Gelati Monastery

Gelati Monastery


Gelati Monastery

Gelati is a medieval monastic complex near Kutaisi. A masterpiece of the Georgian Golden Age, Gelati is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The Gelati Monastery was built in 1106 by King David IV of Georgia. It was constructed during the Byzantine empire, during which christianity was the ruling religion throughout the empire. The main church was completed in 1130 in the reign of his son and successor Demetré. Further churches were added to the monastery throughout the 13th and early 14th centuries. The monastery is richly decorated with mural paintings from the 12th to 17th centuries, as well as a 12th century mosaic in the apse of the main church, depicting the Virgin with Child flanked by archangels. Its high architectural quality, outstanding decoration, size, and clear spatial quality combine to offer a vivid expression of the artistic idiom of the architecture of the Georgian “Golden Age” and its almost completely intact surroundings allow an understanding of the intended fusion between architecture and landscape.

Gelati was not simply a monastery: it was also a centre of science and education, and the Academy established there was one of the most important centres of culture in ancient Georgia. King David gathered eminent intellectuals to his Academy such as Johannes Petritzi, a Neo-Platonic philosopher best known for his translations of Proclus, and Arsen Ikaltoeli, a learned monk, whose translations of doctrinal and polemical works were compiled into his Dogmatikon, or book of teachings, influenced by Aristotelianism. Gelati also had a scriptorium were monastic scribes copied manuscripts (although its location is not known). Among several books created there, the best known is an amply illuminated 12th century gospel, housed in the National Centre of Manuscripts.

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Gelati Monastery

Gelati Monastery is located in the Imereti region, 11 km from the city of Kutaisi. The monastery was founded by David the Builder in 1106. We read in his will: “The monastery remained for my burial and for the crypt of my children forever and I will take eternal pain, so may my son Dimitri complete the construction”. Here the greatest king of Georgia is buried. The ensemble includes the main church of the Assumption of the Virgin, St. George's Church, St. Nicholas Church, bell tower, academy and fence. Gelati Monastery was the largest cultural and educational center, at different period here worked: Arsen Ikaltoeli, Arsen Bulmaisimisdze, Petre Gelateli, Evdemon Chkhetidze, Ekvtime Sakvarelidze, Gedeon Lortkipanidze and others. David could not finish the construction of the monastery and his son Demeter continued the work. In the XII-XV centuries the Gelati Monastery was granted full autonomy, recognized only the supreme right of the king, even the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia had no governmental power. After the political collapse of Georgia, Gelati Monastery passed into the hands of the kings of western Georgia. On November 23, 1510, it was burned by the Ottoman army invading Imereti. The kings of Imereti Bagrat III and George II restored the Gelati Monastery and donated new lands. Bagrat III was called the "second builder" of Gelati. In the second half of the XVI century, the residence of the Catholicos-Patriarch of Western Georgia was moved from Bichvinta to Gelati. From the XVIII century, large-scale restoration works were carried out in Gelati Monastery by George VI, Alexander V, Solomon I, Solomon II and the bishops of Gelati. After the unification of the Kingdom of Imereti with the Russian Empire, the monastery was transformed from a church seminary into a state institution. Gelati Monastery owned a rich collection of manuscripts and engraved works of art that are now preserved in museums. Gelati complex is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Architecture

Gelati Monastery includes several buildings, the dominant one being the main Church of the Assumption. The complex also includes: St. George's Church, St. Nicholas Church, bell tower, academy and fence. The main temple of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is a central-domed building. The interior of the temple is especially impressive. The wide and high dome erected in the center rests on transitional arches on four arms. The arms of the cross that make up the central space are different. The main, eastern arm consists of a deep beam and a semicircular apse. To the right of the altar is Sadiakvne(room for storing things to the south side of an altar), and to the left is Samkvetlo (place where everything is done for the liturgy). The arms of the cross are covered with slightly arrowed vaults. The sides of the western part of the temple are two-storied, with choirs arranged on the second floor. The altar on the level of the choir also has a second floor where the hiding places were located. The central space of the building is crowned by a wide, high, sixteen-arched dome. The transition from the under dome square to the circle is done by sails. The interior space of the temple is well lit. The building is surrounded on three sides by later additions, which somehow aggravate it. The facades are decorated simply: Only doors and windows are decorated. The outer masses of the temple, within the main building, are orderly and unified. The facades are treated with decorative arcades of complex rhythm. Important samples of Georgian monumental painting and mosaic are preserved in Gelati Cathedral.

To the east of the main temple stands St. George's church, which was built in the early XIV century. The plan of the temple and the solution of the interior space are in line with the traditions of the era. The church draws attention with beautiful relief ornaments and frescoes.

To the west of the main temple there are St. Nicholas two-storey church and an academy building. There is an arched exit on the first floor of the church. A small cross-type church is erected on this building. The first floor is connected to the second by a stone staircase. The building of Gelati Academy stands on a steep riverbank. The entrance has a richly decorated four-column gate. We enter the huge hall through the gate. The building is rectangular in shape. There are stone benches along the walls that were provided for the academy listeners.

The first bell tower is contemporaneous with two monasteries, the third - relatively late, XIV century. Water is drawn on the first floor. Historical sources tell us that water used to enter all the chambers and stalls through pipes.

How to get there

To get to Bagrati temple you need to get to Kutaisi. There are different types of transport in the direction of Kutaisi: bus, micro bus, train and also flights from Tbilisi, Mestia and Ambrolauri to Kutaisi. Transport passes through Didube and Tbilisi central bus stations. Gelati Monastery is 9 km away from Kutaisi, you will need to hire a taxi to cover this distance.


Gelati Monastery

Gelati Monastery was founded in 1106 by King Davit IV (r.1089-1125), also known as Davit the Builder, with the intention of establishing a new dynastic burial site and promoting his kingship. Under Davit’s rule, a number of buildings in the monastic complex were begun. These include the Church of Nativity of the Virgin, the main church on the site Gelati Academy a well and the south gate. After Davit’s death in 1125, his son King Demetre I (r.1125-1154) completed and decorated the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin, which was consecrated in 1130. The complex of Gelati also includes the domed Church of St George, to the east of the main church. The church of St George was built in the first half of the thirteenth century, and later damaged during the Turkish invasion in 1510. A bell tower and the two-storeyed Church of St Nicholas, which is located to the west of the Church of the Virgin, date to a further phase of construction in the thirteenth century.

The Academy at Gelati taught geometry, arithmetic, music, philosophy, rhetoric and astronomy. Gelati was an important centre in the Middle Ages, termed a ‘second Jerusalem’ for learning and the teaching of knowledge and a ‘second Athens’, far exceeding the first in divine law.

The Church of the Nativity of the Virgin at Gelati contains the chapel of St Andrew the First Called, the chapel of the Saviour and two chapels of St Marina. The narthex of the church is decorated with a fragmentary cycle of the ecumenical councils dating to the first half of the twelfth century. The chronologically arranged images of seven ecumenical councils are interspersed with a depiction of the Mandylion and the miracle of St Euphemia. Extended explanatory inscriptions accompany the scenes. The selection of ecumenical councils and emphasis on the council of Chalcedon reflect the dispute between Monophysites and Diophysites in the Caucasus at the time and the councils convened by King Davit IV at Gelati between 1103 and 1123-5, with the latter marking the pronouncement of the orthodoxy of the Georgian Church. The cycle of the ecumenical councils, with its dogmatic and ceremonial connotations, highlights the history of Orthodoxy and emphasises a strong anti-heretical message, including the role of King Davit IV and Gelati monastery and its academy in the life of the church and ecclesiastic unity in Georgia.

The main church of the monastic complex also houses the only complete surviving mosaic decoration from medieval Georgia. The mosaic in the apse, installed in the first half of the twelfth century and restored in the 1970s and 1980s, shows a Virgin and Child flanked by archangels. The rest of the church is decorated with frescoes that range in date from the period of the church’s construction and consecration to later, sixteenth-century additions.
The Georgian Chronicle mentions Davit dedicating precious reliquaries and icons to the monastery, as well as luxury liturgical objects, ecclesiastical furniture and lamps, crowns, jewels and vessels from his personal collection of plundered spoils, to thank God for the victories granted to him in battle. Amongst the precious objects housed at the monastery was the Khakhuli triptych, kept in the Treasury of Museum of Fine Arts in Tbilisi since 1952.

The Church of St George, to the east of the main church, dates to the first half of the thirteenth century and was renovated by King Bagrat II after being damaged during the Turkish invasion. The church was originally built as a prayer and burial chapel for the queens of Georgia and Imereti. The walls of the church were painted in the 1560s. The decoration includes a number of royal portraits, highlighting the importance of the church as a cathedral and royal burial place.

The Church of St Nicholas, dating to the late thirteenth century, is two-storeyed – an unusual construction type for Georgian churches. The nearby bell tower, from the same construction phase, is one of the oldest surviving bell towers in Georgia.

A wall encloses the monastery complex. The south gate contains the tomb of King Davit IV. His tombstone bears the inscription: ‘This is my resting place forever: here I will dwell for I desired so.’ The tombstone is positioned so that those entering the porch have to step on it – a placement allegedly desired by Davit as a marker of humility. The iron door of the gate, was made in 1062 according to its Arabic inscription by the blacksmith Al-Hadad Ibrahim by order of the Emir of Gandza Abu-I-Asvari. The Georgian king, Demetre I took it as a trophy in 1139, during a campaign in Gandza.


Gelati Monastery - a cultural hub of Georgia

While traveling to Georgia, you always have a feeling that you are touching the past. An ancient origin of our historical monuments is always interesting for the visitors. In this article, I will tell you about the Gelati Monastery that is a cultural hub of Georgia.

History

The Monastery of Gelati is a medieval monastic complex that is located near Kutaisi, in the Imereti Region. It was founded by one of the greatest kings Davit IV in 1106. The Gelati Monastery is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is important for us because it reminds us of the “Golden Age of Georgia”. The monastery is characterized by the beautiful frescoes and paintings that make the interior very attractive. One of the largest medieval Orthodox monasteries was also a center of science and education. While visiting the Gelati Monastery, you will realize how Georgians are proud that they kept this monument until now. It is a memory of the period of political strength and economic growth between the 11th and 13th century. The Monastery of Gelati also shows the value of our religion, and it makes Georgian culture richer and more interesting.

In 1510, the Ottoman Turks burnt the complex. However, one of our kings, Bagrat III restored it right away. The main cathedral in the Gelati Monastery is a Cathedral of the Virgin, and it is famous for the brightest and most colorful frescoes in Georgia. They were painted from the 12th to 18th century. The Church of St George is located in the east side of the cathedral, and also you can find the smaller Church of St Nicholas nearby. The main cultural value of the Gelati Monastery was driven by the Academy that was located in this complex. In the Academy, the students could learn many subjects, such as philosophy, theology, sciences, and painting. They were also taught how to write important chronicles and translations.

The Gelati Monastery today

Fortunately, most of the churches of this complex have survived. It includes the main Cathedral and the Bell Tower nearby. You can also see here the remains of the Academy. Our greatest king David the Builder was the most powerful king of Georgia, but his personality was surprisingly humble. According to his wish, his grave was placed inside the south gate of the Gelati Monastery. David wanted that everybody who enters the monastery steps on his tomb. Ironically, all the visitors try to avoid stepping on the grave of the humble king.

While visiting Georgia, try not to miss this place, especially, if you like history and culture. You might have already read about many other cultural places in my previous articles. However, if you have limited time and want to feel the wealth of Georgian culture, then this place is definitely a must-see destination. The Gelati Monastery will make you feel the history and will show you the cultural hub of Georgia.


Gelati Monastery - History

The history of Georgian chant comprises music sung for the Georgian Orthodox liturgical services. It developed over several centuries, and was maintained as an oral tradition until the end of 19th century, when only a handful of older singers could remember the more sophisticated, rare variants and the all-important skill of improvised harmonization in three voices. Thankfully, a handful of people recognized the imminent loss of the chant tradition, and worked to save at least some portion of it (the rest of this page is quoted from the Tbilisi State Conservatory website: www.polyphony.ge/

More than eight thousand hymns transcribed in the 1880s and 1920s by famous public and church figures such as Pilimon Koridze, Vasili and Polievktos Karbelashvili, Razhden Khundadze, and Ekvtime Kereselidze, represent the treasure of Georgian church hymns. They reflect various traditions of the centuries-long history of Georgian church singing.

Churches and monasteries in almost all provinces of Georgia had their own schools of chant. Today many traditional schools of chant bear the names of these very monasteries, specifically, the Gelati, Shemokmedi and Svetitskhoveli schools of chant.

After the annexation of Georgia by Russia in the 19 th century and due to the persecution of Georgian chanting, schools of chant moved from monasteries into families and thus the tradition of teaching was proceeded. This fact served as a reason for giving the educational centres the names of universal chanters – the modes of Didi Geronti, Archimandrite Soprom, Archimandrite Tarasi, the Karbelashvili brothers, Chalaganidze, Kandelaki, Simon Kuti, Dumbadze, etc. “Gelati monastery was considered to have fostered church chanting. The chief school was located here and the chanting spread not only in Western Georgia, but all of over the country”.

Gelati Monastery had compiled the basic achievements of chanting from the “Golden Age” and from the earlier period of Georgian history. Here the root musical language developed, on which different branches of chanting school traditions were based. Thousands of chants were transcribed by Pilimon Koridze. The performers of those chants in most cases represented different chanting traditions and worked at churches and monasteries in different regions. But, the existence of the common musical basis and canon made it easier for people with different chanting traditions to chant together. Pilimon Koridze’s transcriptions serve as examples of this.

It is known that “The Committee for the Revival of Georgian Chanting” first chose the following three chant performers: Dimitri Chalaganidze, Ivliane Tsereteli and Razhden Khundadze. The trio of chanters was supervised by a representative of the Shemokmedi school, a universally acclaimed chanter Anton Dumbadze, the “grandfather of the Gurian chanting, the one who revived and promoted Gurian chant all over Guria-Samegrelo.”

Dimitri Chalaganidze was a son of Rostom Chalaganidze – once a famous chanter himself in Martvili. Rostom’s chanting teacher was Besarion (Dadiani) the Metropolitan Bishop of Chqondidi and consequently his son mastered the same chanting mode.

One of Razhden Khundadze’s letters tells about Ivliane Chalaganidze. “In the Cathedral of Khoni, in one of the cells there lived an expert chanter Simona Kuti (Pirtskhalava). . . The number of his disciples is quite large, among them Ivliane Tsereteli – a priest and a famous chanter.”

Regarding his own chanting education Razhden Khundadze comments that he had learned chanting in Guria. The trio of Chalaganidze, Tsereteli, and Khundadze, as we can see, combines three chanting traditions. Because the notations of various chanting traditions from all over Western Georgia were preserved at Gelati monastery, this school has been given the name of Gelati school of chant.

The tradition of the Shemokmedi school of chant is also called Dumbabdze’s Mode. The Dumbadzes had always been clergymen and most of them had worked in Shemokmedi Monastery. One of the family members, Anton Dumbadze (1824-1907), is buried at the Monastery’s cemetery.

Among the famous chanters listed in Polievktos Karbelashvili’s book “Georgian Secular and Sacred Modes” there are several singers from Shemokmedi: Iakob Dumbadze (1679-1721), priest Giorgi Dumbadze (1875), and Mate Gogitidze (1541-1560) the head priest of Shemokmedi Monastery who devoted his life to saving and preserving Georgian chant under the dire historical circumstances of the 16 th century. Ioane Gogitidze, Mate’s nephew (1560-1590), is also mentioned here.

All the above-mentioned point that the Shemokmedi Monastery was one of the most important centres of Georgian chanting. This is also proved by the fact that several collections of neumes, preserved at the Tbilisis Institute of Manuscripts, have been brought from the Shemokmedi Monastery. In Pilimon Koridze’s transcriptions the samples from the Shemokmedi Monastery are represented by the hymns passed on by Anton Dumbadze.

Several chants of the Shemokmedi school have reached us in the form of sound recordings. More than one hundred hymns were performed and recorded by Artem Erkomaishvili, Melkisedek Nakashidze’s student. Nakashidze, a prominent chanter, in his turn, had been Anton Dumbadze’ disciple.

The tradition of the Shemokmedi school is also reflected in the audio-recording of 11 chants recorded by Dimitri Patarava, Varlam Simonishvili and Artem Erkomaishvili in 1949. These recordings are preserved at the sound-archive of the Georgian Folk Music Department at Tbilisi State Conservatoire.

The Kartli-Kakhetian chant (tradition of Eastern Georgia) is represented by the so-called Karbelaant Kilo, recorded by the Karbelashvili brothers. Polievktos Karbelashvili’s book “The Georgian Secular and Sacred Modes” (Karbelashvili P., 1898) provides very interesting information about the origins of this mode. Polievktos Karbelashvili’s grandfather Petre Karbela (Khmaladze), born in 1754, mastered the art of chanting as a young man at the court of King Erekle II. Later he became a teacher of chanting at Samtavisi church. Petre Karbela’s son, Grigol, who was among his students, later passed this tradition of chanting over to his sons – Polievktos and Vasili.

The history of Georgian chant in Kartli-Kakheti was unfortunately doomed to be forgotten. At a special meeting called in 1764 by King Erekle II and Catholicos Anton, it was resolved to church men and heads of monasteries to “set up choirs of chanters at all diocese and monasteries.” For this reason a School under the Catholicos’ supervision was founded at the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral where young people studied Georgian chanting together with various other subjects. Like old times, children from noble families studied here. Soon two choirs performed their chanting.

The alumni of this school later passed their knowledge over to their disciples all over Kartli and Kakheti. The Svetitskhoveli chanting tradition functioned to revive Georgian chanting. Presumably, the Karbelashvilis’ ancestors also experienced this influence. Hence, it would not be groundless to consider the so-called Karbelaant Kilo a surviving example of the Svetitskhoveli chanting school.


A bit of history

The Church of the Nativity of the Virgin was built in honor of the annexation of Kakheti by King David. Later the academy was built, and then the outbuildings. In the past, the temple had not only spiritual, but also defensive significance, therefore, earlier the second row of walls was erected around the cathedral. Under Queen Tamara, the Church of St. Nicholas was built in Gelati. It is noteworthy that King David is buried here. This marked the beginning of the tradition of burying the kings of Georgia here.

Leaving the cathedral you can buy various souvenirs.

Very beautiful place, recommended for visiting.


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Gelati was not simply a monastery: it was also a centre of science and education, and the Academy established there was one of the most important centres of culture in ancient Georgia. King David gathered eminent intellectuals to his Academy such as Johannes Petritzi, a Neo-Platonic philosopher best known for his translations of Proclus, and Arsen Ikaltoeli, a learned monk, whose translations of doctrinal and polemical works were compiled into his Dogmatikon, or book of teachings, influenced by Aristotelianism. Gelati also had a scriptorium were monastic scribes copied manuscripts (although its location is not known). Among several books created there, the best known is an amply illuminated 12th century gospel, housed in the National Centre of Manuscripts.

As a royal monastery, Gelati possessed extensive lands and was richly endowed with icons, including the well-known gold mounted Icon of the Virgin of Khakhuli (now housed in the Georgian National Museum) and at its peak, it reflected the power and high culture of Eastern Christianity.

Gelati Monastery is the masterpiece of the architecture of the “Golden Age” of Georgia and the best representative of its architectural style, characterized by the full facing of smoothly hewn large blocks, perfectly balanced proportions, and the exterior decoration of blind arches. The main church of the monastery is one of the most important examples of the cross-in-square architectural type that had a crucial role in the East Christian church architecture from the 7th century onwards. Gelati is one of the largest Medieval Orthodox monasteries, distinguished for its harmony with its natural setting and a well thought-out overall planning concept.

The main church of the Gelati Monastery is the only Medieval monument in the larger historic region of Eastern Asia Minor and the Caucasus that still has well-preserved mosaic decoration, comparable with the best Byzantine mosaics, as well as having the largest ensemble of paintings of the middle Byzantine, late Byzantine, and post-Byzantine periods in Georgia, including more than 40 portraits of kings, queens, and high clerics and the earliest depiction of the seven Ecumenical Councils.

The whole monastic precinct contains all the main 12th century buildings as well as those added in the 13th century. All the attributes necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value are present and included in the area. No important original feature of the monastery from the 12th and 13th centuries have been lost during the centuries, and its landscape setting remains largely intact.


Postcard from: Kutaisi

I wasn’t planning on doing any traveling last weekend since the elections were Monday and there was plenty of excitement at home in Tbilisi (My planning skills are also beginning to assimilate to the Georgian norms, so planning a trip is becoming rather complicated). But when my friends called and asked if I wanted to go with them to Kutaisi, who was I to say no? Kutaisi has been at the top of my list of places to visit (I’d never been before, and was interested to see the new Parliamentary city). Even better, these friends had access to a car, making Kutaisi a feasible day trip. If you’re taking a marshrutka between Kutaisi and Tbilisi, you’ll likely need to spend the night, especially since the sites in Kutaisi are geographically spread across and around the city. There are also trains between the two cities, I believe you can choose either an overnight train or a day journey.

Like good Americans (and their American-influenced Georgian friend), our first stop was the Kutaisi McDonalds. McDonalds is the only tourist attraction in Kutaisi that’s well-signed, so enjoy it while it lasts. The preferred method of finding the other attractions was asking a resident of Kutaisi. From this crude navigation strategy, we learned that (apparently) everything in Kutaisi is located straight ahead!

Bagrati Cathedral (note the glass structure to the left)

Our first stop was the newly (and controversially) renovated and reopened Bagrati Cathedral. The exterior was beautiful—combining stones salvaged from the ruins with new stones in better condition, and of course a bit of steel and glass (Misha likes steel and glass). Inside, though, I was quite disappointed with the renovations—the building felt quite soulless to me. All white walls, and dirty carpeting—it felt more like the fellowship hall or community room of an American church, not the mystical and mysterious Georgian temples of God that I’ve become used to visiting.

Fortunately, our next stop was the Gelati Monastery, an exquisite example of Georgian ecclesiastical architecture.

The frescos in Gelati were the best I’ve seen, and the building had the feeling of a traditional Georgian church: a bit dark and smoky with lots of color and incense.

Flowers and Frescoes in Gelati Cathedral

Also impressive was the view: from the grounds of Gelati you could see snow-capped peaks off in the distance.

Our last stop was Sataplia National Park. Sataplia has also been subjected to recent renovations. Like at Bagrati, some of these renovations were fantastic, and others were not to my liking. The building housing the dinosaur footprints is clearly a positive step towards protecting this attraction, and educates visitors about Georgia’s prehistory. On the other hand, the “Jurassic Park” was just plain silly—the animatronic dinosaurs were puny, and the small explanatory signs didn’t offer much information that wasn’t in the footprint exhibit.

Sataplia “Jurassic Park”…I warned you it was hokey.

The caves themselves were…well, caves: dark, and damp, and plenty of stalactites and stalagmites. The glass viewing platform offered an excellent view of Kutaisi, but Kutaisi itself doesn’t have the world’s most majestic skyline. The most interesting fact about Sataplia was one that was largely ignored: the place gets its name (სათაფლია–Place of Honey) from the bees who use the cliff face itself as their hive (or so I gather). Honey drips from the stones themselves! (though I was unable to confirm this myself) (Admittedly, I’ve been thinking more about bees and honey than I ever have before because my friends Cat and Claire have been in town doing research on beekeeping in the Caucasus).

Entrance of Sataplia Nature Preserve

On our way out of the city we drove past and got a glimpse of the new Parliament building, which may open soon. Other nearby sights, for those not racing the sunset back to Tbilisi, include the Prometheus Cave, and the town of Vani where a working replica of the Argonauts’ ship is displayed. Kutaisi isn’t the most stunning place I’ve visited in Georgia, but the plethora of things to do there and its prominent place in Georgian history (and current events) make it well worth a quick trip.


Jim holroyd 365

The two principal tourist draws for Georgia are its natural wonders like the caves and mountains and its old churches. Georgia boasts being the second country to convert to Christianity (Armenia was first), today most Georgians are Orthodox, despite the efforts of their most famous son (Stalin) to turn them to atheism.

This is the second part of my post about our trip to Kutaisi on 7 June 2015 and features some of Georgia’s most important religious monuments.

Kutaisi is Georgia’s second city, to many it seems just like a large village.

Our planned itinerary for the day was :

    (click on this link to see the first part of the blogpost)
  1. Sataplia Cave
  2. Bagrati Cathdedral
  3. Gelati Monastery
  4. Motsameta Monastery
  5. Restaurant for a Georgian Feast (Supra)

We had to cancel our planned visit to Sataplia Cave, because the site was overbooked by school parties, who were visiting the same day as us. Prometheus Cave is bigger but lacks the famous dinosaur footprints found at Sataplia Cave. Ah well, we will have something to see next time.

Bagrati Cathedral is one of the distinct landmarks of Kutaisi, an impressive building that was officially rebuilt in 2012 after heavy damage. The original Cathedral was built in the 11th Century. UNESCO was not impressed and considered the rebuilding damaged “the integrity and authenticity of the site”.

This is an image from the Wikipedia of Bagrati Cathedral under construction in 2009.

Bagrati Cathedral under construction in 2009. (from Wikipedia contributor: “Kober”)

Georgian Cathedrals have a lot of interesting stone carvings on the walls.

After Bagrati we headed out of Kutaisi to Gelati Monastery. The Gelati monastic complex near Kutaisi contains the Church of the Virgin founded by the King of Georgia David the Builder in 1106, and the 13th-century churches of St George and St Nicholas. Gelati Monastery was eulogised as the “New Athens” and the “Second Jerusalem”, and was one of the most important historical and cultural centres in the Middle Ages.

Gelati monastery, church of Virgin Mary the Blessed. Mural of Christ Pantokrator on ceiling of the central dome (12th century)

We visited the church at the time a wedding was being performed, a lot of weddings were scheduled for 7 June as it is the day before the fast for St Peter and St Paul, which lasts until mid July.

One of the main attractions for me, was an old GAZ M20 Pobeda in the grounds.

Maka liked the “Pobeda”, too. “Pobeda” means victory, Stalin preferred the name to “Rodina” meaning Motherland

Also there were plenty of birds to admire of the feathered kind, like these ravens.

A lot of construction work is ongoing at Gelati.

Our final sight was Little Motsameta Monastery, which sits on a spectacular clifftop promontory.

Little Motsameta Monastery sits on a spectacular clifftop promontory

The monastery sits above a bend of the Tskhaltsitela River. The name “Red River” refers to an 8th century Arab massacre.

looks like we crashed another wedding…

Brothers Davit and Konstantin Mkheidze were among the victims of the 8th Century Massacre.

At the car park I find another delightful old Soviet car, a Zaporozhets 968M.

Finally in the tradition of these trips we ended with a Supra (Georgian Feast), we convened at the Old Imereti Restaurant in Kutaisi, where my batteries died. Maybe just as well with the dancing in the minibus on the way home to Tbilisi.


Watch the video: Gelati Monastery. გელათის მონასტერი. Гелатский монастырь