Located at the crossroads of East and West, a mere 100 years ago Tbilisi was still replete with the coexistence of these two great cultural centers. Multicultural Tbilisi was created by the sharing of cultures, and as such the resultant variety of Eastern styles and free interpretations of Western culture was completely natural. However, Tbilisi offered each culture a local basis and revealed them as being conceived at its own core.
The Church of St. Cyricus and Julitta, known as Lagurka, is the most venerated church in Upper Svaneti (a mountainous north-western region of Georgia). July 28th, the commemoration day of the Holy Martyrs St. Cyricus and St. Julitta, is one of the main religious feasts in Svaneti, and is celebrated every year at Lagurka Church. The locals call this feast Kvirikoba (the day of St. Cyricus).
The Church of St. George stands in a thick forest on the edge of Daba village in the historic province of Tori, which has also been referred to as Borjomi Gorge since the nineteenth century. The church is built right up against a steep cliff, and its southern wall is nestled in the concavity of the rock.
The church was decorated with murals from the very beginning of the 11thc. Unfortunately, very scant fragments of these paintings are preserved in the diaconicon and prosthesis, mostly comprising ornamental bands, as well as a few figures: e.g. the figure of the Prophet Zachariah with an accompanying Georgian inscription. Both the paleography of the inscriptions and the style of the painting reveal many common features with murals from this period in other regions of Georgia, namely Tao-Klarjeti.
The 19th century was a period when the architecture of Tbilisi underwent a significant change. The entrance hall appeared in the architecture of residential houses, which became a sign of respectability and Europeanization. Since the 1850s-60s, luxuriously decorated entrance halls emerged as an important element of "fashionable" buildings. They determined the culture and atmosphere of urban life, and imparted a festive and characteristic appearance to Tbilisi’s houses. The entrance hall became a link between public and private spaces. Its style of decoration and wall paintings tells us the history and life-story of the house; gives us information about its builder, decorator, and owner; it acted as a kind of “calling card” of the owner and was thus particularly lavishly decorated.
The Tenth Century Murals of Otkhta Ekleisia Church (Dőrt Kilise) in Tao-Klarjeti (present-day Turkey)
Tbilisi’s Muslim population appeared after the conquest of the city by Arabs in the early eighth century. Several mosques were erected in Tbilisi during the Middle Ages. The largest among them was the Shi’a mosque that stood on the right bank of the Mtkvari, close to the river. According to oral tradition, it was built by Shah Ismail I of Iran, who invaded Georgia and occupied Tbilisi from 1522 to 1524.
The church in Tsromi is one of the most important early medieval buildings in Georgia, from both architectural and historical points of view. According to tradition, the church was erected at the place where St. Razhden the Protomartyr, a fifth-century Iranian convert to Christianity, was executed.
The Church of the Savior of Mghvimevi, which dates from the 1270s, stands on a steep cliff face high above the road in a suburb of the city of Chiatura in Imereti. It is built in front of a natural cave, and is partly sheltered by a large overhanging steep ledge of rock (the name of the place derives from Mghvime, which means cave in Georgian). The site was artificially widened by means of a high platform built up against the rock.
Pushkin Street house Nº 3 stands on Freedom Square, near the historic Kojori Gate, from where the nineteenth-century development of Tbilisi’s Garetubani District began.
Lado Alexi-Meskhishvili is one of the most outstanding architects, whose creative work has left a significant mark on Georgia, particularly in Tbilisi. Alexi-Meskhishvili was destined to work during a very interesting time period. He obtained his architectural education in Georgia (1933-1939), at the then Faculty of Construction at the Georgian Polytechnical Institute named after Kirov.
Ateni is located in Shida Kartli province, 15 km from the town of Gori. The church known as Sioni (i. e. Zion) stands on a giant artificial platform constructed atop a cliff at a bend in the Tana River gorge.
The building of the former Ministry of Automobile Roads of Georgia, which is currently the Bank of Georgia Headquarters, has weathered the test of people’s opinions and, most importantly, of time. Today, this building serves as an advertisement for Georgia on the world map of twentieth-century architecture.
Kvatakhevi Monastery is located in the province of Shida Kartli, deep in the Kavtura River Gorge, far from any towns or villages. The monastic buildings occupy a plot of land that lies between forest covered mountains.
Chitakhevi Monastery, which is popularly known as the Green Monastery, is located in a peaceful picturesque ravine about 15 km from the spa town of Borjomi.
Martqopi Monastery is located about 25 km east of Tbilisi. Its history goes back to the mid-sixth century when St. Anton, one from the group of monks known as the “thirteen Syrian Fathers,” settled here.
The Tao-Klarjeti region, which is located in what is now north-eastern Turkey, used to be one of the most prominent political and cultural centres of medieval Georgia, especially in the 9th –13th cc. The history of these monuments is closely linked to one of the most important moments in the history of Georgia – namely the upsurge of a strong movement aimed at unifying the Georgian kingdoms and principalities was initiated in this very region in the 9-10th cc.
The monastery in Sapara has existed since the 10th century. The single-nave church of the Dormition of the Virgin belongs to this period. From the second half of the 13th century, Sapara became the residence and burial place of the Jakeli: the Rulers (Atabags) of Samtskhe (a historical region of south-western Georgia).
The main building of Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University has a particular significance for the city from architectural, urban, and historical points of view. The building was designed by architect Simon Kldiashvili. Financed entirely by donations from Georgian society, construction began in 1900 and was mostly completed by 1906.
The Church of the Nativity of the Virgin, which is located in Zemo (Upper) Kala District and known as Anchiskhati, is the oldest preserved church in Tbilisi. Its plan, architectural design, and building technique suggest a date in the early Christian period.
Gremi is the former capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti. Its archaeological site includes a citadel, royal quarter, and trade district. The Church of the Archangels in the citadel was built by King Levan in 1565. It is one of the best examples of the sixteenth-century Georgian architecture
The Church of St. Nicholas stands on a small elevation in the village of Nikortsminda (Racha region). According to the inscription on the west façade, it was built in the latter years (1010-1014) of the reign of King Bagrat III (975–1014). The Church is preserved in almost original condition, though traces of the restoration that was carried out in the 16th century are evident on its façades.
The National Botanical Garden of Georgia is located in the gorge of the Tsavkisis-Tskali River (a tributary of the Kura River), near the old district of Tbilisi. To the north, the Garden is bordered by a mountain ridge surmounted by the Medieval fortress, Narikala.
The Monastery of St. Nino at Bodbe is located in Kakheti region, 2 km from the town of Sighnaghi. The history of the site goes back to the early Christian period. According to Georgian tradition, Bodbe is the burial place of St Nino, the Enlightener of Georgia.
Nekresi Monastery, which is one of the oldest monasteries in Georgia, is located in Kakheti, Eastern Georgia. It was erected on top of a hill, on the site of an ancient settlement, and boasts magnificent panoramic views overlooking the vast Alazani valley and the Caucasus Mountains.
Ubisi monastery was founded in the 9th century by Grigol Khandzteli – a prominent cleric and founder of numerous monasteries in Georgia. The monastery comprises several buildings, the earliest of which is the single nave church of St. George dating from the 9th century (the annexes of the church are from a later period).
Ananuri is a picturesque castle located in the Aragvi Gorge. Looking out over the foothills to the plain beyond, the castle is a notable landmark along the historic road that connects Georgia to the North Caucasus.
The icon of Ancha or Anchiskhati, a replica of the Holy Face of Edessa – the image of Christ “not made by human hand,” is one of the major relics of the Georgian Church.
Building number eight on Marjanishvili Street in Tbilisi, which presently houses the Kote Marjanishvili State Academic Drama Theatre, was constructed between 1902 and 1907 according to the design of architect Stephan Krichinski, and under the supervision of architect Alexandr Rogoiski.
Betania monastery is located in the valley of the River Vera, not far from Tbilisi. The monastery was founded in the 11th century by the powerful Orbeliani family, and became a shrine for its members.
Tamar is referred to as King and not Queen in the inscriptions accompanying the portraits, which makes her equal to the King (a man). (Only in the Betania inscription is she referred to as both King and Queen, which might be the result of later renovations).
The rock-hewn town of Uplistsikhe, which is located in Shida Kartli region on the higher left bank of the Kura River near Gori, is one of Georgia’s most remarkable landmarks. It was an important urban centre during Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The name Uplistsikhe means “Fortress of God.”
Samtavisi Cathedral is located in Shida Kartli region (central Georgia), on the eastern bank of the Rekhula River. The first church on this site was founded in the 570s by Isidore, a monk from the group of so-called “Thirteen Syrian Fathers.”
The history of the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts is linked to one of the most unique and significant buildings in the capital of Georgia. The story of the building, which was first constructed as a palace and soon after transformed into a cultural center and higher education institute, has a particular significance of its own.
The Holy Cross Monastery in Jerusalem occupies a special place among the churches and monasteries that have been associated with the activities of Georgians in the Holy Land since the 5th c.
The Cathedral of St. George at Alaverdi is located 18 km from the town of Telavi in the Alazani Valley. Standing on a plain with the Greater Caucasus Mountains in the distance, the cathedral dominates the surrounding landscape. It is visible from many neighboring towns and villages, and is one of the landmarks of the Kakheti region.
The church of the Virgin at Timotesubani is located on the bank of the River Toristskali in the picturesque Borjomi gorge, not far from the town of Borjomi itself in the historic region of Tori. In historic sources the monastery is referred to as Kimotesmani and was founded by Shalva Toreli, eristavt-eristavi, the chancellor of Queen Tamar.
Shiomghvime Monastery is set among the mountains in a picturesque ravine, 10 km west of Mtskheta. Its history dates back to the mid-sixth century when St. Shio, from the group of monks known as the “thirteen Syrian Fathers,” settled here.
The house number thirteen on Machabeli Street in Tbilisi is distinguished both for its history and architecture. It belonged to the famous Georgian brandy producer David Sarajishvili, known not only for his prosperous entrepreneurship, but also for his charitable activity.
Built in 1909, the Apollo is one of the oldest movie theaters in Georgia, and the only surviving Art Nouveau style cinema in Tbilisi. It was the very first movie theater in the country that was initially built as such, and the building has never changed its purpose, which is quite rare in the history of cinema.
Among numerous archeological discoveries made in Georgia over recent years, the Grakliani Hill find has attracted special attention
Vardzia’s rock-hewn architectural ensemble is situated in historic Javakheti, South Georgia, on the left bank of the river Mtkvari. It served as fortification, as well as religious and habitation purposes, and has outstanding artistic and historical significance.
Near the village of Geguti, 7 km south of Kutaisi, where the Rioni Valley opens into a wide plain, stands a large ruined palace that once belonged to the Georgian monarchy. It has been supposed that the palace was built on the remains of a Roman castellum, which can be identified as being that of Mocheresis mentioned by ancient authors.
In ancient times, a large fortress known as Apsaros was located in the modern village of Gonio, and served as one of the most important Roman strongholds in the Eastern Black Sea region. Although the exact date of its foundation is unknown, it is believed to have been built in the first century AD, and restored in the fourth and sixth centuries.
In the later half of the fifth century, the king of Iberia (east Georgia) Vakhtang Gorgasal established a number of new dioceses and built cathedrals in their centres. One of the most important among them is the Sioni (Zion) Cathedral at Bolnisi.
The triptych created for the enamelled image of the Supplicating Virgin, originally belonging to Khakhuli monastery in southwest Georgia, is one of the most brilliant “royal” icons created in medieval Georgia.
Zedazeni is one of the oldest Georgian monasteries. Its history dates back to 510s, when St. John of Zedazeni (Ioane Zedazneli in Georgian), the leader of the group of monks known as “thirteen Syrian Fathers,” secluded himself on the summit of Mount Zeda Zadeni.
Georgian icon painting has a centuries long history. Although according to Georgian Church tradition the cult of icons in Georgia goes back to apostolic times, the earliest preserved painted icons are dated back to the late 10th – early 11th cc.
Akhaltsikhe is one of the oldest Georgian cities, being known from written sources since the twelfth century. As an important military stronghold and regional political centre, it always attracted the attention of neighboring powers that aimed to dominate over the South Caucasus region. In the 1570s, Akhaltsikhe was conquered and remained under Ottoman rule until 1828, when the city was captured by the Russian Empire.
Tbilisi Architecture Biennial, conceived under the name “What Do We Have in Common''. Purpose of the projects has a far-reaching significance that will resonate in the future.
History of Tbilisi hotels is one of the bridges that link Georgian history with European history.
Medieval Georgian sculpture was formed in the bosom of local culture under the influence of Hellenistic and Persian, as well as the East Christian artistic traditions.
St. Nicholas church, a cross-dome brick construction, was commissioned by Antoni Glonistavisdze, Archbishop of Tshkondidi and Mtsignobartukhutsesi (the chancellor) of Queen Tamar, in the early 13th c.
The first years of independence turned to be very tough for Georgia. The painful process of transformation from planned command system to market economy was accompanied by military conflicts and political chaos that caused deep social and economic crisis of the country in the early 1990s.
The first opera performances in Tbilisi were staged in the mid-nineteenth century. The present building of Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theatre was constructed from 1880 to 1896 by Viktor Schroeter, a prolific architect from St-Petersbourg who worked in many cities of the Russian Empire.
The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta is Georgia’s most famous landmark. According to Georgian tradition, it stands on the burial site of the Christ's chiton.
After the conversion of Iberia (east Georgia) around 330, St Nino, the illuminatrix of Georgia, erected a large wooden cross on the mountaintop near Mtskheta, which drew a lot of worshippers. Chroniclers mention it as an important pilgrimage site and one of the most sacred places in the Caucasus. Between 545 and 586, a small church, the so-called Minor Church of the Holy Cross, was built next to the cross. The Major church that covered the wooden cross was constructed between 586 and 605. It is a tetraconch, i. e. a domed building with four apses arranged in the cardinal directions. Between the apses there are additional chambers in all four corners, which communicate with the central space by means of 3/4 circular niches. The transition from the central square bay to the octagonal drum and further to the circle of the dome is effected through three rows of squinches.
The Christian architecture in Georgia begins around 330, when Christianity became the state religion. The newly converted King Mirian built the first church in the royal garden in Mtskheta, the ancient capital of East Georgian kingdom, on the site believed to be the burial place of the Christ's chiton. Emperor Constantine, willing to promote King Mirian's building activity, sent architects and masons to Georgia. Chronicles say that "the Greeks" built four churches in different regions of the country, but Constantinopolitan builders did not exert essential influence on the further development of Georgian church architecture.
The Historical Monuments of Mtskheta were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1994. The property consists of the Jvari Monastery, the Svetitstkhoveli Cathedral and the Samtavro Monastery. Major archaeological remains bearing witness to the high level of art and culture of Georgia over four millennia.