Armazi, a part of historical Greater Mtskheta, is a place where the ancient city of the same name and the original capital of the early Georgian kingdom of Kartli or Iberia was located. It particularly flourished in the early centuries CE and was destroyed by the Arab invasion in the 730s.
The three major cultural layers have been identified: the earliest dates back to the 4th-3rd century BC (Armazi I), the middle one is from the 3rd-1st century BC (Armazi II), and the relatively newer structure belongs to the 1st-6th century AD (Armazi III). Armazi I is constructed of massive stone blocks forming an impregnable base but were finished off by less durable mud brick. It also contains a great hall of six columns with a tiled roof. Armazi II is noted for a temple with an apse. Armazi III is the richest layer constructed of elegantly cut stone blocks, joined together with lime mortar and metal clamps. Among the surviving structures are the royal palace, several richly decorated tombs, a bathhouse and a small stone mausoleum.
Archaeological evidences testify that the ancient Armazi was far more extensive than it is today. Armazi's strategic situation was dictated by its ready access to the Daryal Pass, the main road over the Greater Caucasus, through which the Scythians invaded the ancient Near East. The name of the city and its dominant acropolis, Armaz-Tsikhe ('citadel of Armazi'), is usually taken to derive from Armazi, the chief deity of the pagan Iberian pantheon.
Even after the rise of Mtskheta as a capital of Iberia, Armazi remained the holy city of Iberian paganism and one of the defenses of Mtskheta. The fortress was captured by the Roman general Pompey during his 65 BC campaign against the Iberian king Artag. A ruined structure over the Mtkvari River dates from that time and is still called 'Pompey's bridge'. Armazi's heyday came when Iberia was allied with the Roman emperors. Armazi stele of Vespasian unearthed in 1867 reports that the Roman Emperor Vespasian fortified Armazi for the Iberian king Mithridates I in 75 AD. This defense wall constructed in a unique position to block the southern exit of the Daryal Pass before it widens into the plain of modern Tbilisi was presumably a preventive measure against the Alans who frequently raided the Roman frontiers from across the Caucasus.
During this period, Armazi was governed by a hereditary pitiakhsh, whose rank approximated to that of viceroy or satrap, and was second in the official Iberian hierarchy after the king. The excavations of the hereditary necropolis of this dynasty yielded engraved gems bearing portraits of two of these viceroys, Asparukh (probably the contemporary of the Roman emperor Hadrian, 117-138 AD) and Zevakh (fl. 150 AD), a rare example of authentic, pre-Christian Georgian portraiture.
Armazi played a central role in ancient Georgian cultural life and in the evolution of local epigraphy in Georgia, prior to the invention of the Georgian alphabet in the 5th century. Among a number of curious inscriptions found at Armazi, the most important is the bilingual Greco-Aramaic tombstone inscription commemorating the short-lived Serapita and her noble lineage. It contains an unusual, in its ductus and some of its forms, version of the Aramaic alphabet which came to be known as the 'Armazi script' although it can also be found outside Armazi, in other parts of Georgia.
With the transfer of the Georgian capital to Tbilisi in the late 5th or early 6th century, Armazi went into a gradual decline. It still had its own high-ranking commandant, a post held in A.D. 545 by a certain Wistam. The city was finally destroyed and razed to the ground in 736 by the Arab commander Marwan ibn Muhammad.
The city of Armazi has never been revived since then, but a Georgian Orthodox monastery of St. Nino was constructed there between 1150 and 1178. This is a six-apse hall church which, as well as its associated structures, is now largely in ruins and only some fragments of the 12th-century murals have survived.References:
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a world famous spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. It is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architecture’s finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.
The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, was founded in 1337 by the monk Sergius of Radonezh. Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow, who received his blessing to the battle of Kulikov of 1380. The monastery started as a little wooden church on Makovets Hill, and then developed and grew stronger through the ages.
Over the centuries a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings and constructions of different dates were established. The whole complex was erected according to the architectural concept of the main church, the Trinity Cathedral (1422), where the relics of St. Sergius may be seen.
In 1476 Pskovian masters built a brick belfry east of the cathedral dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The church combines unique features of early Muscovite and Pskovian architecture. A remarkable feature of this church is a bell tower under its dome without internal interconnection between the belfry and the cathedral itself.
The Cathedral of the Assumption, echoing the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin, was erected between 1559 and 1585. The frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral were painted in 1684. At the north-western corner of the Cathedral, on the site of the western porch, in 1780 a vault containing burials of Tsar Boris Godunov and his family was built.
In the 16th century the monastery was surrounded by 6 meters high and 3,5 meters thick defensive walls, which proved their worth during the 16-month siege by Polish-Lithuanian invaders during the Time of Trouble. They were later strengthened and expanded.
After the Upheaval of the 17th century a large-scale building programme was launched. At this time new buildings were erected in the north-western part of the monastery, including infirmaries topped with a tented church dedicated to Saints Zosima and Sawatiy of Solovki (1635-1637). Few such churches are still preserved, so this tented church with a unique tiled roof is an important contribution to the Lavra.
In the late 17th century a number of new buildings in Naryshkin (Moscow) Baroque style were added to the monastery.
Following a devastating fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched, during which the appearance of many of the buildings was changed to a more monumental style. At this time one of the tallest Russian belfries (88 meters high) was built.
In the late 18th century, when many church lands were secularized, the chaotic planning of the settlements and suburbs around the monastery was replaced by a regular layout of the streets and quarters. The town of Sergiev Posad was surrounded by traditional ramparts and walls. In the vicinity of the monastery a number of buildings belonging to it were erected: a stable yard, hotels, a hospice, a poorhouse, as well as guest and merchant houses. Major highways leading to the monastery were straightened and marked by establishing entry squares, the overall urban development being oriented towards the centrepiece - the Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra.
In 1993, the Trinity Lavra was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.