David Gareji Monastery (Region of Kakheti)
David Gareji is a rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery complex located in the region of Kakheti, surrounded by impressive landscapes of desert colors. The complex was founded in the 6th century by St. David Garejeli, one of the thirteen Assyrian monks who arrived in the country at the same time. The complex includes hundreds of cells, churches, chapels, refectories and living quarters hollowed out of the rock face. Despite the harsh environment, the monastery remained an important centre of religious and cultural activity for many centuries; at certain periods the monasteries owned extensive agricultural lands and many villages. The convent was particularly patronized by the Georgian royal and noble families. The 12th century Georgian king Demetre I, the author of the famous Georgian religious hymn Thou Art a Vineyard, even chose David Gareji as a place of his confinement after he abdicated the throne.
The renaissance of fresco painting chronologically coincides with the general development of the life in the David Gareji monasteries. The high artistic skill of David Gareji frescoes made them an indispensable part of world treasure. From the late 11th to the early 13th century, the economic and cultural development of David Gareja reached its highest phase, reflecting the general prosperity of the medieval Kingdom of Georgia. New monasteries Udabno, Bertubani and Chichkhituri were built; the old ones were enlarged and re-organized.
Because the complex is partially located on the territory of Azerbaijan proper, it has become the subject of a border dispute between the two countries with ongoing talks since 1991.