A team of Soviet folk art historians included Bzubzu mosque in a survey of Georgian wooden architecture and ornament, providing a record of how the site has changed since the late 1940s. It is the only mosque from the survey that survives to the present. Published in 1959, M. Garakanidze’s photographs and detailed drawings of Bzubzu depict well-preserved Ottoman era decorative elements despite the passing of a century or more of time: a ceiling medallion framed by twining tulips and vines, a door covered entirely with intricate geometric patterns, and richly carved hooked columns on both the verandah and interior. The mosque’s state of preservation (and the resources dedicated to surveying it) suggest that while Soviet authorities repressed Islam as a practice, they took an interest in its artistic achievements. Including Adjara’s mosques in a book entitled Gruzinskoe Dereviianoe Zodchestvo [Georgian Wooden Architecture] may, in fact, have also been a way to reframe Islamic religious sites as regional folk art. The contrast between Bzubzu in 1959 and its condition today is striking—little, if anything, remains of the ornaments so carefully documented by Soviet historians. Like most mosques in the region, the verandah has since been enclosed (with its carved columns removed in the process) and the terra cotta roof replaced with sheet metal. The interior is stripped almost entirely of its original decoration: a layer of boards conceals the ceiling medallion, and both the minbar and mihrab have been recently rebuilt in unadorned wood. The only remaining decor is unusually neoclassical: a crisp pediment sits atop the empty mihrab niche, and a two-tiered cornice carved with dentils and chevrons divides the ground floor and mezzanine level.
LOCATION: 41°33’14.1”N 41°50’35.6”E
CONSTRUCTION DATE: 1820-1860 (hijri 1235-1276)
RENOVATION DATE(S): c.1990