The Monastery of St. Nino at Bodbe is a Georgian Orthodox monastic complex and the seat of the Bishops of Bodbe. Originally built in the 9th century, it has been significantly remodeled, especially in the 17th century. The monastery now functions as a nunnery and is one of the major pilgrimage sites in Georgia, due to its association with St. Nino, the 4th-century female evangelist of Georgians, whose relics are shrined there.
The Bodbe Monastery is nested among tall Cypress trees on a steep hillside overlooking the Alazani Valley, where it commands views of the Greater Caucasus mountains.
The extant church – a three-nave basilica with three protruding apses – was originally built between the 9th and 11th centuries, but has been significantly modified since then. Both exterior and interior walls have been plastered and bear the traces of restoration carried out in the 17th and 19th centuries. It consists of a small hall church with an apse built over St. Nino’s grave that is integrated into a larger aisled basilica. A free-standing three-storey bell-tower was erected between 1862 and 1885. Part of the 17th-century wall surrounding the basilica was demolished and the earlier original one restored in 2003.
According to Georgian tradition, St. Nino, having witnessed the conversion of Georgians to the Christian faith, withdrew to the Bodbe gorge, in Kakheti, where she died c. 338-340. At the behest of King Mirian III (r. 284-361), a small monastery was built at the place where Nino was buried. The monastery gained particular prominence in the late Middle Ages. It was particularly favored by the kings of Kakheti who made choice of the monastery as the place of their coronation. Pillaged by the troops of Shah Abbas I of Persia in 1615, the Bodbe monastery was restored by King Teimuraz I of Kakheti (r. 1605-1648). With the revival of monastic life in Bodbe, a theological school was opened. The monastery also operated one of the largest depositories of religious books in Georgia and was home to several religious writers and scribes.
After the annexation of Georgia by the Russian Empire (1801), the Bodbe monastery continued to flourish under Metropolitan John Maqashvili and enjoyed the patronage of Tsar Alexander I of Russia. In 1823, the monastery was repaired and adorned with murals. Upon John’s death in 1837, the Russian Orthodox exarchate active in Georgia since 1810 abolished the convent and converted it into a parish church. In the following decades, the monastery went into disrepair, but, in the 1860s, Archimandrite Macarius (Batatashvili) began to restore the monastery and established a chanting school. The chapel housing St. Nino’s relics were refurbished by Mikhail Sabinin in the 1880s. In 1889, Bodbe was visited by Tsar Alexander III of Russia who decreed to open a nunnery there. The resurrected convent also operated a school where needlework and painting was taught.
In 1924, the Soviet government closed down the monastery and converted it into a hospital. In 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Bodbe monastery was resumed as a convent. Restoration works were carried out between 1990 and 2000 and resumed in 2003.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.