Georgia's ancient and vibrant capital city spreads out on both banks of the Mtkvari River, and is surrounded on three sides by mountains. The most widely accepted variant of the legend of Tbilisi's founding says that in the mid-5th century AD, King Vakhtang I Gorgasali was hunting in the heavily wooded region with a falcon. The King's falcon allegedly caught or injured a pheasant during the hunt, after which both birds fell into a nearby hot spring and died from burns. King Vakhtang became so impressed with the hot springs that he decided to cut down the forest and build a city. The name Tbilisi derives from the Old Georgian word "tbili", meaning warm. Archaeological studies of the region indicate human settlement in the area early as the 4th millennium BC.
Anchiskhati Church The Anchiskhati Basilica of St Mary is the oldest surviving church in Tbilisi dating from the 6th century. The church was named for an invaluable icon of the Savior which was once kept here and is now on display in the Treasury of the Georgian Art Museum.
Sioni Cathedral (7th century) is named after Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. It is considered one of the most sacred places in the country since it houses the holy cross of St. Nino, the young woman who converted Georgia to Christianity in the early 4th century.
Metekhi Church The extant Metekhi Church of Assumption, resting upon the top of the hill, was built by the Georgian king St Demetrius II circa 1278–1284 and is somewhat an unusual example of domed Georgian Orthodox church. The church has been destroyed many times by the enemy. During the Tsarist regime there was a prison there and in Soviet times Metekhi was used as a theatre. In was only in the late 1980s that the church was reconstructed again.
Narikala Fortress (4th century) is built on a steep hill overlooking the river and predates even the founding of the city itself. The Persian name Nari-Kala (“inaccessible fortress”) has proven apt throughout the long centuries of invasion and foreign domination, but today visitors are welcome to climb up and enjoy the superb views from the citadel walls.
Sulfur baths are one of the major attractions of Tbilisi. For many centuries baths were not only a place of cure and bathing, but also a significant place for communication. People have stayed here until the morning to discuss problems or share news. There were also luxurious baths for the princess, baths for gentlemen and officers, and baths for local inhabitants.Today, thanks to its healing properties, some baths converted into water treatment facilities. A few hours spent in the warm water source makes person feel better and get a lot of fun. Also, here you can visit the swimming pool or a massage.
Mtskheta was the ancient capital of Kartli, the East Georgian Kingdom from the 3rd century BC to the 5th century AD, and was also the location where Christianity was proclaimed as the official religion of Georgia in 337.
The favourable natural conditions, its strategic location at the intersection of trade routes, and its close relations with the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, Syria, Palestine, and Byzantium, generated and stimulated the development of Mtskheta and led to the integration of different cultural influences with local cultural traditions. After the 6th century AD, when the capital was transferred to Tbilisi, Mtskheta continued to retain its leading role as one of the important cultural and spiritual centres of the country.
The Holy Cross Monastery of Jvari, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Samtavro Monastery are key monuments of medieval Georgia. The present churches include the remains of earlier buildings on the same sites, as well as the remains of ancient wall paintings. The complex of the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in the centre of the town includes the cathedral church, the palace and the gates of the Katolikos Melchizedek that date from the 11th century, built on the site of earlier churches dating back to the 5th century. The cruciform cathedral is crowned with a high cupola over the crossing, and there are remains of important wall paintings in the interior. The rich sculpted decoration of the elevations dates from various periods over its long history. The small domed church of the Samtavro Monastery was originally built in the 4th century and has since been subject to various restorations. The main church of the monastery was built in the early 11th century. It contains the grave of Mirian III, the king of Iberia who established Christianity as official religion in Georgia.
The Historical Monuments of Mtskheta contain archaeological remains of great significance that testify to the high culture in the art of building, masonry crafts, pottery, as well as metal casting and processing, and the social, political, and economic evolution of this mountain kingdom for some four millennia. They also represent associative values with religious figures, such as Saint Nino, whose deeds are documented by Georgian, Armenian, Greek and Roman historians, and the 6th-century church in Jvari Monastery remains the most sacred place in Georgia.
The historical monuments of Mtskheta bear testimony to the high level of art and culture of the vanished Kingdom of Georgia, which played an outstanding role in the medieval history of its region. They express the introduction and diffusion of Christianity to the Caucasian mountain region and bear testimony of the social, political and economic evolution of the region since the late 3rd millennium BC.
The historic churches of Mtskheta, including Jvari Monastery, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Samtavro Monastery, are outstanding examples of medieval ecclesiastical architecture in the Caucasus region, and represent different phases of the development of this building typology, ranging from the 4th to the 18th centuries." (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/708)
Tour Duration: 6 Hour
Recommended starting time: 9:00 am
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