Medieval castles in Georgia

Narikala Castle

Narikala is an ancient fortress overlooking Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, and the Kura River. The fortress consists of two walled sections on a steep hill between the sulphur baths and the botanical gardens of Tbilisi. On the lower court there is the recently restored St Nicholas church. Newly built in 1996–1997, it replaces the original 13th-century church that was destroyed in a fire. The new church is of &a ...
Founded: 4th century AD | Location: Tbilisi, Georgia

Ananuri Castle

Ananuri was a castle and seat of the eristavis (Dukes) of Aragvi, a feudal dynasty which ruled the area from the 13th century. The castle was the scene of numerous battles. The current ensemble dates from the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1739, Ananuri was attacked by forces from a rival duchy, commanded by Shanshe of Ksani and was set on fire. The Aragvi clan was massacred. However, four years later, the local peasants ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Ananuri, Georgia

Rabati Castle

Rabati Castle in Akhaltsikhe, Georgia, was originally established in the 9th century as the Lomisa Castle. It was completely rebuilt by Ottomans. Most of the surviving buildings date from the 17th and 18th centuries. According to the Georgian Chronicles the city was established in the 9th century by Guaram Mampal, son of the King of Tao. From the 13th to the end of 14th centuries it was the capital city of Samtsk ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Akhaltsikhe, Georgia

Gori Castle

Gori Castle is a medieval citadel in Georgia, standing above the city of Gori on a rocky hill. The castle first appears in the 13th century records but archaeological evidence shows that the area had already been fortified in the last centuries BC. The fortress controlled major strategic and economic routes and accommodated a large garrison. In the 16th century the Ottomans captured it to overawe Tbilisi. In 1598 ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Gori, Georgia

Anacopia Castle

Anacopia is an ancient Abkhazian military citadel in New Athos (as it is currently known) in the Russian sponsored Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia. It is the most complete surviving building of ancient Anacopia, the former capital of the Kingdom of Abkhazia. A military structure was constructed here between the second and fourth centuries. At the end of the seventh century walls were constructed around the site o ...
Founded: 7th century AD | Location: Akhali Atoni, Georgia

Khertvisi Castle

Khertvisi is one of the oldest fortresses in Georgia and was functional throughout the Georgian feudal period. It was first built in the 2nd century BC. The church was built in 985, and the present walls were built in 1354. As the legend says, Khertvisi was destroyed by Alexander the Great. In the 10th-11th centuries it was the center of Meskheti region. During the 12th century it became a town. In the 13th century M ...
Founded: 1354 | Location: Khertvisi, Georgia

Keselo Castle Ruins

Keselo is a small medieval fortress just above the village of Omalo. The site is surrounded by the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. It is bordered in the north by Republic of Chechnya and Dagestan, in the east by the Georgian historic provinces Kakheti and Pshav-Khevsureti to the south. Traditionally Tush peoples abandoned their villages and used towers as temporary shelters during raids on the ...
Founded: 1230s | Location: Omalo, Georgia

Surami Castle

Strategically located at the entrance into the Borjomi Gorge and guarding the road from eastern to western Georgia, Surami town became a heavily fortified town in the 12th century. From the 1170s to the latter part of the 14th century, the fortress of Surami was a hereditary fief of the dynasty of the eristavs (dukes) of Kartli. Subsequently, Surami declined but retained its lively trading post as well as the fortre ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Surami, Georgia

Tsikhisdziri

Tsikhisdziri is home to an archaeological site and ruins of a Late Antique fortified town, which is identified with the Roman-built city-fortress of Petra. Petra, founded at the behest of the emperor Justinian I in 535 and, after a series of battles for the possession of that city during the Lazic War with Sasanid Iran, was demolished by the Romans themselves to prevent it again becoming the enemy"s target ...
Founded: 535 AD | Location: Kobuleti, Georgia

Atskuri Castle

Atskuri is a Georgian feudal fortress on the right bank of the Mtkvari (Kura) River, approximately 30 kilometres from Borjomi. Built in the 10th century, Atskuri Fortress was an important stronghold for the defense of Georgia during the Middle ages.
Founded: 10th century | Location: Atskuri, Georgia

Bebris Castle

Bebris Tsikhe (The Elder"s Fortress) is located further up the main road from Samtavro. The ruins are fun, if a bit dangerous, to climb on for views overlooking Mtskheta and the valley formed around the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Mtskheta, Georgia

Khornabuji Castle

Khornabuji is an ancient castle in the eastern part of Georgia. It was probably constructed, originally, at the end of the 1st millennium BC, at which time it was the only fortification controlling the valleys of the Iori and Alazani rivers. Archeology conducted during the 1970s in the area uncovered extensive evidence of the settlement that flourished in the flat land beneath the castle during and before the mediev ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Dedoplistsqaro, Georgia

Mutso

Mutso is a small fortified village in Georgia. One of the former strongholds of the historic Georgian province of Khevsureti, it is located on a rocky mountain (1880 m) on the right bank of the Andakistskali river. The village, almost completely abandoned more than a century ago, is a home to approximately 30 medieval fortified dwelling units arranged on vertical terraces above the Mutso-Ardoti gorge, four combat tower ...
Founded: Middle Ages | Location: Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Georgia

Birtvisi Castle Ruins

Birtvisi is a ruined medieval fortress in Kvemo Kartli, Georgia, nested within limestone cliffs in the Algeti river gorge. It is now within the boundaries of the Tetri-Tsqaro municipality, adjacent to the Algeti National Park. Birtvisi is essentially a natural rocky fortress of 1 km², secured by walls and towers, the most prominent of which – known as Sheupovari ('Obstinate') – tops the tallest rock ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Tetri-Tsqaro, Georgia

Gagi Castle

The earliest sources of Gagi Castle dates from the 11th century. The Armenian historian Vardan (13th century) reported that it was built by King Gagic I (990-1020). The ruins of the castle however date from the older ages and probably Gagik I just rebuilt them. The castle controlled the route leading to Tbilisi from the south. During the 15th century it also got known as Aghjakala, meaning "White Castle", ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Kushchi, Georgia

Tmogvi Castle Ruins

Tmogvi is a ruined castle on the left bank of the Kura River, a few kilometers downstream of the cave city of Vardzia. It is first mentioned in sources from the 9th century. It was built as a defensive work controlling the ancient trade route between the Javakheti plateau and the gorge of Kura, over a gorge formed by the Kura River. It was a crucial military stronghold in the region of Javakheti. The feudal lords of ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Tmogvi, Georgia

Dmanisi Castle and Church

The town of Dmanisi is first mentioned in the 9th century as a possession of the Arab emirate of Tbilisi, though the area had been settled since the Early Bronze Age. An Orthodox Christian cathedral ('Dmanisi Sioni') was built there in the 6th century. Located on the confluence of trading routes and cultural influences, Dmanisi was of particular importance, growing into a major commercial center of medieval ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Georgia, Georgia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Reims Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths. A major tourism destination, the cathedral receives about one million visitors annually.

History

Excavations have shown that the present building occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c. 400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century. On 19 May 1051, King Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev were married in the cathedral.

On May 6, 1210 the cathedral was damaged by fire and reconstruction started shortly after, beginning at the eastern end. Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218, suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors, the lengthening of the nave presumably being an adaptation to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. In 1233 a long-running dispute between the cathedral chapter and the townsfolk (regarding issues of taxation and legal jurisdiction) boiled over into open revolt. Several clerics were killed or injured during the resulting violence and the entire cathedral chapter fled the city, leaving it under an interdict (effectively banning all public worship and sacraments). Work on the new cathedral was suspended for three years, only resuming in 1236 after the clergy returned to the city and the interdict was lifted following mediation by the King and the Pope. Construction then continued more slowly. The area from the crossing eastwards was in use by 1241 but the nave was not roofed until 1299 (when the French King lifted the tax on lead used for that purpose). Work on the west facade took place in several phases, which is reflected in the very different styles of some of the sculptures. The upper parts of the facade were completed in the 14th century, but apparently following 13th century designs, giving Reims an unusual unity of style.

Unusually the names of the cathedral's original architects are known. A labyrinth built into floor of the nave at the time of construction or shortly after (similar to examples at Chartres and Amiens) included the names of four master masons (Jean d'Orbais, Jean-Le-Loup, Gaucher de Reims and Bernard de Soissons) and the number of years they worked there, though art historians still disagree over who was responsible for which parts of the building. The labyrinth itself was destroyed in 1779 but its details and inscriptions are known from 18th century drawings. The clear association here between a labyrinth and master masons adds weight to the argument that such patterns were an allusion to the emerging status of the architect (through their association with the mythical artificer Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of King Minos). The cathedral also contains further evidence of the rising status of the architect in the tomb of Hugues Libergier (d. 1268, architect of the now-destroyed Reims church of St-Nicaise). Not only is he given the honor of an engraved slab; he is shown holding a miniature model of his church (an honor formerly reserved for noble donors) and wearing the academic garb befitting an intellectual.

The towers, 81 m tall, were originally designed to rise 120m. The south tower holds just two great bells; one of them, named “Charlotte” by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000 kg.

During the Hundred Years' War the cathedral was under siege by the English from 1359 to 1360. After it fell the English held Reims and the Cathedral until 1429 when it was liberated by Joan of Arc which allowed the Dauphin Charles to be crowned king on 17 July 1429.

In 1875 the French National Assembly voted £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades. The façade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the great masterpieces of the Middle Ages.

German shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop's palace. Images of the cathedral in ruins were used during the war as propaganda images by the French against the Germans and their deliberate destruction of buildings rich in national and cultural heritage. Restoration work began in 1919, under the direction of Henri Deneux, a native of Reims and chief architect of the Monuments Historiques; the cathedral was fully reopened in 1938, thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers, but work has been steadily going on since.

Exterior

The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes; among European cathedrals, only Chartres has more sculpted figures. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary, in place of the usual sculptured tympanum. The 'gallery of the kings' above shows the baptism of Clovis in the centre flanked by statues of his successors.

The facades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures. That on the North has statues of bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu), while that on the south side has a modern rose window with the prophets and apostles. Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant lead-covered timber bell tower that is 18 m tall, reconstructed in the 15th century and in the 1920s.

Interior

The interior comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has interesting stained glass ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. The rose window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.

The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under François I (1515-1547), representing the life of the Virgin. They are now to be seen in the former bishop's palace, the Palace of Tau. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Marc Chagall designed the stained glass installed in 1974 in the axis of the apse.

The treasury, kept in the Palace of Tau, includes many precious objects, among which is the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one that contained the oil with which French kings were anointed, which was broken during the French Revolution, a fragment of which the present Ampoule contains.

Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and the Palace of Tau were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.