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The Corners of Georgia: Cave City Vardzia

Vardzia cave city-monastery in Georgia Vardzia was excavated in the Erusheti Mountain in the 12th century and is one of the main attractions of the country
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Vardzia cave city-monastery in Georgia Vardzia was excavated in the Erusheti Mountain in the 12th century and is one of the main attractions of the country

Vardzia, an ancient 12-13th-century city and monastery complex situated in Southern Georgia 60 km from the town of Akhaltsikhe, is one of the most spectacular tourist corners of the whole country. The city was built by many Georgian leaders at different times, and was a place of intensive cultural and educative life.

Vardzia cave city-monastery in Georgia Vardzia was excavated in the Erusheti Mountain in the 12th century
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Vardzia cave city-monastery in Georgia Vardzia was excavated in the Erusheti Mountain in the 12th century

Even though in 1283 this cave city was destroyed by a powerful earthquake, its true scale can be deduced from the remaining spaces, cells and corridors. The monastery, which stretches for over 900 m along a river, used to have around 600 individual spaces: churches, chapels, living quarters, cellars, baths, storage rooms, libraries, etc. During the Middle Ages, this place was a safe haven from conquerors and aggressors.

The Church of the Dormition in Vardzia cave city-monastery
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  The Church of the Dormition in Vardzia cave city-monastery

Today, Vardzia is a mere shadow of what it used to be. The earthquake destroyed this remarkable cave city’s anterior part including its walls, steps and galleries. This is the reason why it’s now so difficult to understand the logic of its layout. The cave quarters of the complex are located up to 50 m underground. In total, the city has 13 successive levels.

One of the monks in Vardzia cave city-monastery
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  One of the monks in Vardzia cave city-monastery

The heart of the complex is a temple with images of the old rulers immortalised on its walls. Vardzia’s monastery was an important Georgian cultural centre where books were rewritten. According to historians, the monastery was very wealthy – even its pans were made of silver and gold, and its icons and crosses decorated with jewels. In 1983, Vardzia became an open-air museum, and a functioning monastery in 1999.

Vardzia cave city-monastery in Georgia Vardzia was excavated in the Erusheti Mountain
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Vardzia cave city-monastery in Georgia Vardzia was excavated in the Erusheti Mountain

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