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Stop At: Narikala Fortress, Tbilisi Georgia
Also called the Mother Fortress of Tbilisi, Narikala is an ancient symbol of Tbilisi’s defence. The fortress was established in the 4th century, around the period when the city itself was founded. It was then known as Shuris-tsikhe (Invidious Fort). The name Narikala is said to derive from a Persian word for citadel, but another theory says was the name that Mongols used, meaning “little fortress”. It was expanded considerably by the Arabs during the 7th and 8th centuries. The Arabs built the Emir’s palace within its walls. King David further extended the Builder the fortress in th 11th century. Most of the existing fortifications date from the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1827 it was damaged by an earthquake and was not resorted. St. Nikolos church, inside the fortress walls, dates from the 12th century. It was renovated in 1996. Narikala offers you some of the best panoramas of the city.
We’d also advise you to take a walk along the Narikala Tourist route, a 1500 metre trail that runs from the top of the ridge near the Mother Georgia statue, around the fortress and down into Old Town to near the entrance to the Botanical Gardens. It offers stunning views at every turn and is a particular delight at night when the city lights shine below.
Duration: 1 hour
Stop At: Sioni Cathedral Church, Tbilisi Georgia
Sioni or Zion Cathedral in the name of the Assumption of the Mother of God is one of the most known monuments in the Old Town . The beginning of its construction is dated the 5 th – 6 th centuries and the completion - the first half of the 7 th century. The Cathedral is named in the honor of Jerusalem Zion.
Today Sioni is the residence of the Catholicos - the Patriarch of Georgian Christian church. There the greatest relic of Georgia , the cross of St. Nino who established Christianity on Georgian soil, is kept there. The cross is made of two grapevines and is intertwined with the Saint's hair according to the legend.
Sioni was repeatedly destroyed by enemies. But each time it rose from the ashes.
Sioni Cathedral, TbilisiDespite the high status of the temple, its look is modest and reserved. Its architectural style reminds strict Catholic structures of a religious cult lacking any elements of decor. The only ornament of the cathedral is the high tower with the peaked steepled dome towering over the central part of Sioni. The dome rests on the vaults closing the altar walls and two separately standing arrow shaped columns.
Duration: 30 minutes
Stop At: Metekhi Cathedral, Metekhi St, Tbilisi Georgia
Virgin Mary Metekhi church is located on the left bank of the river Mtkvari, on the cliff plateau , the first church on this place was probably built by Vakhtang Gorgasali symbolically resembling the church built on virgin Mary’s tomb in Gethsemane garden in Jerusalem. According to the legend the former catholicos Kirion transferred the body of the saint Shushanik to this church in 7th century.
A lot of historical facts are linked with Metekhi church: Queen Tamar prayed here before the Shamkori battle in 1195, this church previously located on this place was burnt when the town castle head burnt Isani in 1235. Later it was restored by the King Demeter II. Then it was again damaged by the thunder storm and was repaired by the Muslim King Shakhnavaz who used it for storing the gun powder and the church kept this function even in 1690 when Erekle the I Nazaralikhani conveyed this church to Persians together with the castle. The church was renovated by the will and the desire of Erekle the II and the liturgy was restored between 1748 and 1753.
Metekhi Church together with other cult buildings was sacrificed to the attack of Agha Makhmad Khan in 1795. It was restored in 1780-1800 by the will of Giorgi the XII; the building underwent the considerable changes in 19th century.
‘Jvari’ (cross) type churches repeat the old plan and are distinguished by its unusual construction. The Dome sets on four columns on the east façade. The building is neighbored by the gate in the north and by the open dome in the east; the entrance gate is even in the west. Stone and brick invoice change each other on the façade of the multi restored–renovated church. At first it was built with hewn stones but after the restoration the brick was utilized to make arch dome. The eastern conch has kept its previous face: The three windows on the central protuberance are decorated with ornamental crosses and rhombs.
The dome of the 17th century is simple and its apertures are located in the brick arch.
The castle existed with the church was destroyed in 1810-1820 and dungeons were built on its place. In 1933 the dungeon was destroyed and the nearby territory of the church was cleaned. The club was functioning in the church during the Soviet regime; later the museum fund was disposed in there. The theater found its shelter in the church in 1970. The church has been functioning since 1988.
Duration: 10 minutes
Pass By: Monument of King Vakhtang Gorgasali, Tbilisi Georgia
King Vakhtang Gօrgasali (Vakhtang I) was the founder of Georgia. Locals appreciated and respected him while he was still alive for his wisdom and judgment. People gave him second name Gorgasali – “Saint King”. He helped to strengthen the belief of Georgian nation in God by building many churches and monasteries on the territory of Georgia and even outside of Georgia.
Vakhtang Gorgasali monument was built in 1970 near ancient church Metekhi, on a rocky hill. Vakhtang Gorgasali was recognized as a Saint and his relics are kept in Svetitskhoveli.
Stop At: Tsminda Sameba Cathedral, Elia Hill, Tbilisi Georgia
Built in year 2004, the Holy Trinity Tsminda Sameba Cathedral is also called the symbol of new Georgia. The beauty and sizes of cathedral are indeed breathtaking, and rises magnificently on the hill of the St. Ilya, on the left bank of the Kura River. Sameba is the highest church in Georgia. It is 101m high. For comparison, before Sameba, the Alaverdi Cathedral in Kakheti was considered the tallest, with about 50m in height. Sameba Cathedral was built with grandiose scope. Its golden dome is practically seen from any point in Tbilisi. The cathedral is part of the entire complex including residence of the Patriarch and a monastery, school of theology and academy, hotel and the complex consisting of nine chapels, five of which are located under the ground.
Construction of Sameba Cathedral was timed to the 2000th anniversary of Christianity and 1500th anniversary of the independence of the Georgian church. The construction of the cathedral was decided in 1989 but it started only on 23 November 1995. The first divine service in cathedral was held on 25 December 2002 during the construction works that finally ended in 2004. Construction was sponsored by wealthy residents of the city. The square of the Sameba Cathedral equals 5000 square meters, and can place up to 15,000 people.
The foundation of the cathedral was done according to all traditions: pieces from holy spots were placed in its basement like rocks from the Sion Mountain and the Jordan River, soil from Jerusalem and from the tomb of St. George. The Patriarch and the President have laid the memorial nameplates too. Bells for the cathedral were cast in Germany. There are nine of them, and the biggest weighs 8,000 kg.
The cathedral is designed in the spirit of modernism, and its architecture has little similarities with old traditions. Faces of the cathedral are done exquisitely with arches and unique fretwork. There are beautiful frescoes created under the supervision of the icon painter Amiran Goglidze on the walls of the Sameba Cathedral. Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II also took part in painting works of the Tsminda Sameba Cathedral; he painted several icons and a big image of the Holy Virgin that can be seen at the entrance. There are two floors under the ground; on the second floor there are museum and conference hall.
Holy Trinity Cathedral is considered one of the main sights of Tbilisi.
Duration: 1 hour
Stop At: Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Arsukidze, Mtskheta 383400 Georgia
This grand (and for its time, enormous) building dates from the 11th century, early in the golden age of Georgian church architecture. It has an elongated cross plan and is adorned with beautiful stone carving outside and in. Christ’s robe is believed to lie beneath the central nave, under a square pillar decorated with colourful if faded frescoes of the conversion of Kartli.
The story goes that a Mtskheta Jew, Elioz, was in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus' Crucifixion and returned with the robe to Mtskheta. His sister Sidonia took it from him and immediately died in a passion of faith. The robe was buried with her and as years passed, people forgot the exact site. When King Mirian built the first church at Mtskheta in the 4th century, the wooden column designed to stand in its centre could not be raised from the ground. But after an all-night prayer vigil by St Nino, the column miraculously moved of its own accord to the robe's burial site. The column subsequently worked many miracles and Svetitskhoveli means ‘Life-Giving Column’.
In the 5th century Vakhtang Gorgasali replaced Mirian’s church with a stone one, and the present building was constructed between 1010 and 1029 under Patriarch Melqisedek. It's still one of the most beautiful churches in the country.
Several Georgian monarchs are buried here. The tomb of Erekle II, king of Kartli and Kakheti from 1762 to 1798, lies before the icon screen (marked with his birth and death dates, 1720 and 1798). Vakhtang Gorgasali’s tomb is behind this, with his sword-holding image carved on a raised flagstone.
Duration: 1 hour
Stop At: Jvari Church, Mtskheta Georgia
The masterpiece of Early Christian Orthodox architecture Jvari Monastery is dated 585-604 cc AD. Located on the hill top near the town Mtskheta, it is listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1994. The name is translated as the Monastery of the Cross.
According to traditional accounts, in the early 4th century Saint Nino stayed here to pray and erected a wooden cross on Mtskheta’s highest hill. The church was built on the crest of a cliff at a confluence of the rivers Mtkvari and Aragvi. It is a representative of the tetra conch architectural type that was popular not only in Georgia but also in Byzantine world.
Jvari served as a model for many other churches in the country. Unusual and varied relief sculptures decorate its façades. The importance of Jvari complex increased over time and attracted many pilgrims. According to the legend pilgrims visiting the site shed tears while praying and the nearby natural lake was named the Lake of tears.
The harmonious relationship between the landscape, architectural forms and divisions, the well-thought-out disposition of decorative elements and splendid relieves carved on big slabs of a stone give the south and east walls special expressiveness. Among the reliefs of the east wall are found the portraits of the kings who built the church. Included in UNESCO world heritage sights, the monument is still used for major celebrations.
Duration: 30 minutes
Stop At: Rezo Gabriadze Marionette Theater, Shavteli St., 26, Tbilisi 0105 Georgia
In 2010 Rezo Gabriadze built a unique clock tower next to marionette theatre in Tbilisi old town. Every hour an angel comes out with a small hammer to ring the bell.
There is a small puppet theatre inside the tower and twice a day at noon and at 7pm you can see a show – “The Circle of Life”.
Rezo decorated the tower with hundreds of tiles which he designed himself and the it instantly became a major architectural attraction of Tbilisi. People often call it the Tower with clock or The Tower with angel.
Duration: 20 minutes