dates to about 3000 B.C., while the construction of the existing church building dates to about the 12th century (990-1160 A.D.)
The existing church building cannot be dated to the times of St. Elishe, but the archaeological evidence demonstrates that the church is located on an ancient cultic site. It is very unlikely that St. Elishe built in Kish a church in the modern understanding of this word. Even if the person did exist, it appears likely that he built only the altar or used an existing pagan cult structure.
Bjørnar Storfjell stated that there’s clear evidence that this church was built as Diophysite church. Excavations revealed that the church represented two different periods of use, with two different corresponding floor levels. According to Storfjell, since the architecture of the apse of the original church in Kish suggests a diophysite Christology, and since the Georgian Church was the only diophysite church existing in the Caucasus in the late medieval period, it seems reasonable to suggest that the Kish church was built as a Georgian church and was later taken over by monophysites.