Cave Cities and Fortresses

There are three cave cities in Georgia, built in different epochs for different purposes, with different architectural styles. 

The oldest among them is Uplistsikhe, located in the central part of the country. Built in 1stMillennium, it served as a place for both, residential purposes and pagan rituals. After the introduction of Christianity, the followers of new religion found asylum there. Later it got deserted, many caves being destroyed by the earthquake. However, the functional aspects of the city are still clearly visible, including ancient theatre, the hall of pagan rituals, cellars for wine-making, bazaar, caves of different sizes for local dwellers, etc.

The second oldest cave city is Davit Gareja, founded in 6th century in the south-east of Georgia by Assyrian monk, David. He had arrived in Georgia with a dozen of other monks to preach Christianity. He settled on semi-desert land, leading the life of a recluse. Later, his pupils joined him and the monastery grew remarkably, becoming the refuge for many monks. In medieval times it boasted a school of wall-painting, some of which is still visible in dark caves, telling us the stories of monastery life.

The third is Vardzia, situated in the south-west of Georgia, in the historic region of Meskhet-Javakheti, bordering with modern Turkey. It was founded in 12th century during Queen Tamar’s reign and served as a defensive fortress. Vardzia is the most beautiful and monumental cave city in Georgia.  It has thirteen floors, water supply canals, internal tunnels, secret rooms, drugstores and numerous caves. One of the caves preserved a rare fresco depicting the face of Queen Tamar.

Georgia was under constant threat of being invaded. Therefore, it is full of various fortresses and towers, especially in bordering regions with Turkey and Northern Caucasus. Along the roads one can notice many of them, which served as a shelter for local population and fortifications for Georgian army.

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