Vardzia caves

Сave city of Vardzia  (Region of Samtskhe-Javakheti)

Monastery complex carved in the rock (1156-1203) stands in Javakheti, 30 km from Aspindza, on the left bank of river Mtkvari. Vardzia monastery has the width of 0,5 km and is arranged on 13 floors. It consists of 2 parts: rock village of Ananauri (X-XI cc.), monastery itself built in 5 stages: on the first stage, during the reign of Giorgi III (1156-1184), first cells and a church were carved. On the second stage, during the reign of Queen Tamar (1184-1185), in the center of the monastery was carved a hall church of Assumption of Virgin Mary with stoa. At the expense of Kartli sovereign, Rati Surameli, the church was painted by an artist Giorgi. On the third stage (1185-1203), construction of stockrooms and cells, fortification and irrigation facilities was over.

Earthquake in 1283 was followed by IV stage of the construction of monastery carried out by the head of Samtskhe, Beka Jakeli (1285-1306). He masterminded construction of a two-story ornamented bell tower. On the V stage (middle of XIV century), under Ivane Atabaghi’s auspices, was carved a big refectory.Overall, Vardzia consists of 420 utility rooms. Among them are 25 wine cellars with 185 barrels. There are 2, 3, 4-room living cells consisting of a gate, a room and a stockroom. There are wide cavities carved in the walls of rooms – just to lie, and small niches – for utencils, books and earthen saucer. Totally there are 12 chapels in the monastery.

The best preserved at the monastery is eastern part – 242 carved rooms (including a hall of 8 m x 5,6 m, assembly hall, Tamar’s room, feast room). In the western part of the monastery is a refectory, in central part – asylum rooms. Tunnels were supplied from natural spring existing in the depth behind the main church (with the help of 3,5 km running water system).Vardzia is rich with fresco paintings. In the XII century church of Assumption of Virgin Mary there are images of donators: Giorgi III, Queen Tamar, Rati Surameli. There are also scenes from the New Testament. Painting of Ananauri church belongs to XVI century.

Сave city of Vardzia  is presented for inscription on UNESCO World Heritage List.