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Vardzia – Monastery complex, carved in a rock, XII-XIII Century Georgian picturesque monument


Vardzia – Monastery complex, carved in a rock, XII-XIII Century Georgian picturesque monument. Located in Javakheti, Aspindza region (30km from Aspindza), on a left bank of river Mtkvari, 1300 meters above sea level. According to orographic outline, Vardzia is located on the east branching of Erusheti ridge. The highest cave is located as high as 1462 meters above sea level.

Vardzia fortress is arranged as storeys, on a level of 100 meters, number of storeys 3 – 13, it includes more than 600 storage facilities, refectories, shacks, pantries, backup storages, 25 wine cellars, with 185 wine-jars in total.


Construction of the fortress was started by Giorgi III and finished by his daughter – Queen Tamar, who changed its original designation as a fortress and introduced it as a massive, fortified monastery. The complex was mostly constructed during 1156-1203 years, it was blessed on 15th of August, 1185, in the name of Assumption of Mary.

Vardzia complex includes 15 churches, the main church is one in the name of Assumption of Mary, here we can see a beautiful example of mural painting, which is drawn by one named Giorgi. Depicted are Giorgi III, Queen Tamar and other nobles. Between four remaining portraits of Queen Tamar, this one is the earliest, depicting youth of Queen Tamar, which is dated back as old as the 1186 year. Here you can also see Mary with baby Jesus in her hand, twelve apostles, various scenes from the gospel, etc.

In 1551, Vardzia was sacked by Shah of Iran – Tamaz I, Persians stole famous icon of Mary, golden and steel doors and many other treasures. In 1578, Vardzia was sacked again by Turks and many monks were killed, whoever survived were scattered in different directions and the monastery became uninhabited.

After the Soviet rule was established in Georgia, at first, Vardzia was a tourist base and later, in 1983 museum was established. In 1989, by the blessing of Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II, the liturgy was revitalized again as well as Monastery life, later, in 1999.