In the Middle Ages Georgian monasteries grew up abroad to create a reservoir of the best that was known and thought in the Christendom. The Georgian monastery on Mount Athos (the Iveron) holds absolutely unequalled importance among those centres of the Christian culture. In 983 a prominent Georgian commander, the patrikios "Tomike the Great", a member of the house of Chordvaneli (Chorchaneli) founded in Greece the Iveron. Soon, owing to the efforts of Tornike, who had taken monastic vows, his close relative Ioane the Kartvelian and especially the latter's son, Eptvime Mtatsmindeli (the Hagiorite), the monastery became the leading centre for Georgian-Byzantine ecclesiastical, scholarly and literary relationships, and left ineffaceable trace on the process of our nation's cultural development. According to K. Kekelidze "no other monastery had performed such an important role in the history of our literature and culture as the Iveron. If not this monastery, our culture would have another form and character".
For the history of the Iveron "Atonis Krebuli" (The Collection of Athos) is of utmost importance - a manuscript that was composed and rewritten at the monastery and brought to Georgia in the 19th century. The manuscript was published in Tbilisi in 1901.
This is a complex collection with various chronological layers. For the first time the out ward (codicological) and internal (essence) analyses of this manuscript was conducted by N. Berdzenishvili in 1920s. His research findings were partially published in 1941 (see N. Berdzenishvili, "The recensions of Atonis Krebuli" // The Georgian State Museum Bulletin, XI-B). He demonstrated that the Collection underwent three editions. The earliest edition went back as early as 1074. By that thne the collection "consisted of the following sequentially: 1. The Life of Joane and Eptvime, 2 Eptvime 's Hymns of Praise, 3. The Other Canticles of His, 4. The Agape-s and Life of Ioane Makharebeli". In fact this recension was "collection to commemorate the builders of the Georgian lavra on Athos". Composition of the specific collection, which commemorates the founders of the Iveron and proves Georgians' indisputable rights over the monastery was a response to the Greeks who from the XI century strove to seize the Iveron and "remove the Georgians lock, stock and barrel from the monastery".
The second edition, according to N. Berdzenishvili, had to be done in the late 1080s when "The Life of Ilarion the Kartvelian" and the hymns of Ilarion and Ioane the Kartvelian were added to the collection. These changes were made by the Athonite fathers with a certain purpose: to transform the collection in a memorial book of all Georgian monks who lived and worked in Greece. These alterations caused partial changes in the order of constituent narrations of the collection.
After the third edition, prepared in the 1140s, the collection was finally transformed into "the Book of Memorials". The old agape-s (compiled before 1074), therefore, were shifted back and even rewritten; the order of narratives changed and, as a result, the collection was given the present form.
N. Berdzenishvili had the intention to publish the agape-s of "the Atonis Krebuli" since this was valuable source of information not only for the Georgian monastery on Athos but also for Georgian history in general. This project required dating of 164 memorials of various times, as well as determination of the order of Father Superiors of the Iveron. Studies, presented in the present publication, had already been conducted by the scholar. N. Berdzenishvili realized clearly the great importance of the problem. At the same time he pointed out the lack of the sources and unfavorable conditions caused by this factor by then (the 1920s). As he wrote: "first of all the material should be gathered for the purpose. There are a lot of important evidences in the acts of monasteries on Mount Athos and other foreign historical writings. Complete description of Georgian manuscripts kept in our or foreign archives can offer us many new and valuable information as well". Probably, this was one of the reasons why N. Berdzenishvili did not publish this study.
Nowadays the situation is totally different: the multivolume description of the old Georgian manuscripts. three volumes of the Acts of lveron, the acts of other monasteries of Mount Athos and other appropriate materials have been published, and the result has not been delayed: in 1998 a well-known Georgian scholar El. Metreveli published the monograph "The Book of Memorials of the Iveron". In the introduction she points out that she "used widely" N.Berdzenishvili's yet unpublished work.
Yet N. Berdzenishvili's studies have not lost their importance and El.Metreveli hoped that "the given work will soon come to the light".
Publication of this important study conducted by N. Berdzenishvili beca1ne possible thanks to the support and blessing of our Patriarchy and financing provided from Mount Makhata's "The Iveria Complex Building Foundation". The fact that the monograph of the outstanding scholar is being published by the initiative of the Patriarchy is notable itself: our Church undertakes the same mission as the Iveron did thousands of years ago: that is reviving Georgian literacy and scholarship!
Academician David Muskhelishvili Editor-in-Chief