Vardzia Rock-Cut monastery
Vardzia Cave Monastery, situated within Aspindza municipality in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia, features caves meticulously carved into the volcanic plateau. Nestled on the left bank of the Mtkvari River at an altitude of 1300 meters, it stands as the youngest medieval cave complex in the country. Archaeological excavations indicate its Bronze Age habitation.
Dating back to the 12th century, Vardzia expanded across thirteen vertical levels, functioning as both a military stronghold and an Orthodox Christian monastery near the Turkish border. Under the rule of Lady King Tamar (1184 - 1213), Vardzia flourished, becoming a center of wealth and patronage, evidenced by her substantial contributions to the monastery's opulence. It housed 2,000 monks until a devastating earthquake struck in 1283, followed by further destruction from earthquakes and invasions, notably by the Persian army in 1456 and Shah Takhmasp in 1551. These events led to the desertion of the complex, leaving behind about 3,000 rooms.
Today, one-third of the site remains preserved, boasting approximately 600 caves spread across thirteen floors. Within these caves are churches, chapels, living quarters, dining areas, stables, military barracks, bakeries, wine presses, storage rooms, a pharmacy, and an intricate water supply system. Notably, the 12th-century Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God on the fifth floor features a fresco depicting King Tamar and her father, King George III. This portrayal of Tamar marks one of the few surviving original images of the queen.
Recognized for its historical significance, Vardzia, along with Khertvisi fortress, is listed in the UNESCO Tentative World Heritage Site registry.
Europa Nostra Award 2021
Open daily from 09:30 to 18:00.
Dress code required.
Ticket price: 15 GEL for adults.
Electric minibus service available for 2 GEL rock-cut
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