CROSS-DOMED CHURCH, 6th - 7th centuries AD. KARTLI/ MTSKHETA, 30 km from Tbilisi

Jvari Monastery (literally “Monastery of the Cross”) is a sixth century Georgian Orthodox monastery near Mtskheta, eastern Georgia. Jvari was listed together with other monuments of Mtskheta in 1994 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Jvari Monastery stands on the rocky mountaintop at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, overlooking the town of Mtskheta, which was formerly the capital of the Kingdom of Iberia. This example of classic tetraconchal church design with all its miniature size, strikes the viewers with its grandeur and integrity. The interior, once decorated with mosaics is rather bare today, but a spectacular view opens from the church, which is seen from far away, equally well from all directions. According to traditional accounts, on this location in the early 4th century Saint Nino, a female evangelist credited with converting King Mirian III of Iberia to Christianity, erected a large wooden cross on the site of a pagan temple. The cross was reportedly able to work miracles and therefore drew pilgrims from all over the Caucasus. A small church was erected over the remnants of the wooden cross in c. 545 named the "Small Church of Jvari". The present building or "Great Church of Jvari" was built between 590 and 605 AD by feudal lord Stepanoz I. This is based on the Jvari inscriptions on its façade, which mentions the principal builders of the church: Stephanos the patricius, Demetrius the hypatos, and Adarnase the hypatos.

CROSS-DOMED CHURCH, 11th century AD. KARTLI / MTSKHETA 25 km from Tbilisi

The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (literally “the Cathedral of the Living Pillar”) is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral located in the historic town of Mtskheta, Georgia, to the northwest of the Georgian capital Tbilisi. A masterpiece of the Early Middle Ages, Svetitskhoveli is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is currently the second largest church building in Georgia, after the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Known as the burial site of Holy Coat, Svetitskhoveli has been one of the principal Georgian Orthodox churches and is among the most venerated places of worship in the region. An enormous cedar tree grew on a place where Christ's seamless coat was buried. The place was chosen as a site for the future church and this magic tree served as a pillar for construction. This bright example of Georgian renaissance architecture was built in the 11th century, in the place where the first church in Georgia once stood in the 4th century. The present structure was completed in 1029 by the medieval Georgian architect Arsukisdze.

CROSS-DOMED CHURCH, 12th century AD. IMERETI, 259 Km from Tbilisi

Gelati is a medieval monastic complex near Kutaisi, in the Imereti region of western Georgia. A masterpiece of the Georgian Golden Age, Gelati was founded in 1106 by King David IV of Georgia and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The Gelati Monastery has preserved a great number of murals and manuscripts dating back to the 12th to 17th centuries. The Khakhuli triptych was enshrined at Gelati until being stolen in 1859. Gelati is the burial site of its founder and one of the greatest Georgian kings David IV. Near King David's grave are the gates of Ganja, which were taken as a trophy by King Demetrius I of Georgia in 1138.

ARCHITECTURAL ENSEMBLE - tower-houses and ancient one-nave basilicas, Medieval centuries. UPPER SVANETI, 550 km from Tbilisi

Ushguli is a community of four villages (Zhibiani, Chvibiani, Chazhashi, Murkmeli) located at the head of the Enguri gorge in Svaneti, Georgia. Ushguli is a complex of watch-towers, dwelling-houses and ancient one-nave basilicas with impressive mural paintings. Recognized as the Upper Svaneti UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ushguli is one of the highest continuously inhabited settlements in Europe. Compared to somewhat more developed towns like Mestia, Ushguli has been "saved" by its particularly inaccessible location, which helped preserve the villages' timeless feel. Preserved by its long isolation, the Upper Svaneti region of the Caucasus is an exceptional example of mountain scenery with medieval-type villages and tower-houses. The village of Chazhashi still has more than 200 of these very unusual houses, which were used both as dwellings and as defence posts against the invaders who plagued the region. Surrounded by the giant snow-capped mountains, Ushguli is located at an altitude of 2,100 metres (6,900 ft) near the foot of mount Shkhara (5200m), one of the highest summits of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. About 70 families (about 200 people) live in the area, enough to support a small school. The area is snow-covered for 6 months of the year, and often the road to Mestia is impassable. Typical Svaneti defensive towers are found throughout the village. The Ushguli Chapel located on a hilltop near the village dates back to the 12th century.


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