July 2009

Sameba Cathedral in Tbilisi.

Annanuri Fortress

Annanuri is both an old fortress and monestary situated on the right bank of the river Aragvi. The fortress dates back to the early feudal age; it served as an advanced defense post, blocking the road coming from the Daryal gorge. Annanuri belonged to the powerful appanage princes and these princes were descended from the oldest families of Georgia. In the lower fortress sits a a tower dating to the 14th and 15th centuries. Not far from it, there is a little church from the 16th and 17th centuries, named "Mkurnali” (healing). In the first half of the 17th century the upper fortress was erected that consisted of four round towers. One of the main sights is big cupola-shaped cathedral, founded by Kaikhosro Bagsarashvili, in 1689.

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Gori. The birthplace of Iosif Dzhugashvili, better known to the world as Joseph Stalin, lies 95km (59 miles) west of Tbilisi. The town has the last surviving public statue of Stalin in the former USSR, as well as a park and a museum devoted to Stalinist hagiography.

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Jvari Cathedral

Jvari (St. Cross Monastery) stands on the rocky mountaintop at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, overlooking the village of Mtskheta, which was formerly the capital of the Kingdom of Iberia.
According to traditional accounts, on this location in the early 4th century Saint Nino, a female evangelist credited with converting King Mirian III of Iberia to Christianity, erected a large wooden cross on the site of a pagan temple. The cross was reportedly able to work miracles and therefore drew pilgrims from all over Caucasus. A small church was erected over the remnants of the wooden cross in c.545 named the “Small Church of Jvari”.
The present building, or “Great Church of Jvari”, was built between 586 and 605 by Ersimtavari Stepanoz I. The importance of Jvari complex increased over time and attracted many pilgrims. In the late Middle Ages, the complex was fortified by a stone wall and gate, remnants of which still survive.

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Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

Svetitiskhoveli Cathedral, located in Mtskheta about 20km (12 miles) to the northwest of Tbilisi. Mtskheta predated Tbilisi as the capital of Iberia until the fifth century AD, and remained the center of Georgian Christianity until the 12th century. The 15th-century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (Pillar of Life), standing at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, was the holiest place in old Georgia. According to legend, the church is built on the spot where Christ’s crucifixion robe was dropped to the ground in AD 328, having been brought from Jerusalem by a local Jew, and fragments of the robe are said to be kept inside the cathedral. The existing church has some impressive royal tombs, a fine icon stand and distinctive carved decoration, including bulls’ heads and semi-pagan fertility symbols.

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Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, stands on the banks of the River Mtkvari, in a valley surrounded by hills. The name for the city derives from the word tbili (warm). It is best seen from the top of Mount Mtatsminda. With its warm climate, stone houses built around vine-draped courtyards, and winding streets, the city has a lively, Mediterranean atmosphere which was even present during the Soviet period. The old city, spreading out from the south bank of the river, has numerous frescoed churches (the most noteworthy being the sixth-century Sioni Cathedral), 19th century houses with arcaded open galleries on the upper floors, a castle and a surprising number of cafes and enticing tourist shops selling locally produced arts and crafts. Prospekt Rustaveli, Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare, features an assortment of stylish public buildings testifying to the city’s prosperity at the turn of the 19th century.

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