Alaverdi Monastery, Georgia

The 11th century Alaverdi Monastery was once the main church of Kakheti, a region in eastern Georgia. The massive stone main church is where the Kakhetian kings and queens of past centuries are buried.

Alaverdi Monastery is located in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia and is not to be confused with the Armenian town of Alaverdi.

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The Georgian Orthodox Alawerdi Monastery is located in the village of the same name about 20 kilometres from the town of Telavi. It was founded in the 4th century by the Assyrian monk Joseb of Alawerdi as a small church of St. George and expanded in the 11th century by the Kakhetian king Kwirike III to include its present main church, the so-called "Alawerdi Cathedral". Today, it is the third largest church in Georgia after the Sameba and Svetitskhoveli Cathedrals, and with its more than 50m high tower, the second tallest after the Sameba Cathedral.

The Alaverdi Monastery was once one of the most important places of worship in Georgia. The Bishop of Alaverdi was practically the head of the Church in Kakheti. Their special position was confirmed by various documents, even the kings of Georgia paid respect to the bishops. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Alaverdi monastery was transformed into a nunnery, where even the members of the royal family lived who had taken the monastic oath.

The Alawerdi Monastery had to endure several earthquakes and enemy attacks. In the 17th century, it even functioned as a cowshed and prison under Turkmen troops.

On the road at Alawerdi Monastery

Despite the many restorations, it can be visited today in its original form and full splendour. The pointed church tower in the fertile Alazani Valley stands out picturesquely against the mountain range of the Caucasus. The stone, almost unadorned façade of the Alawerdi Monastery is pierced with arcades and round arches, and there are galleries above the second level on the side aisles on the west wing. This gives the monastery an extremely solid and sublime appearance.

The interior of the Alawerdi Monastery is not quite as plain as its exterior. Sunlight penetrates through the 16 windows in the large dome and illuminates the spatial harmony of the impressive nave. The Virgin Mary with Child above the altar dates back to the 11th century, and the 16th-century image of St. George fighting the dragon above the western entrance is also remarkable.

Numerous scribes had their place in the Alawerdi Monastery, storing their valuable manuscripts in the monastery's large library.

In a small area surrounded by its own wall are the monastery's dining and bathing rooms, as well as the wine cellars that are ubiquitous in Georgia.

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As the main church in Katechian, the Alawerdi Monastery acts as the final resting place for the kings and queens and their families. The founder of the Alawerdi Monastery, Joseb of Alawerdi, is also buried here.

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