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)
"Uplistsikhe, whose name translates to 'Fortress of the Lord', is an ancient rock-hewn town which played a significant role in Georgian history over a period of approximately 3,000 years. Archaeological excavations have revealed extraordinary artifacts dating from the late Bronze Age all the way up to the late Middle Ages.
The ancient cave city was built on a rocky bank of the Mtkvari River, approximately 15 kilometres east of the town of Gori. Between the 6 th century BC and 11 th century AD, Uplistsikhe was one of the most important political, religious, and cultural centres of pre-Christian Kartli, one of the predecessors of the Georgian state, and flourished until it was ravaged by the Mongols in the 13 thcentury.
Beginning its history in the 2nd millennium BC, Uplistsike has been identified as one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia. Back then, the complex was a very important cultural centre for pagan worship in the Kartli (Iberia) region. Archaeologists have unearthed numerous temples and findings relating to a sun goddess, worshipped prior to the arrival of Christianity.
When Christianity arrived in Georgia in the 4 th century AD, the city lost importance in favour of the new centres of Christian culture, most notably Mtskheta and Tbilisi. Nevertheless, life continued in Uplistsikhe. Christian structures were built, and for a short time Christianity and the old faith coexisted in the city. Following the Muslim conquest of Tbilisi in the 8 th and 9 th century AD, Uplistsikhe reemerged as a principal Georgian stronghold and became the residence of the kings of Kartli, during which the town grew to a size of around 20,000 inhabitants.
Uplistsikhe is remarkable for the unique combination of styles from rock-cut cultures of the region, most notably from Cappadocia (in modern Turkey) and Northern Iran. The ancient complex can be roughly divided into three parts: a lower, middle, and upper section covering an area of approximately 40,000 square meters. The middle part is the largest and contains the majority of the rock-hewn structures. It is connected to the lower section via a narrow rock-cut pass and a tunnel. Narrow alleys and sometimes staircases radiate from the central "street" to the different structures. On the upper level is a Christian stone basilica, dating from the 9 th-10th century.
The rock-cut structures include dwellings, a large hall, called Tamaris Darbazi, pagan places of sacrifice, and functional buildings, such as a bakery, a prison, cellars, and even an amphitheatre, all connected by footways and tunnels.
Archaeological excavations have discovered numerous artifacts belonging to different time periods, including gold, silver and bronze jewellery, and samples of ceramics and sculptures. Many of these artifacts are in the safekeeping of the National Museum in Tbilisi.
The Uplistsikhe cave complex endured for around 3,000 years but finally met its destruction at the hands of the Mongols in the 13 th century. Since then, the site was virtually abandoned, used only occasionally as a temporary shelter in times of foreign invasions. It is now on the tentative list for inclusion into the UNESCO World Heritage program, and is a popular destination for tourists visiting Georgia.
Most of the unearthed artifacts can be seen at the National Museum in Tbilisi." (http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-europe/ancient-caves-uplistsikhe-fortress-lord-001912)
Duration: 7 Hour
Tour Distance: 250 km
Recommended starting time: 9:00 am
Tour Start Date