Davit Gareji - The greatest cave city you have probably never heard about
05 June, 2014
Davit Gareji - The greatest cave city you have probably never heard about
Several hundreds of cells, churches, chapels and refectories in the David Gareji complex are all cut out of rock.
Easter night in 1615 marks the slaughter of 6000 nuns by the hordes of Shah-Abbas.


Davit Gareji is one of the greatest cave cities in the world. It is a VI-XII century prominent relief-cultural center from the Georgian feudal time. The David Gareji cave monastery complex is located in the outer Kakheti region. It lies on
the Gareji semi-desert slopes of the mountain and amazes visitors with its artful architecture and paintings of high artistic value.
St. David was one of the thirteen Assyrian Fathers. They arrived in Georgia in the second half of VI century to reinforce the Christian faith. St. David decided to live a solitary life in a desert place and chose the Gareji mountainside. According to the legend, after St. David’s prayers, drops of water leaked through the rock. This water was called Tears of David and has miraculous properties. St. David founded the monastery David’s Lavra. The other three - Desert, Bertubani and Chichkhitauri - were founded a little later.
Several hundreds of cells, churches, chapels and refectories in the David Gareji complex are all cut out of rock. Cells and smaller chapels were carved by the monks themselves, others were made by the architects. One of the oldest buildings that still remains is the Church of Resurrection, standing atop of Desert Mountain, and it dates back to the VIII-IX centuries. The St. John the Baptist round tower was the last one built there and it dates back to the first decade of the XIX century. Their ancient walls have preserved fresco painting walls with unique patterns, including historical figures – Georgian Kings’ portraits. There was a tradition of Georgian princes living in the monastery for a year, before their coronation. The significance of the Gareji frescoes are determined by the fact that they preserve portraits of many historical persons – King David the Builder in St John Desert, Tamara’s and Lasha-George’s in Bertubani.
On 6 May 2012, near one part of the David Gareji Monastery complex, at the Desert Monastery, which locates on the adjoining mountain of David Gareji’s Lavra monastery, Azerbaijani border guards appeared and they refused Georgian tourists to enter the monastery. Society learned this news from the nuns.
Besides the fact that the neighboring country’s border guards haven’t taken this opportunity from clerical persons, the brotherhood of the monastery has been demanding for the right of free motion of pilgrims and spreading Georgian jurisdiction on this place.
As stated by them, the borders haven’t been established yet, so the Azerbaijani part does not have any rights over the control of the monuments in the monastery complex.
It must be said that the Azerbaijanis have not built a Berlin-like wall and they have not split the monastery in two.
In the XIII century, the Mongolians robbed and demolished the monasteries. They burned manuscripts and holy items. The life in Bertubani was destroyed. Lavra, dodo’s horn and the Baptist monasteries were ruined.
Easter night in 1615 marks the slaughter of 6000 nuns by the hordes of Shah-Abbas. As a result of the many invasions in the XVIII century, the development of Gareji Monastery was remarkably weakened. In the second half of the XIX century it was absolutely deserted. Only a few monks remained in St John the Baptists monastery.

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