Ananuri is one of the outstanding monuments of the architectural ensemble of the late feudal era of Georgia. With beautiful facades, ornaments, churches, towers, and belfries. This architectural complex is located in the Aragvi Gorge, 60 kilometers from Tbilisi. The fortress belonged to the Aragvi Eristavs, the most powerful feudal lord. At that time, the dreams for the Eristavs were domination over the gorge of Aragvi and Tergi. At Ananuri the main roads connecting the territory of Shida Kartli through Dusheti were connected. The location was chosen because of the strategic location. All the components of the Ananuri ensemble were built in the era of the rule of the Eristavs, from the 15th century to 1743. In this period it turned into a huge fortress from a sentry post. It lost its function in the early 19th century after the conquest by Russia.
Due to the fact that nobody looked after her for more than one century, she suffered badly, the lower part of the fortress collapsed, and this territory was occupied by the population. In the 80-ies of the 20th century because of the construction of the Zhinval HPP, this fortress almost collapsed. Its spillway flooded part of the village and the military road. The new road was moved. The oldest building in the center, the Citadel, is in a 40-meter watchtower (defensive) tower with a pyramidal-stepped roof. All its parts are deaf. The first floor begins with a 3-meter height. On top of the same three floors and attic. Embrasures are made on the four walls of each floor. From here they watched the surrounding area and light penetrated the building. According to the chronology, the next is the church, we will measure the middle by a dome. Part of it was built with rubble stones. A dome of bricks. The facade is free from scenery. The dome is decorated with arches. In the interiors of the church there are clearly pronounced eastern elements. On the inside there are the baldachins of the church, the wall painting and the inscription have been preserved. By this inscription we learn that the baldachin was built in 1674, the main judges of Georgia, for Edisher and his wife. We can assume that in Ananuri was the throne of the Eristavtsev.
Around the first building gradually appeared walls and towers. Builders used the relief of the mountains very well. There are 5 towers in the wall, 3 of them in the western part, one in the south and one in the east. The upper floors of the tower had appointments, both residential and protective. Of the three western towers, the most important was the one in the middle, also called “Unapproachable.” Initially, it was 6-storey, later added the 7th floor. Each floor had embrasures.
At the end of the 17th century, the Aragvi eristavs built a temple here. Construction was completed in 1690-th year. The outer sides of the wall of the central-domed church were decorated with great skill. The raised interior of each facade was decorated with arches. On the facade of the facade are decorative crosses. Particularly beautiful is the cross depicted on the southern facade. On the facade are also seen two trees of life, a large cross also represents the tree of life, that is, only 3 trees of life. The number 3 in our religion has a sacred meaning, it means a trinity. At the bottom of the big cross is a monster. Its location (at the bottom of the cross) is a clue that good (Christianity) conquers evil. On both sides of the cross are depicted angels, one of them barefoot, the other in shoes. All the figures have extended eyes. This indicates the influence of eastern culture. On the southern facade there is an inscription indicating where the main eristav was built.
In the 17th century the church was completely painted, although during the invasion of Lezgin, the church was burned and the frescoes were damaged.
In the 19th century, when Georgia became part of the Russian Empire, Emperor Nicholas decided to visit Georgia, through the military road, so he had to visit Ananuri. In honor of the monarch all frescoes were repainted with lime and the altar was replaced. The church lost its original appearance. Unfortunately, similar stories have happened to other temples. Not only did they destroy the frescoes, they also stole them. Family icons that have been kept in Ananuri disappeared during this period.
In the last century, several frescoes were restored: on the southern wall “The Last Judgment”, on the north wall of the fresco of St. George, on the pillars of the image of the Holy Assyrian fathers.’
We continue the road from Ananuri to Gudauri. The journey takes 1 hour. Nature gradually changes, we enter the Alpine zone. On the way we meet towers, which had watchdog functions. During the invasion, signals were sent from these towers, during the day – with the help of smoke, and at night – with fire. We pass Pasanauri (1000 meters above sea level), which was one of the famous resort during the Soviet Union. In the summer there are many tourists. Along the way, we also meet a population who sell handcrafts made of natural wool. On textiles, there are ornaments: a cross, flowers.
We are now approaching the Gudauri ski resort (2200 meters above sea level). Australians studied these areas in the 80s of the last century; they concluded that here are the ideal conditions for the creation of a ski resort. In 1988, with the help of Australians, a fashionable hotel was built; several cottages were built for the staff. Nowadays, the number of hotels and cottages is growing daily. In the winter, not only locals come here, but also foreigners. For lovers of extreme sports, in the winter you can do skiing, snowboarding and heliboarding (heliskiing).
I remind you that we will cross the Cross Pass, the highest point of which is located at 2395m above sea level. There is a small white monument on that place, on which the “cross pass” is written in Russian. This name was given to this place in the 19th century when, at the behest of the Russian Empress Catherine II, at the peak of the military road, a wooden cross was erected. There is an eternal problem with the road due to the harsh winter, frost and heavy snowfall. It is not always possible to solve the problems on the roads in time. To this is added the movement on this section of trucks, which only worsens the situation. On dangerous sections of the road there are tunnels, which are used for the descent of avalanches and large snowfalls. In winter, traffic here is limited, and for large vehicles is completely prohibited. The road department tries, as soon as possible, to clear the road as soon as possible, so that the residents of Kazbegi can connect with the outside world.
When we stop at the Cross Pass, we show the guests cemetery of German prisoners of war and tell:
Georgia, being a part of the USSR, took an active part in the Second World War (1941-45). On its very territory, the battle did not take place, but camps of prisoners of war were located. German prisoners built roads, factories, hydroelectric power stations, tunnels, etc. They made a great contribution to the construction of tunnels and bridges here, as well as to the renewal of sections of the military road. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to return home after the war. Camps of prisoners existed throughout Georgia, and later two cemeteries were made for them. One is here, next to the military road, and the second is next to Borjomi, in Kwabiskhevi. The exact number of people buried here is unknown (approximately 200). The number of crosses is symbolic. The German government takes great care in the cemetery. Almost after every winter it is put in order.
Two important rivers originate on these slopes: Aragvi, which connects near Mtskheta with Mtkvari (Kura) and Terek, passing through Kazbegi to Vladikavkaz and then flowing into the Caspian Sea. This is the river that has become a muse for many Georgian and foreign poets, as the fastest and most turbulent. Georgian classics 19c called themselves “Tergdaleulebi” (“drinking water from the Terek”). They were educated in Russia, mainly in St. Petersburg, and on the way there they were just to cross the Terek, that is, “To drink water from the Terek.” After receiving education, they returned to their homeland and that’s why they were called “Turgdaleulebi”.
Among these writers is Alexander Kazbegi (1848-1893), in whose honor the administrative center of the region and Mount Kazbek itself were named simultaneously. Since 2006, the lower Kazbegi officially carries the name “Stepantsminda”. It was under this name that this settlement was known from ancient times up to the 19th century. This place is also called Kazbegi and from the locals you will sooner hear this name than the official one.
Alexander was the son of Kazibeg Chopikashvili. His father was awarded the princely title for his deeds and origins. After that, he changed his name to Kazbegi. He received his education in Petersburg. After returning to his homeland, he preferred the capital to his Penates and for 3 years, he pastured in his native mountains. There is an interesting story connected with his shepherds: two French travelers, among whom Alexander Dumas was supposed to be, got lost in the mountains. Accidentally they got on the way the shepherds and they tried to understand in their own language where they could continue their way. Suddenly, one of the shepherds spoke to them in French and showed them the way. The travelers were amazed at what they had heard. And when they arrived in Tbilisi they told with enthusiasm that even simple shepherds in Georgia speak French well. It’s not difficult to guess that one of these shepherds was just Alexander Kazbegi.
The writer is buried in Kazbegi, in the courtyard of his ancestors’ house. There is also his house-museum and a family church. In the central square is a monument to the writer.
Lower Kazbegi is located at an altitude of 1700m above sea level. As we have already said, this is the administrative center of this region. The pride of the local inhabitants is the mountain Kazbek, which we also call Mkinvartsveri, which is translated from the cargo. Means “ice peak, peak”. Kazbek is an attractive “target” for climbers and photographers. She dedicated poems to both Georgian and Russian poets. The height of the summit is 5047m (in some sources 5033m). Kazbek has one peculiarity, most often it hides in the clouds.
According to the legend, it was to this mountain that Prometheus was chained, whom the enraged gods punished for stealing the fire from Olympia and giving it to people. Every day an eagle came to him and pecked his liver. In the end, Hercules managed to save the hero. Prometheus also has a Georgian analogue – Amirani (from the Georgian mythology), who suffered the same fate from the local gods.
From the lower Kazbegi, the Trinity Cathedral is clearly visible against the backdrop of Mount Kazbek (this is the image of the church we see on the cover of many books), located on a high peak (2175m) and proudly watching the residents. Our current goal is to ascend the church. The cathedral was built in the 14th century, during the reign of St. George the Great (1318-1346). This is the period when Georgia was devastated by constant attacks from the Mongols. For many years, the church was closed, and now there is a male monastery (several monks live). Every year, August 28, here celebrate Gergetoba (the day of spiritual love), which is attended by a lot of believers.
Trinity Church in Gergeti
The ensemble of the Gergets Cathedral consists of a dome church, a bell tower and a fortification wall. It turns out that earlier there were other structures, but now they do not even have ruins left. The church is located at an altitude of 2175m above sea level.
It is often asked why our ancestors built churches so high, remotely from populated areas. For this, they had several reasons: spiritual people here it was better to pray and be in solitude. Such places are closer to heaven, where “the Lord reigns”. In addition, in such hard-to-reach places, such as this cathedral in the middle Ages, it was safer to store treasures during enemy attacks.
The cathedral is a building of the central-domed type. Its scheme of the plan has the form of a cross. The dome is located at the intersection of the naves. The inner walls of the temple are trimmed with a hewn stone. Then plastered and even were painted, but only a few of the remains have come down to us.
The decoration of the facades of the church is rather meager. You will not see a lot of ornaments on them, although on each wall the image of round disks dominates, which should be a symbol of e. In order to better understand their symbolic meaning, a few words need to be said about the meaning of the sun in Christianity:
As we have already noted, Christianity absorbed many elements from the preceding cultures or pagan model of the world view. One of the most common symbols that we meet in pre-Christian culture is just the sun. The cult of the sun dominated in many societies, especially in the East. It is interesting how the cross (as a symbol) and the sun are identified: the form of the cross originates in the ancient Chaldean civilization (* Chaldean is one of the oldest cradles of civilization, they were considered magicians, sorcerers, clairvoyants.) They talked in Aramaic. Who came to visit Jesus were from Chaldea), it was a symbol of the local deity Tammuz, who was portrayed in the form of the sun. The acceptance of the symbol of Tammuz in the church is associated with the emperor Constantine the Great, which in itself should be surprising. The cross was used as a symbol of the Babylonian God. Constantine worshiped the deity of the sun. He made a great contribution to the unification of the faith of the Messiah and the worship of the sun. Similarly, the aforementioned motif originates from ancient times, and then becomes fixed in Christianity.
In the church there is a miraculous icon of the Mother of God, which used to be in one of the Russian churches. After the fire, the church was burned and only this icon remained unscathed, which is why it was carried to the miraculous. Very often believers rise here without shoes and bring their icons to the icon.
Located to the south of the bell tower, built a little later than the church itself. Its lower floor serves as a gate. On the facade we see relief patterns. So, for example, the figure depicted on the western facade is a tutor (a man who built or decorated the temple).
After we descend from Gergeti, we continue the road to the border with the Russian Federation. Distance to the border – 12km. After passing Kazbegi, we find ourselves in the Daryal Gorge, where the Terek flows with incredible speed. At the border we stop with the church under construction, which was consecrated in honor of the archangels Michael and Gabriel. We warn tourists that it is forbidden to take pictures of the border here. The stop is about 15min. Then we return back.
The word “daryal” from Persian means “gateway”. For many centuries, the narrowest point (where the border is now) was closed by the Dariyal iron gate to protect against the mountain people living in the north (Alans and so on). This is written by the ancient Roman historian Pliny (1st century BC). Later, the Georgian kings erected a fortress, the protection of which was extremely important for them. During the reign of Queen Tamari the fortress was named after her. To this day only the ruins of the fortress have reached. Now here is the construction of a large monastic complex. In recent years here on Terek built a hydroelectric power station.