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Samtavro St. Nino’s Monastery was built on the place called ‘Zemo Ecclesia’ (Upper Church). It was located in the capital city of the Eastern Georgian Kingdom Iberia Mtskheta in 30s of the 4th century. The first Christian royal couple - King Mirian and Qween Nana are buried here. Since the 480s Samtavro became an Episcopal see. Since the beginning of 19th century it has become a convent.
The present Samtavro Transfiguration Orthodox Church was built in the 1030-1040s in the town Mtskheta. The preserved mural paintings in the altar conch and in the dome are dated to the mid-17th century. The archeological excavations revealed the remains of a large church that had been standing here before 11th century.
Eastwards of the Church there is a small early medieval church of St. Nino. Its mural paintings are dated to 19th century. On the North of the Church there is a three storied bell tower of 15-16th centuries. A cylindrical tower of 18th century is preserved in the wall of the monastery that was restored in 19th century.
Samtavro convent, together with other historical monuments of Mtskheta has been inscribed upon the World Heritage List of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage since 1994.
For some time Bochorma used to be one the largest fortresses in Kakheti. It is located at the Gombori Pass on the road from Inner Kakheti to the capital. Nowadays the ruins of this once magnificent stronghold are covered by a dense forest of centuries-old trees. Its origin is still unknown. The first reference dates back to the beginning of the 10th century. It seems that it underwent multiple changes in later centuries and reached the age of late feudalism in a sadly damaged state. It is known that in mid 1700s Erekle II restored Bochorma fortress and it is the traces of these works we can see now.
The old and newer walls of the fortress have been designed in a way that they followed the highly sophisticated landscape of the hill, thus making access to the town extremely difficult for the enemy. The entrance was located in the eastern side where the fortress is relatively easily accessible.
The fortress has two main parts. The citadel was built on the hill and served as a residential castle and hub of the stronghold. The now extant ruins include the remains of a formerly two-storey palace inside the citadel, with two halls, archs and fireplaces. The citadel also contained a cylindrical tower that has a good view of the gorges nearby.
The highest point of the fortress is occupied by the King’s Hall connected with the citadel with a 2 m wide inner lane. The palace offers a truly unforgettable view.
Military importance and security of Bochorma Fortress cannot be underestimated. In the mid 18th century, when Kartl-Kakheti Kingdom was frequently invaded by Lezghins, King Erekle II travelled personally to Kakheti to build Choeti Fortress and restore and fortify Bochorma. Historical records of the 18th century indicate that during one of the invasions of the enemy the king himself decided to send Queen Anna from Martkopi to Bochorma and called on the princes and lords to use the fortress as a shelter for their families.
Archaeological evidence indicates that Bochorma Fortress stayed a functioning fortification until the end of the 18th century.
City-fortress Ujarma is situated on the right bank of the river Iori, in 45 km to the east of Tbilisi on Gombory Range. Three main periods of construction are defined. In the second half of the 5th century, famous Vakhtang Gorgasal ‘erected numerous buildings in Ujarma’ and moved his residence there. After Vakhtang’s death, his heir Dachi was ruling Kakheti for some period from here. In the 10th century Ujarma was destroyed by Arabian forces of Abul Kassim. In the 13th century, the fortress was restored by King George III, where he arranged treasury.
City-fortress consists of two parts: citadel, located on the plateau of the rocky hill and city on the slope.
City was surrounded by the powerful protective wall with nine quadrangular towers. The towers are three-storied, covered by tiled roof with loop-holes. City gates were in the first tower.
A royal palace – two-storied building with a vault - was located in the eastern part of citadel. Premises were illuminated by big and broad windows and they had hanging balconies.
In the middle part of the citadel was ancient church ‘Jvar-Patiosani’ (Church of the Fair Cross). There were dwelling outhouses opposite the church and big reservoirs to keep water.
The whole main system of protection was established in the epoch of Vakhtang Gorgasal. Ujarma is referred to the best samples of fortification constructions of the ancient Georgia.
In the second period (12th century) the destroyed walls were restored and new fortifications and dwelling places were constructed.
The third period (17th – 18th cc) was represented restoration of destroyed parts of the citadel’s walls.
Nowadays, other restoration works are taking place.
In a several dozen kilometers from Tbilisi, a monastery founded by father Anton of Martkopi in the 6th century is to be found. He spent the last 15 years of his life there. He lived as a hermit, what is implied by the "of Martkopi” designation in Georgian. From this designation came the name of the Georgian village Akriani, which initially was called Martodmkopeli and later Martkopi.
The monastery itself is situated on the most beautiful slope of Mount Ialno. The main building is the church of the Divine-Made Icon. The remains of an ancient foundation indicate that on the place of the contemporary cathedral there was an ancient cathedral of greater size, but for some reason in was destroyed. On the threshold of the XVII-XVIII centuries it was reconstructed and the belfry, which was constructed in 1629 by master Akhverd, belongs to this period. In the XVII century the ancient frescos were destroyed and in 1848-1855 under the leadership of Ivane Arjevanidze, the monastery was restored.
For a long time, a Divine-Made image brought by St Anton of Martkopi from Edessa was stored at the monastery. But in 1395 it was lost during the Tamerlane invasion.
The most sacred place of the monastery is the tomb of St Anton of Martkopi, which has been preserved to this day and is considered miraculous. East of the monastery there is a tower where evidently resided the saint.
Famous dates of renowned people of Georgia are associated with the monastery. In this cathedral was married Alexander Chavchavadze, father of Ekaterine Dadiani – the last Queen of Samegrelo, and Nina Chavchavadze Griboedova.
Residents: monks and novices
Gremi (Georgian: გრემი) is a 16th-century architectural monument – the royal citadel and the Church of the Archangels – in Kakheti, Georgia. The complex is what has survived from the once flourishing town of Gremi and is located east of the present-day village of the same name in the Kvareli district, 175 kilometers east of Tbilisi, capital of Georgia.
Gremi was the capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti in the 16th and 17th centuries. Founded by Levan of Kakheti, it functioned as a lively trading town on the Silk Road and royal residence until being razed to the ground by the armies of Shah Abbas I of Persia in 1615. The town never regained its past prosperity and the kings of Kakheti transferred their capital to Telavi in the mid-17th century. There was big Armenian population. The Russian diplomat Fedor Volkonsky, who was here in the 17th century, said: "Armenians have own church and market behind one was other church". He also said about 10 Armenian churches near the palace of king.
The town appears to have occupied the area of approximately 40 hectares and to have been composed of three principal parts – the Archangels’ Church complex, the royal residence and the commercial neighborhood. Systematic archaeological studies of the area guided by A. Mamulashvili and P. Zak’araia were carried out in 1939-1949 and 1963-1967, respectively. Since 2007, the monuments of Gremi have been proposed for inclusion into the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Archangels’ Church complex is located on a hill and composed of the Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel itself, a three-story castle, a bell tower and a wine cellar (marani). It is encircled by a wall secured by embrasures, turrets and towers. Remains of the secret tunnel leading to the Ints’obi River have also survived.
The Church of the Archangels was constructed at the behest of King Levan of Kakheti (r. 1520–1574) in 1565 and frescoed by 1577. It is a cruciform domed church built chiefly of stone. Its design marries traditional Georgian masonry with a local interpretation of the contemporary Iranian architectural taste. The building has three entrances, one facing west, one facing to the south, and the third facing to the north. The interior is crowned with a dome supported by the corners of the sanctuary and two basic piers. The façade is divided into three arched sections. The dome sits on an arcaded drum which is punctured by eight windows.
The bell-tower also houses a museum where several archaeological artifacts and the 16th-century cannon are displayed. The walls are adorned with a series of portraits of the kings of Kakheti by the modern Georgian painter Levan Chogoshvili (1985).
“Bebris Tsikhe" is an early to mid centuries castle in Kartli. It used to block the north side road of Aragvi ravine, this road went to Mtskheta. Vakhushti Bagrationi called it 'Belta Fortress.' The main part of the fortress was a citadel, which was surrounded by a triangular yard. There used to be three castles at three angles. There is archaeological evidence that there are antique and feudal age layers.
According to legend, this castle once belonged to a noble man named Simon. Simon had two children. One of his children was the beautiful Makrine and the other the heartless Mamuka. After the death of Simon, Mamuka charged local peasants at a high tax rate. Makrine felt sorry for the peasants, and asked Mamuka to lower their tax rate. Mamuka became furious at the request and locked Makrine in the castle.
One day, while some very watery and tasteless soup was being made for the peasants, a group of crows fell into the saucepans. Peasants poured all the soup away. Mamuka became very angry at seeing the waste of food. Mamuka began to chase the peasants.
Suddenly snakes came out of the saucepans and began circling Mamuka.
Mamuka feared for his life, and called out to God: “Help me and I will build you a church!”
Makrine witnessed this entire episode and began to pray. God heard this prayer and Mamuka and Makrine began living a religious life. Makrine became a nun and Mamuka became a monk.
Makrine ended up dying at 70 years of age. On the day of her funeral, a white bearded man visited her body, kissed her forehead, and said: “My sister, we have fulfilled our promise!”
After saying these words, he fell down and died. This is why this fortress is called “Bebris Tsikhe,” which means “The Elder’s Fortress.”
That's the legend of Bebris Tsikhe.
Subsequently, Surami declined but retained its lively trading post as well as the fortress which was reconstructed in the 16th and 17th centuries. By the mid-18th century, according to Prince Vakhushti, Surami had 200 households of Georgians, Armenians and Jews. In the 1740s, Surami was used by Prince Givi Amilakhvari as his base against King Teimuraz II and Persians. After the prince’s surrender in 1745, the fortress was demolished, but later restored and exploited by the Russo-Georgian troops in anti-Ottoman operations during the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774). After the Russian annexation of Georgia in 1801, Surami housed a military post and was later popularized as a mountain climatic resort. In 1926, it acquired the status of "urban-type settlement"
The Legend of the Suram Fortress
An old legend has it that the walls of the Surami Fortress owe their sturdiness to the fact that they have a man buried within them – a mother’s only child by the name of Zurab. According to the legend’s narrative, the original builders had constant trouble putting up the walls of the fortress. No matter how well they built it, the walls kept crumbling for no apparent reason. A fortune-teller told them that the walls would not hold unless a young man, an only child, was bricked up within them. It was very hard for Zurab’s mother to part with her son, but she agreed to it out of love for her homeland (and a probably touch of old-fashioned pagan beliefs). She was present as her son was being buried alive by workers, calling to him until he was no longer able to respond. True to the prophecy, the walls of the fortress held after Zurab’s sacrifice.
The Zarzma Monastery of Transfiguration (Georgian: ზარზმის მონასტერი, zarzmis p'erists'valebis monasteri) is a medieval Orthodox Christian monastery located at the village of Zarzma in Samtskhe-Javakheti region, southwest Georgia.
The Zarzma monastery is nested in the forested river valley of Kvabliani in the Adigeni municipality, 30 km west of the city of Akhaltsikhe. It is the complex of a series of buildings dominated by a domed church and a belfry, one of the largest in Georgia.
The earliest church on the site was probably built in the 8th century, by the monk Serapion whose life is related in the hagiographic novel by Basil of Zarzma. According to his source, the great nobleman Giorgi Chorchaneli made significant donation – including villages and estates – to the monastery. The extant edifice dates from the early years of the 14th century, however. Its construction was sponsored by Beka I, Prince of Samtskhe and Lord High Mandator of Georgia of the Jaqeli family. What has survived from the earlier monastery is the late 10th-century Georgian inscription inserted in the chapel's entrance arch. The inscription reports the military aid rendered by Georgian nobles to the Byzantine emperor Basil II against the rebellious general Bardas Sclerus in 979.In 1544, the new patrons of the monastery – the Khursidze family – refurnished the monastery.
The façades of the church are richly decorated and the interior is frescoed. Apart from the religious cycles of the murals there are a series of portraits of the 14th-century Jaqeli family as well as of the historical figures of the 16th century. After the Ottoman conquest of the area later in the 16th century, the monastery was abandoned and lay in disrepair until the early 20th century, when it was reconstructed, but some of the unique characteristics of the design were lost in the process.
Currently, the monastery is functional and houses a community of Georgian monks. It is also the site of pilgrimage and tourism.
A smaller replica of the Zarzma church, known as Akhali Zarzma ("New Zarzma") is located in the same municipality, near Abastumani. It was commissioned by Grand Duke George Alexandrovich, a member of the Russian imperial family, from the Tbilisi-based architect Otto Jacob Simons who built it between 1899 and 1902, marrying a medieval Georgian design with the contemporaneous architectural forms. Its interior was frescoed by the Russian painter Mikhail Nesterov.