Tourist routes

Due to its historical-architectural, archaeological, natural and recreational potential, the Town of Mtskheta possesses tremendous advantages for tourism development.

Resort areas

Saguramo (prophylactic resort area for curing cardiologic diseases), Zedazeni, Tsitsamuri,

Tserovani, Tskhvarichamia (prophylactic resort area).

Protected areas

Saguramo natural reserve - with the area of some 5300 ha; its major part is covered with wood.

Rare endemic species are characteristic to this area.

 

Natural Monuments

Cherami Cliffs- Mtskheta Municipality, Military Road, at the 17th km. from Tbilisi, between villages Mukhatgverdi and Digomi; at 550-600 m from the sea level.

As a result of exposing to atmospheric precipitation, some peculiar karstic formations emerged on the right bank of Mtkvari River. The name Cherami Cliffs refers to the old Cherami village existing on this place before.

 

Forestry

Mtskheta forestry, area - 2800 ha

Main Rivers

Mtkvari, Aragvi, Ksani

 

Mountain Range

Skhaltba, Saguramo, Trialeti, Satskepela, Mskhaldidi, Kartli

Municipality is rich in versatile flora and fauna.

 

Overlooking Sites

Jvari, Zedazeni, Bagineti

 

Camping Sites

The area adjoining Samtavro Monastery (in Mtskheta)

The area adjoining the outside theater building (in Mtskheta)

 

Picnic Grounds

Pine forest by the side-street leading to Jvari Monastery (Mtskheta Municipality)

The area adjoining St. Demetre Church (Mtskheta Municipality)

The area adjoining the outside theater building (in Mtskheta)

The area adjoining Zedazeni Church „Nadarbazevi“ (the territory of Didgori experimental-exhibition husbandry)

 

Touristic bus stops

Mtskheta. In front of Samtavro Monastery, at bus station.

Mtskheta. At Antioch Church near bus station.

Natakhtari. The territory adjoining airdrome

 

Cultural Monuments

Mtskheta. Old town districts: Armaztsikhe – Bagineti – residence of Kartli Kingdom in I-V cc. AD; Armaziskhevi residence of Kartli rulers – I-V cc. AD, bathhouse- IV c. B.C. – IV c. AD.

Bebristsikhe (fortress) – early middle ages.

Svetitskhoveli architectural complex: domed cathedral built in 1010-1029.

Samtavro- domed Church, IX-XI cc.

Samtavro burial ground dated back to III millennium B.C.

St.Nino domed Church- V-VI cc.

Antioch Church- V-VI cc.

Mtskheta Jvari Monastery- VI-VII cc.

Mtskheta Shrine - I-II cc.

Shiomgvime - monastic complex: domed church VI c., cathedral XIIc.

Zedazeni - monastic complex: church VII-IX cc., fortress dated back to middle ages.

Dzalisi former settlement - II c. B.C. – VII c. AD.

Tsilkani Holy Mother Church - basilica V-VI cc., domed church dated back to Middle Ages.

Mukhrani Fortress - Defensive Wall - XIIIc. With two churches. Palace XIXc. Kaloubani St. George Church XIIc.

 

Museums

State Archaeological Museum-Reserve of Great Mtskheta (in Mtskheta)

Ilia Tchavtchavadze House-Museum (in Saguramo)

 

Open Museums

Bagineti – residence of Kartli Kingdom

Armaziskhevi residence of Kartli rulers

Samtavro burial ground

Dzalisi former settlement

 

Touristic routes of Mtskheta

Svetiskheveli Cathedral

Samtavro architectural complex

Armaztsikhe (Bagineti) Royal Residence

Armaziskhevi. Archaeological complex

„Child Archaeology“ - burial ground at Samtavro valley

Bebris Tsikhe (fortress)

Jvari Monastery

Zedazeni Monastery

Shiomgvime, monastic complex

Dzalisi former settlement

Religious tours

Weekends in Mtskheta (accommodation in guesthouses)

Picnics (Bagineti, Karsani, Shiomgvime, Zedazeni, Jvari)

 

 

Mtskheta Jvari Monastery  

Mtskheta Jvari Monastery (586/7 – 604) represents one of the outstanding monuments of Georgian and overall, the world’s architecture. Regardless of its relatively small size, the church is remarkable for its magnificent internal integrity of design, perfect proportions and artistic elaboration of its facades.

The name of the church originates from the big wooden cross erected by    St. Nino the Illuminator to the east of Mtskheta, on the top of the hill situated above the confluence of two rivers Mtkvari and Aragvi. It is noteworthy that the mount served as a significant religious center during pre-Christian times. It became even more important after the enhancement of the newly introduced Christianity, as pilgrims used to come to Mtskheta from all over the Caucasus and Armenia.

 

In the second half of the 2nd century, Guaram, the ruler of Kartli, had a small church built near the cross (known as the small Jvari church). Later on in the 580’s Guaram’s brother Stephanoz launched the construction of a bigger Jvari monastery in Mtskheta, which ended in 604.


Light pink and dark purple, well cut square stones were used for the construction of the facades and inside walls. All the horizontal rows of walls are perfectly aligned. 

There are two western and southern entryways to the church. In the centre of the dome, there is a cross shape relief (impression). The images of those historical people who sponsored the construction are inscribed in the central part of the eastern façade.  For example, a nobleman named Stephanoz is portrayed down on his knees in front of the Christ with a passage in Asomtavruli (old Georgian alphabet). On the left side is Stephanoz’s brother Demetre with a patron angel and the appropriate writing. On the right of Stephanoz stands his heir Adarnase with angels above him animated with open wings and hands stretched out. The child on his knees before the angel is Adarnase’s son. Above the southern entry, there is a cross ascended by angels, a well known scene throughout the Christian world. The figures of the angels are portrayed in high artistic manner. 

 

Anyone traveling to Tbilisi from the west or the north can sight the silhouette of the Jvari Monastery from a great distance.  As one gets closer, the views from different angles against the backgrounds of the sky or the mountains change significantly. It does not matter from which prospective you gaze upon it, Mtskheta’s Jvari monastery captivates the observer and excites the imagination in the way it blends harmoniously with nature and the mountain contours. It stands out as if emerged naturally from out of these mountains. "The feeling of the natural harmony” and the organic link between architecture and the environment represent the characteristic and an important feature of the Georgian monuments”- as the Academician Vakhtang Beridze put it.

Jvari Monastery has another folk name, the “Chain Church”, related to a legend dating back many centuries. According to the legend, the dome of Mtskheta’s Jvari Monastery was connected to the one of Svetiskhoveli Cathedral. The monks from the monastery used that chain to get to Svetistkhoveli. It is said that as a result of fading faith the chain was becoming thinner and eventually it disappeared in heaven forever. Mtskheta Jvari Monastery is the monument of both national and universal importance. Therefore, this magnificent monument of Georgian architecture has been entered in the list of the “World’s Cultural Heritage”.

 

Svetiskhoveli

Svetiskhoveli represents one of the greatest and most significant churches among the religious monuments of Georgia. It is located in the town of Mtskheta, the old capital of Georgia, some 20km north of Tbilisi. Through many centuries, Svetitskhoveli remained to be the religious center of Christian Georgia. At the same time, it has always been the burial ground of Bagrationi family members (as well as Gelati) and church dignitaries. According to the chroniclers, based on the advice of St.Nino the Illuminator, King Mirian made the decision to select the area called “King’s Paradise” for the construction of the first Christian church in Mtskheta. This choice was not made accidentally. “King’s Paradise” represented the most important religious center in the Kingdom of Kartli during pre-Christian times. Based on archeological and written sources, it is clear that on this site of the future Christian church (the northeastern section) there was a temple of the Sun, the main cult of the kingdom during the pagan period.

 

Svetitskhoveli Church was initially built in the 330s in honor of Jesus Christ.  It was later consecrated in honor of Twelve Disciples during the reign of Vakhtang Gorgasali (5th century). It went through several phases of both destruction and renovation. According to the Georgian manuscripts (“Conversion of Kartli”, “Nino’s life” and “The lives of the Georgian Kings” by Leonti Mroveli) the first church dating back to King Mirian’s epoch, was constructed using wooden beams. Nothing is said about building materials in Byzantine sources; however, Syrian manuscripts indicate that stone was used for the construction. This information seems to be reliable since in the kingdom, especially in Mtskheta, architects of the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D frequently used stone in building construction. Their sophisticated and intricate designs utilized combinations of different types of stones to include regular sand stones and cut marble in the construction of important buildings.  Archeological excavations revealed the ruins of various structures to include palace style buildings, royal tombs, and Roman-Asian baths.  Evidence of these and other structures was found on the site of the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.  

 

One of the most significant phases in the long history of Svetitskhoveli is the second half of the 5th century A.D. when King Vakhtang Gorgasali had a new and bigger church built instead of the destroyed one. The Georgian chronicler Juansher provides the information regarding the construction of  Svetistkhoveli in honor of Christ’s disciples.

The third and the main phase started in the 11th century, particularly in 1010, when Melkisedek I, Catholicos of all Georgia initiated the construction of a new church. Some two centuries earlier the situation in the kingdom of Kartli was extremely tense - the Arabs invaded the country several times. They devastated Mtskheta among other towns. According to Vakhushti Bagrationi, the enemy burnt down Svetitskhoveli and Jvari Monastery in Mtskheta. Melkisedek I gave the architect Arsukidze an honorary and daunting task to construct a new church. The name of the architect is engraved on the eastern façade of the church and above the main window of the northern wall.   Next to the writing there is a relief of the right hand and the square (name of the tool). The church built by Arsukidze was significantly damaged 2 and half centuries later as a result of Tamerlane invasions in 1380s. As the Georgian historian Beri Ignatashvili says, the Mongols obliterated and devastated Georgia, and defaced the holy church of Mtskheta. Due to the ailing economy of Georgia, the repairs and renovation of the cathedral started only in 50 years after the attacks.  Russa, the grandmother of King Alexander the Great assumed responsibility to accomplish this difficult mission. After her death King Alexander I, aged 24 (historically known as Alexander the Great) completed the repair works of the cathedral.  The dome and the roof were once again repaired by King Rostom I in 1656. The minor repair works continued throughout the following centuries but no significant changes were made to alter the general appearance of the church.

When an Exarch (in 1801) was in charge of Georgian Orthodox Church, the majority of the old paintings were plastered and whitewashed. Later on as a part of the plan to welcome the Russian Emperor Nicholas I, the decision was made to knock down the northern (the part of Archangel’s church) and southern parts of the church. Such actions that could not be justified in any ways did not only change Arsukidze’s original style significantly, but also damaged the church substantially. No original paintings (dating back to Arsukidze) have survived, though there is no doubt that such magificent cathedral would have been decorated with marvelous frescos.  The paintings that survived through the centuries date back to XVI – XVII and some part of them- XVIII centuries.  At the end of the second half of XIX century, some of the church walls were repainted.

 

Among the paintings of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, the most interesting is the one on “the pillar” painted by the Georgian painters under the leadership of Grigol Guljavarsashvili at the end of XVII century. This mission was initiated by Catholicos –Patriarch Nikoloz IX.

 

The cathedral wall erected along the inner court, was built by Erekle II, the King of Kartli and Kakheti in 1787.  It has two floors and was used for defense. The wall consists of 6 cylinder and 22 rectangular towers. It had two gates – one from the south and the other from the west. The stone wall and the ruins of the palace of Melkisedek I, the Patriarch of Georgia, discovered by archeologists provide evidence of highly developed civilian architecture in Georgia. 

  

 

 

 


Mtskheta Municipality © 2011. Website created with the support of Eurasia Partnership Foundation