UNESCO World Heritage Sites

To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. These criteria are explained in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention which, besides the text of the Convention, is the main working tool on World Heritage. The criteria are regularly revised by the Committee to reflect the evolution of the World Heritage concept itself.

Until the end of 2004, World Heritage sites were selected on the basis of six cultural and four natural criteria. With the adoption of the revised Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, only one set of some criteria exists.

* To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
* To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates significant stage in human history;
* To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.

There are some monuments in Georgia thats includes in UNESCO World Heritage Sites:


Bagrati Cathedral

The Cathedral of King Bagrat in Kutaisi ranks among the best monuments of Georgian architecture. The constructions began in the last quarter of the 10th century and ended in 1003, during the time of flourishing feudal economy and culture in Georgia. The acropolis rose on a hill above the right bank of the Rioni River.

From the 10th to the 13th century, Kutaisi was a prosperous city. The town, located 236km (146 miles) west of Tbilisi serves as the capital of Imereti and the second largest city in Georgia, lying on both sides of the Rioni River. According to some scholars during the late Bronze Age (1300 BC) Kutaisi was the capital of King Aeetes, Medea’s father who possessed the Golden Fleece.

The first king of a unified Georgia, Bagrat III (975-1014) commissioned the cathedral which stood intact for seven hundred years. Even in its present ruined state, you cannot but feel the grandeur and nobility of the structure and sense of power and wonder.

The Cathedral of Bagrat is a triconch with protruding sidearms to form the cross. Several years after the completion of the cathedral, a three-story residential tower was added to the left side of the west façade which probably served as the king’s quarters or as the residence of the local archbishop. After the completion of the cathedral a richly ornamented portico with open arches was added to the southwest sides. Two decades later, this concept was repeated in front of the entryways on the west and south sides. These later embellishments were marked by elaborate, deeply incised stone carvings. Mythical animals, human faces, and sometimes human faces on animal bodies predominate here, usually intertwined with rich leaf motifs.

Russian ambassadors who visited the church in the middle of the 17th century reported that the interior was covered with mosaics. Remnants of the design of the floor – broad circles interspersed with inlays of black, white, and red are still visible at the eastern end of the building.

The cathedral was sacked and destroyed by the Ottoman troops in 1691. The incident caused the cupola and ceiling to collapse leaving the cathedral in its present state. Since 1951 Georgian restorers have been working on the site.

In 1994, the Bagrati Cathedral, together with the Gelati Monastery, was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list as a single entity. In 2001, the cathedral was restored to the Georgian Orthodox Church. It is now of limited use for worship services, but attracts many pilgrims and tourists. Being one of the main tourist attractions Bagrati Cathedral is frequently used as a symbol of the whole city of Kutaisi.


Gelati Monastery

The Gelati Monastery, a wonderful monumental specimen of Georgian architecture is situated eleven kilometers to the east of Kutaisi in a picturesque ravine of the Tskaltsitela River. Entering the yard of Gelati Monastery you will see the architectural ensemble in the green glade: the main church with its three apses facing the visitors, the St. George’s domed church – comparatively less in dimensions and St. Nicolas’ Church – a two-storey building with an arched passage on the ground floor, on the west of the main church. A little further there is a bell-tower rising near a spring from which drinking water is running through clay pipes to the ground floor. To the west of the Main and St. Nicolas’ churches rise the walls of the Gelati Academy founded by the King David the Builder in the 12th century.

Dwelling-places and other secular buildings were situated along the walls of the monastery which had given place to the constructions of later period. There is a two-storey construction of former gates in the southern part of the wall where King David the Builder is buried.

The Gelati Monastery was founded at the beginning of the 12th century, during the period of most significant historical events in Georgia.

King David, who had assigned to the Gelati Monastery the role of custodian of the burial vaults of his ancestors (the kings of Georgia), allotted the monastery’s vast arable lands, which he obtained as a result of his successful struggle against the big feudal lords, and presented it with countless treasures – the war trophies of his victorious campaigns against foreign enemies.

On the same luxurious scale, work was carried out on erecting the majestic cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin as well as on collecting various holy relics, and producing the church-plate and icons. It took many a year to raise the Cathedral. King David, who died in 1125 and did not live to see it completed, bade his heir Demetre I to finish the work., In 1130, during the latter’s reign the cathedral was consecrated.

New churches and other structures were built around the main Cathedral. The Mongol invasion of Georgia in the 13th-14th centuries greatly impeded the country’s development, but was unable to completely suppress the creative activity of the nation. And still the constructions at the Gelati Monastery continued, though on a considerably reduced scale.

The Gelati Monastery belongs to those few architectural ensembles in Georgia which have preserved their principle structures along with rich information on their foundation and building.

Factors of strategic, climatic and aesthetic importance were all taken into account from the very start of the monastery’s construction.

Gelati is situated not far from Kutaisi, the capital city of Georgia in olden times. It rests on a mountain slope, occupying an artificially leveled site. From the south-east the complex is bordered by a wide scenic ravine providing a beautiful vista that recedes into the distance right up to the highest snow-capped peaks of the Caucasian mountain ridge.

The structures that have survived up to the present day are: the main Cathedral, the spring, sheltered by the Bell Tower, and the remains of the Academy, and south-west – the gate within whose passageway is preserved the slab over the grave of David the Builder. Another gate is on the east side of the monastery.

Some smaller structures were built during the 12th century and the 13th, as well as early in the 14th: the domed Church of St. George, the Church of St. Nicholas, and a bell tower over the spring. The cathedral blended naturally with the surrounding landscape. The interior of the Cathedral, crowned with a wide cupola, is spacious and dignified. It is well illuminated by the light flooding in through the many large windows.

The Gelati Monastery has preserved a great number of murals dating back to the 12th-18th centuries. They adorn both the main Cathedral consecrated to the Nativity of the Virgin and the Church of St. George.

The murals in the main structure combine two kinds of monumental medium – mosaic and fresco.

The conch in the Cathedral’s chancel is adorned with a mosaic portraying the Virgin and the Christ child with the Archangels Michael and Gabriel before them.

All the lower part of the mosaic disintegrated and was later filled in with fresco painting.

The author of the Gelati mosaic had a perfect command of the laws of the decorative system worked out in Byzantine art.

There you could also see many paintings and portrays of Kings. Many icons and monuments previously preserved in the Gelati sacristy are on display at the Georgia State Museum of Art or in the Kutaisi State Historical and Ethnographic Museum.

The Gelati Monastery as a whole represents a genuine treasure house of medieval art.


Jvari Monastery

The masterpiece of Early Christian Orthodox architecture Jvari Monastery is dated 585-604 cc AD. Located on the hill top near the town Mtskheta, it is listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1994. The name is translated as the Monastery of the Cross.

According to traditional accounts, in the early 4th century Saint Nino stayed here to pray and erected a wooden cross on Mtskheta’s highest hill. The church was built on the crest of a cliff at a confluence of the rivers Mtkvari and Aragvi. It is a representative of the tetra conch architectural type that was popular not only in Georgia but also in Byzantine world.

Jvari served as a model for many other churches in the country. Unusual and varied relief sculptures decorate its façades. The importance of Jvari complex increased over time and attracted many pilgrims. According to the legend pilgrims visiting the site shed tears while praying and the nearby natural lake was named the Lake of tears.

The harmonious relationship between the landscape, architectural forms and divisions, the well-thought-out disposition of decorative elements and splendid relieves carved on big slabs of a stone give the south and east walls special expressiveness. Among the reliefs of the east wall are found the portraits of the kings who built the church. Included in UNESCO world heritage sights, the monument is still used for major celebrations.

Driving distance from Tbilisi is 19 km (20 min)



Svetitskhoveli is the main Christian Orthodox Cathedral in Georgia, built in 1010-1029 cc by the Georgian architect Arsukisdze and represents the high artistic value of Feudal time’s architecture. It was the main pilgrimage place on the Silk Road, the burial place of the Christ’s Robe, the tomb place of Georgian Kings and the most frequently visited place in Georgia.  It is listed asUNESCO World Heritage Site and is located in the historical town of Mtskheta, the former capital of the kingdom of Iberia.

Driving distance from Tbilisi is 20 km (15 minutes) North-West. The history of the monument dates back to the 1st century A.D. According to the main legend a part of the Lord’s tunic fell into the hands of a Mtskheta dweller, local Jewish man Eliazar, who had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Eliazar brought the tunic to Georgia. In Mtskheta he was met by his sister, Sidonia. She strained the tunic to her breast and gave her soul to God. No one could take the precious thing from Sidonia’s hands and therefore she was buried holding the tunic. On her grave a miraculous tree grew under which curative sweet-smelling liquid streamed throughout summer and winter.

In 337 king Mirian declared Christianity as the state religion of Georgia and decided to build the main temple on the place where the Lord’s tunic was buried. The cathedral which began its life as a wooden church was named a ‘Living pillar’ because of the main pillar which was cut from the sacred tree growing on Sidonia’s grave.

The first stone cathedral was built in 6th century. Today the remains of the decorated pillars can be observed under the transparent glass floor.

The current construction was built in 1029 by the Georgian architect Arsukidze.

The cathedral differs in its artistic value, magnificence, harmony and the special role it has played in the history and art of the country. The décor of the western façade is the most relief and artistically ornamented part of the Cathedral, which nearly has fully preserved its original form. Asymmetry characteristic to the Cathedral is better seen on the southern façade. A western part of the southern façade preserves an interesting composition of relief and sculptural figures dated to the period of the Cathedral construction. The eastern façade, as compared with other facades, is symmetric and differs in variety and mastery of ornaments. A system of decorative arches is used on the northern façade, the central arch being elevated stressing the Cathedral’s height, 54 meters.

Some scholars claim that Alexander the First in 15th century renovated almost completely demolished cathedral. Svetitskhoveli reached our time bearing the ornamentation and interior paintings of those days. A well-known zodiac circle is the only one in the whole Georgia. The first sun clock with the shape of a peacock is depicted on the exterior wall of the cathedral.

In 1787, King Erekle ordered a wall to be built around the cathedral. The monument, full of legends still amazes its visitors. Setitskhoveli is a favorite place for local people, young couples and tourists who can observe colorful wedding ceremonies there every weekend.



Ushguli is the highest permanently inhabited village in Europe, located in Svaneti, at the feet of Shkhara, one of the highest Caucasian summits. About 70 families, approximately 250 people live in the village, which dates back more than 2000 years. For 6 winter months, snow covers the whole place and sometimes the road to Ushguli is closed. However, a small school is always open and life goes on.

The village is located in some 45 km from Mestia town – the center of Svaneti region. To get to Ushguli local 4×4 Jeeps are needed, which can be hired in Mestia. The way to the village is off-road and takes approximately 3 hours one way. It passes several villages, like Ipari and Kala, where you can find small churches with old murals and frescos inside.

The mountainous region of Svaneti in the northwestern part of Georgia is one of the most remote and inaccessible regions of the country. Svaneti retains a pristine medieval quality. This sense of time warp, combined with the grandeur of the natural setting, makes a trip to Svaneti well worth the effort no matter how difficult it may be to get there.

The Svans are indigenous Georgians and speak their own language. Svanuri belongs to the Southern Caucasian language group known as Kartvelian. It has no alphabet and is mostly spoken at home and socially. The harsh climate and mountainous landscape of the region are the principal factors behind the Svanetian character. They are proud, laconic people who find the virtue in a certain austerity and stoicism. Hunters and alpinists are the most respected members of the community. Svans in no way remiss in the practice of traditional Georgian hospitality.

Over 20 medieval typical Svanetian protective towers are found throughout the Ushguli with goats, pigs and cows happily mingling with the local population on the narrow cobbled lanes. There is an Ethnographic Museum in a tower located in the center of the settlement containing the first-rate examples of medieval repousse work, icons, and processional crosses from churches in this region and other parts of Georgia. A short walk above the village leads to a small hilltop where the Lamaria Chapel is located, dating back to the 12th century. The Chapel is full of magnificent old frescoes. From there a broad valley leads to the foot of Shkhara through flower strewn alpine meadows.

The superb location of Ushguli and the unique lifestyle of the people in the village turn the place into a popular destination to visit. The severe location isolates Ushguli from the rest of modernized Georgia, and as a result, many Svanetian religious and cultural traditions have remained virtually intact.

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