Gelati Monastery (World Heritage)

By | September 15, 2021

The royal monastery complex Gelati, founded in 1106, only remains in ruins. The site bears witness to Georgia’s heyday in the Middle Ages.

Gelati Monastery: facts

Official title: Gelati Monastery
Cultural monument: Gelati, founded by Dawit the Renewer as a royal court monastery
Continent: Asia
Country: Georgia
Location: Kutaisi, northwest of Tbilisi (Tbilisi)
Appointment: 1994 (together with the Bagrati Cathedral); Significant boundary change and reduction of sites in 2017
Meaning: remarkable building evidence from the medieval heyday of Georgia

Gelati Monastery: history

654 Conquest of Tbilisi by Arabs
up to 750 Umayyad rule in Georgia
973-1014 under Bagrat III. Unification of Georgia, choice of Kutaisi as capital and
1074-80 The Seljuks raid Georgia
1089-1125 under Dawit IV, also known as David the Renewer, ascent to a large Christian empire
1106 Gelati Monastery is founded
1106-25 Construction of the main church of the monastery, consecrated to Our Lady
1510 The monastery is pillaged by Turkish troops
1565-84 Rule of the Imeretic King Giorgi
1691 Destruction of the cathedral in the course of a Turkish invasion
1759 The Gelati Monastery is sacked by Turkish soldiers
2001 Handover of the church to the Georgian Orthodox Apostle Church
2010 Entry of the World Heritage Site Cathedral of Bagrat and Gelati Monastery on the Red List
2012 Reopening of the reconstructed cathedral

National rebirth in the Colchis

The garden city of Kutaisi, which dates back to the Paleolithic Age, lies at the apex of the triangle formed by the Great and Small Caucasus with the Black Sea coast. Apollonios of Rhodes mentions it in the third century BC in his epic »Argonautica« as the capital of Egressi, which the ancient non-Georgians referred to as »glowing Colchis«. Two centuries later, the Greek geographer and historian Strabo, a nephew of the Colchian ruler and a good expert on the country, traced the origin of the legend of the Golden Fleece back to sheepskin, which was used to collect gold particles in Rioni, western Georgia. Check watchtutorials to see Diverse Georgia.

Like all ancient cities, Kutaisi had an acropolis on the Gora castle hill on the right bank of the Rioni, but this was razed in the 18th century so that the Turks could no longer entrench themselves in it. At the end of the previous century, they had already blown up the venerable state cathedral of the Assumption of Mary. “It was a wonderful domed church,” complained the 18th century scholar Wachuschti Bagrationi, a distant descendant of the royal donor Bagrat III were, and very enormous in size. ”

After the Arab occupation of Georgia and the emergence of three Georgian kingdoms in the late 8th century, it fell to Bagrat III. to, from Kutaisi from Georgia to one. This found its completion under Dawit IV, who went down in national history as a successful and very educated statesman. The high self-confidence of the empire he had created, but also a striving for education that anticipated the Western European Renaissance found their visible expression in Dawit’s “beloved child”, the Gelati court monastery, which was within sight of his residence on the Ukimerioni. The ruler only appointed scholars to the academy there, whose importance increased with the decline of the learned Georgian centers on Mount Áthos and in Petrison, Bulgaria, who were as outstanding in character as they were as scientists. The cathedral remained in ruins until the 21st century, with an academy used as a refectory since the 16th century. After it was handed over to the Georgian Orthodox Apostle Church in 2001, it was reconstructed, despite protests from UNESCO, and inaugurated again in 2012. It was already on the Red List of World Heritage in Danger in 2010. The committee assessed the construction project as an irreversible interference that would impair the authenticity and integrity of the cultural heritage site.

During the expansion of Gelati in the 13th century, the builders adapted the outwardly simple side churches of St. George and Nicholas to harmoniously with the main church consecrated to the Mother of God by limiting their decoration to the interior. The noticeable influence of neighboring Byzantium is particularly evident in the mosaics and frescoes, most of which date from the 16th and 17th centuries: the donors’ procession on the north wall of the Church of Our Lady, led by the founder Dawit with the model of the church, looks like a historical arc of pictures in the left, followed by the west Georgian patriarch Evdemon Tschchetidze and the Imeretic kings Bagrat III. and Giorgi with their wives and sons.

Since Gelati was founded, the rulers of the Bagrationi were buried in the Church of Our Lady, and from the 15th century the Imeretic kings followed their example. Only Gelati’s founding father Dawit threw himself at the feet of his people in death, as he humbly let himself be buried in the former main entrance, so that every visitor to the monastery inevitably had to step over his grave. However, Dawit’s son Demetre blocked this entrance as early as 1139 with the wrought iron gate from Ganja, brought along as spoils of war.

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