Other Palaces, Residences, and Structures
The Gordi Palace
The Dadianis’ summer residence, the Gordi Palace, was another impressive architectural treasure. In 1841, following a design from the Russian architect Leonid Vasiliev, construction began on this two-storey, citadel-type structure near the town of Gordi in Imereti, just over the border from Samegrelo. The finished building was just over 20 meters wide and 40 meters long, with a first floor partitioned by columns and arches and a second floor consisting of a huge hall, lobby, salon, and library.
David Dadiani invited the renowned agronomist and landscape architect Joseph Babini, who was also responsible for the design of the botanic gardens at Zugdidi, to draw up a plan for the gardens around the Gordi Palace. Work on them was started by Babini and taken up later by the Italian gardener Gaetano Zamberletti. The 80-hectare grounds were enclosed within a stone wall with the three guarded gates. Other facilities in the complex included a bathhouse and an artificial lake.
During the Bolshevik Revolution, when Red Army units were stationed at the Gordi Palace, the palace’s arms, furniture, and kitchenware were stolen. Later, with encouragement from the local authorities, villagers looted the site, and everything of value that remained—doors, windows, ornamental wooden pillars—was taken. Today, little of it remains except a roofless skeleton.
The Salkhino Palace
Another architectural landmark was the Salkhino Palace—also known as the Kvevri Palace, for reasons that will soon become clear. The palace was constructed, on a site originally occupied by a modest royal residence in the village of Salkhino near the Martvili Church, during the reign of David Dadiani’s father Levan V Dadiani (r. 1804-1840), although the building did not assume its final shape until later. Construction materials were hauled to the site by peasants using 100 pairs of oxen and buffaloes yoked to sledges.
The great hall on the lower floor of the palace had an inbuilt wine vessel (kvevri) and a massive, richly decorated fireplace with a sculpture of Bacchus seated on the mantelpiece. The walls were covered with oak and chestnut panels. The Salkhino complex also included a huge wine cellar, 35 meters long and 10 meters wide. About the palace, the Georgian historian Iona Meunargia wrote:
The palace is situated near the home of the ojaleshi [variety of wine grape] … on the bank of the river Tsachkhura, which is famed for its fine trout. The plan of the palace, with its ground-floor wine vessel, oaken posts, and handsomely ornamented arch, fully justifies the name of the palace: Salkhino [Festive]. The idea of building a palace of this kind, on this spot, could only have come to a Prince such as Levan Dadiani, who spent all his life in feasting and singing.
Like the Gordi Palace, the Salkhino Palace was ravaged under the Soviet regime in the name of social justice, leaving only a stripped shell.
Other Structures of Note
Other memorable Dadiani palaces were built in Kurze (a beautiful one-storey structure in the shape the letter “E” in Georgian script), Chakvinji (a fortress-like structure), Rukhi (also similar to a fortress), and Nogha (a unique circular design). The palaces at Kurzu and Nogha have not survived, although Chakvinji—where David Dadiani was born—still survives in reasonable condition. The Rukhi palace, which is located in the breakaway region of Abkhazia, has also survived into the present day, although the details of its condition today are not known.
The Kelasuri Wall also merits mention. Built by Levan II Dadiani in the 17th century to prevent raids by Abkhazian feudal lords, it consisted of a series of fortresses and towers stretching over 60 kilometers and terminating at the Rukhi fortress. Most of the Wall lies in areas of present-day Abkhazia that belonged to Samegrelo in the past.
Several Dadiani palaces and other buildings outside Georgia also attested to the family’s wealth and power. Most were located in Russia. As far back as Levan IV Dadiani in the 17th century, the family owned properties in Russia, and Niko Dadiani—whose abdication in 1867 formally ended the reign of the Dadianis—was famous throughout the Caucasus region for his vast real estate holdings, including estates in the Sevastopol and Rostov provinces of Russia. In the second half of the 19th century, the Dadianis also owned a house in Moscow on Lublianka square; it was destroyed during Soviet times and replaced with a government building that today serves as the Russian Ministry of Defense. Niko’s brother Andria Dadiani (1850-1910) owned an estate in Kiev, Ukraine—a three-storey building covered with pink stone tiles, and with floors tiled in a chessboard-like pattern that reflected Andria’s love for chess. In Moldova as well, the Dadianis left their mark by commissioning a large, three-storey building combining Italian Renaissance and Gothic styles to serve as a girls’ school; located in Kishiniov, this structure now houses the Art Museum of Moldova.
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