Nearest town: Gori, Region: Shida (Inner) Kartli, XI Century AD

Samtavisi domed Cathedral, built in 1030 by architect Hillarion Samtavneli, is remarkable due to the beauty of proportions and refinement of carving on the façades. Compared with other similar structures of the same period its plan is somewhat truncated, almost square. There is a new system of decoration on the eastern façade, which was later developed more fully and became popular it is a composition in the form of a large ornamented cross and decorated window surrounds with lozenge pattern beneath them. A blind arcade forms an organic part of the overall decoration of the façade. Besides the splendidly executed carving, there is an interesting bas-relief of griffin, under the right-hand arch. There are fragments of 17th century frescoes in the interior.

The Cathedral has been repaired repeatedly. In the 15th century, the dome and the western wall were built anew. Within the enclosed area of the Cathedral, there are the remains of a dwelling, the so-called bishop's palace. At the entry to the enclosure stands a gate belfry of the late feudal period.



Region: Mtskheta-Mtianet

Shatili is a historic highland village in Georgia, near the border with Chechnya. It is located on the northern slope of the Greater Caucasus mountains, in the historical Georgian province of Upper Khevsureti, which is now part of the modern-day region (mkhare) of Mtskheta-Mtianeti.

Located in the deep Arghuni gorge at approximately 1,400 meters, the village is actually a unique complex of medieval-to-early modern fortresses and fortified dwellings of stone and mortar, which functioned both as a residential area and as a fortress guarding the north-eastern outskirts of the country. The fortress consists of the terraced structures dominated by flat-roofed dwellings and some 60 towers which cluster together to create a single chain of fortifications.

Unique architectural methods and thought are realised in Shatili: selection of location, development of the land with complicated relief, rational land tenure, multifunctionalism, vertical zoning of construction, optimal orientation.

Both single monuments and the overall urban structure with their characteristic components (towers, residential complexes, sowing, chapels) are of special importance. 



City with special status: Tbilisi, V Century AD

Tbilisi is a grand sample of Georgian urban heritage, in which an interesting process of adoption of foreign influences penetrating in the course of the centuries, their creative transformation and adaptation to the traditional Georgian dwelling and its planning structure is still alive. Major factor determining a character of the original national culture - geo-political location of Georgia on the cross-roads of Europe and Asia with all consequent historical conditions - had drastically affected Tbilisi, fifteen century old capital of the country, being reflected in its unique artistic and architectural integrity.

Remarkable peculiarity of the city is preconditioned by the active part played by the specific natural setting in the creation of its general aspect and despite significant interventions, original interconnection of the city and environment is still preserved. Narrow portion of the river bed selected for its location, mountain ridge on the right bank of the river destined for the citadel, picturesque rocky plateau on the opposite side, are stressedly perceptible in the general silhouette of the city. Minor structures of the Late Medieval urban fabric provide favourable background to the architectural accents - Narikala fortress and Metekhi church - crowning these monuments of nature.

Great is the historical significance of Tbilisi, permanent capital of the Christian Georgian state from the days of its foundation up to present, "grand city" of the historical Silk Road in the course of centuries, centre of the whole Caucasus from the 19th c. onwards.

Building layers dating to the foundation of the city together with spontaneously developed urban fabric of the feudal epoch, 19th century regular planning, buildings of "Stalin period" (already heritage of the past), all these form intricate city organism reflecting diverse stages in its history, being united by the unique "Tbilisian spirit" and, despite its certain eclectic character, combining it into an organic indivisible integrity.

Main determinant of the city architectural aspect - unique "Tbilisian spirit" and character of residential houses - is formed within its community, being imbued with its characteristic traits; these houses, with their age-old traditional dwelling types, preconditioned emergence of not only mode of life and tastes of always multi-national, free and tolerant in the respect of religious confession, united by the "Georgian habits and behaviour", open-hearted inhabitants of Tbilisi, but also universal warm and human environment, which is highly acceptable and desirable even today. Alongside functional perfection of the traditional dwelling, these houses reflect amazing diversity of the national artistic creativity, which is displayed in their spatial-compositional and artistic-aesthetic aspects. Apart from the unique listed dwellings with superb architectural and decorative rendering, distinction of each structure manifested in the originality of its solution and interrelation with the setting, give birth to numerous unexpected effects, imparting inner life to the city and despite rude disfigurement, still preserve their originality.

A balcony and a courtyard - characteristic elements of the traditional southern dwellings - are turned into indivisible components of Tbilisi dwelling houses, in which possibilities of homogeneous building material - wood and brick - are fully revealed. Interesting "Tbilisian" model of "open dwelling" is elaborated by means of well thought off connection of the courtyards and balconies with the street. Here a balcony had undergone interesting development in the process of adaptation to the common European style façades; the same is the case with the courtyards, which had even penetrated into the Art Nouveau style buildings contributing to the creation of its unforgettable "Tbilisian" samples.

Apart from all mentioned above, organic inter-connection of the city "weaving over" the mountain slope and rocky plateau with the environment, dynamics of outlines of the streets, dwellings, views, ensembles of buildings formed by their planning and spatial-conceptual integrity, multi-layer and diverse urban fabric, which was given birth by the local highly artistic individuality of the city, its cosmopolitan nature and historical destiny - permanent destruction and renovation, all form quite a strange complex of values, turning Tbilisi into a specific urban phenomenon, definitely manifesting its significance.



Nearest town: Gori, Region: Shida (Inner) Kartli, II—I millennium BC

Uplistsikhe Cave Town-Fortress is situated on a rocky massif in 15 km eastwards to town Gori on the left bank of the river Mtkvari. The fortress is mentioned in chronicles from earliest times. Its history begins in the I-II millennium B.C. Uplistsikhe was an important religious, political and cultural centre in the Hellenistic and the late Antique periods (IV c. B.C. - IV c. A.D.).  The town was in its heyday as far back as the 9th - 11th centuries. In 13th century, it was ravaged by Mongols.

Living quarters and premises for communal purposes occupy a cliff territory of almost 8 hectares and are connected by footways. The majority of the caves are devoid of any decorations. The central ensemble, a big hall with coffered tunnel-vaulted ceiling, and the palace complex, is the most interesting one architecturally. The natural rock easily lent itself to various kinds of treatment, making it possible to create complex decorative compositions. The ribbed ceiling with an aperture, a smoke outlet which also admitted light, was supported by two columns carved from the living rock; the hall had niches-loggias on three sides. Next to this hall, a three-nave basilica was hewn from rock in the second half of the 6th century, and to the east of it, a three-church basilica of brick was built in the 9th - 10th centuries. The cave complexes dating to high medieval times usually included a number of small hall-churches beside the dwellings.

Archaeological excavations have revealed extraordinary artefacts of different epochs: beautiful golden, silver and bronze jewellery, magnificent samples of ceramics and sculptures.



Region: Imereti, VII—I Centuries BC

Vani (7th -1st centuries BC) is an ancient temple city in the Colchis Lowlands located on the western bank of the Sulori River at its confluence with the Rioni River. It is located on a hill bordered by two ravines and overlooks the plains through which the Rioni River flows. There are beguiling views of the Sulori River Valley with its surrounding hills and the Meskhetian Mountain Range in the background. Ancient Colchians chose this strategic location as the political, economic and spiritual centre of their community. The name of this ancient city is still unknown but four distinct stages of uninterrupted occupation have been identified.

The site seems to have been dominated by a local aristocracy with a socially stratified, urbanized society. The Early Hellenistic Period of the mid 4th to the mid 3rd Century BC gave rise to a more marked Greek influence. Stone structures are utilized for the first time and many elements of Greek architecture are used. There is evidence of Greek customs being imitated in their burials and Greek innovations in gold fabrication techniques are observed. However, roof tiles, pottery and coins from Sinop as well as Cappadocian influences on signet rings and other glyptic items indicate an expansion of commercial activity with other areas and coincide with the decline of Attic imports in the Black Sea trade.

The antique city of Vani is again coming to light thanks to the work of archaeologists. Temples and sacrificial altars from the period before the Birth of Christ have yielded up beautiful examples of gold and silver jewellery and coins, all of which are now on display at the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi.

Vani is best known for the extensive archaeological excavations that have taken place there during the past 100 years. Although only a third of the site has been studied, it has produced an astonishing number of artefacts: Colchis pottery, exquisite golden jewellery unique to Colchis, imported Greek luxury items, graceful bronze sculptures and a vast array of funerary pieces. Artefacts (mainly Colchis pottery) of the first stage, 8th to early 6th Century BC, are relatively few and badly damaged. A sacrificial area was found with clay animal offerings suggesting some importance of Vani over the adjoining areas, which yielded no similar findings.  The second stage, early 6th to mid 4th Century BC, reveals many changes. An abundance of artefacts are found including imported Greek painted pottery and new types of pottery for the storage or transportation of cereals, oil and honey as well as the fermentation and storage of wine. Rich burial sites with large quantities of golden jewellery, silver and bronze adornments, pottery and luxury items befitting the status of the deceased indicate that the ruling elite were buried here while poorer graves were found only in the surrounding areas.



Region: Samtskhe-Javakheti, X—XVI Centuries AD

Vardzia-Khertvisi, comprising a vast territory in the upper reaches of the river Mtkvari basin, and spread over 18 km from Khertvisi (Medieval residence) to Vardzia (12th-13th cc. rock-cut monastery) is significant in many respects: unique natural conditions contributing to the specific microclimate and landscape, historical context and diversity of cultural heritage.

Rock-cut complexes forms integrate part of the landscape. Rock-cut structures of the nominated site have preserved interiors and planning type, which have not reached us in the samples of built architecture. This is especially vivid in the samples of vernacular architecture, monk cells, subsidiary and public structures. Rock-cut monuments preserved in Vardzia-Khertvisi gorge comprise quite vast chronological limits - from the 8th-9th cc. up to 15th-16th cc. They make to possible to trace development of the type from simple caves up to grand, multi-tiered complexes. This gorge has preserved rock-cut villages with the unique samples of dwellings, minor and great monastic complexes, with the masterpieces of the medieval mural painting, as well as epigraphical monuments containing important historical records.

Fortification structures of the site are erected in strategically important places. At the same time, aesthetic aspects are also taken into consideration, being reflected in the ingenuous merging with the setting. This interconnection is harmonious to such an extent that local landscape is hardly imaginable without these structures. 

Murals preserved in the site are not numerous, but have crucial significance in the development of the Medieval Georgian mural painting. They range from the earlier period (10th c.), when a tradition of complete church decoration was not yet fully  established  in Georgia,  up to Late  Middle Ages  (16th c.). Of special significance are the murals in the main church of Vardzia rock-cut monastic complex (12th.), containing portraits of the Georgian royal family. This epoch marks a heyday of the Medieval Georgian mural painting, being reflected in the highest development of the national artistic traditions and clear cut originality of its brightest samples, which greatly differ from the contemporary Byzantine monuments. 

Archaeological excavations provide evidence on dense habitation of this area beginning from the Eneolythic epoch. Burial-mounds unearthed here (17th-16th cc. BC) confirm existence of the local centre of Trialeti culture. They show that at that period the gorge was inhabited by separate families united in tribal organisations. 

This area is rich in the epigraphical monuments - building and memorial inscriptions, executed in old Georgian uncial script "Asomtavruli", which represent an important historical source. Vast chronological range of these monuments show development of the letter outlines from the 9th c. up to 18th c. Of special interest are painted inscriptions and inscriptions written in ink. 

Numerous rock-cut samples of Georgian vernacular architecture preserved in the Vardzia-Khertvisi area, make it possible to identify spatial and planning organisation of dwellings, fortification system, arrangement of dwelling chambers and subsidiary structures. 

Among the monuments preserved in the site, distinguished are tetrahedral stone stelaeerected in the open air (Zeda Tmogvi, Pia, etc.). Tradition of erecting such stelae in Georgia goes back to the period of Christianisation of the country (4th c.). These monuments are decorated with ornamentation, symbolic and figure representations. Chronological range of these interesting samples of the Medieval Georgian art covers 6th-9th cc. 

Vardzia-Khertvisi area has preserved both churches of high artistic value and ordinarymodest chapels. These are mainly domeless structures. Special mention should be made of the two aisled churches type samples of which are also preserved here (Zeda Vardzia 11th c.). It should be noted that development of this architectural type wide spread in Georgia could be traceable on the example of Georgian samples only. Ordinary chapels are characterised quite high building mastery and interesting artistic solution. They belong to the local so called "Javakhetian" architectural school. 

Landscape of the nominated area is a distinguished monument of nature and human activity. Villages and their arable lands located in the deep canyon of the gorge are situated on the terraces following topography of the gorge. Fortresses and churches erected on high mountains and hills are perceived as distinguished vertical accents in such a horizontally developed setting. They terminate and emphasise natural verticals, being in perfect harmony with the latter. They introduce great emotional impulse imparting specific grandeur to the whole environment. The same artistic affect is created by rock-cut monasteries and villages arranged in several tiers on high rocky mountain slopes.




First | Before | 1 |  2 
Banners

Georgia & The Great Caucasus, Full Documentary

13 Important Facts about Georgia

Abano Pass, Georgia - the highest road pass in the Caucasus (2,950 metres - 9,680 ft)



ASM © 2016