The Shemokmedi Monastery was founded in the 15th century as a seat of one of the three bishoprics of the Principality of Guria, the other two being Jumati and Khino. At the same time, the monastery served as a burial ground to the Gurieli princely dynasty. The surviving tombs belong to Rostom Gurieli (died 1564) and Mamia III Gurieli (died 1714).
After the death of Metropolitan Bishop Ioseb Takaishvili in 1794, the Shemokmedi sea became dormant; the bishop of Jumati became a titular Shemokmedeli, while the monastery and its possessions passed to Kaikhosro Gurieli, an influential member of the ruling dynasty of Guria, who eventually lost his estates for leading an insurrection against the Russian Empire in 1820. During the conflict, Shemokmedi was stormed by the Russian troops, its fortifications were demolished and environs devastated.
The Shemokmedi monastery was reinstated as a bishopric see, uniting the parishes of Batumi and Shemokmedi, in 1920. The Shemokmedi Diocese was as a separate eparchy was re-established in 1995.
The Shemokmedi monastery consists of two architecturally simple churches—those of the Redeemer and the Transfiguration otherwise known as Zarzma. The third structure, a bell tower, is built upon the fence of the monastery. This complex is located on a small hill on the left bank of the Bzhuzhi river, overlooking the village of Shemokmedi.
The church of the Redeemer is a three-nave basilica with the dimensions of 10 × 13 m. It is an ashlar structure, lined with bluestone, and with a white marble floor. An ornate curving follows the contour of a window on the western façade. The interior was once entirely frescoed. The surviving fragments depict Mamia II Gurieli (died 1627), Prince of Guria, and his wife Tinatin, with respective identifying inscriptions in Georgian.
The church of the Transfiguration was constructed at the behest of Prince Vakhtang I Gurieli in the late 1570s to house the venerated 9th-century Icon of the Transfiguration of Jesus rescued from the Zarzma Monastery in the Ottoman-occupied Principality of Samtskhe; hence comes the other name of the church, 'Zarzma'. This church is smaller than that of the Redeemer, with the dimensions of 9 × 7 m. it is a single-nave design crowned with an octagonal dome. The edifice is lined with brick and ashlar. Fragments of Georgian and Greek inscriptions as well as fresco depiction of the first bishop of Shemokmedi, Besarion Machutadze, survive on walls. A bell-tower built upon the church fence was originally constructed in the 16th century and renovated in 1831. All structures of the complex bare traces of multiple reconstructions.
Over centuries, the Shemokmedi cathedral became a safe-house of ecclesiastic treasures and accumulated a large collection of various religious objects and manuscripts from other churches and monasteries of Georgia. In 1873, the church was visited and the first scholarly description of its collection was compiled by Dimitri Bakradze. Subsequently, the monastery was subjected to a series of robberies. The surviving treasures were catalogued by Nikodim Kondakov on his visit to the monastery in 1889. Since 1924, most of the extant items have been in the collections of the Georgian National Museum.References:
Kirkjubøargarður ('Yard of Kirkjubøur', also known as King"s Farm) is one of the oldest still inhabited wooden houses of the world. The farm itself has always been the largest in the Faroe Islands. The old farmhouse dates back to the 11th century. It was the episcopal residence and seminary of the Diocese of the Faroe Islands, from about 1100. Sverre I of Norway (1151–1202), grew up here and went to the priest school. The legend says, that the wood for the block houses came as driftwood from Norway and was accurately bundled and numbered, just for being set up. Note, that there is no forest in the Faroes and wood is a very valuable material. Many such wood legends are thus to be found in Faroese history.
The oldest part is a so-called roykstova (reek parlour, or smoke room). Perhaps it was moved one day, because it does not fit to its foundation. Another ancient room is the loftstovan (loft room). It is supposed that Bishop Erlendur wrote the 'Sheep Letter' here in 1298. This is the earliest document of the Faroes we know today. It is the statute concerning sheep breeding on the Faroes. Today the room is the farm"s library. The stórastovan (large room) is from a much later date, being built in 1772.
Though the farmhouse is a museum, the 17th generation of the Patursson Family, which has occupied it since 1550, is still living here. Shortly after the Reformation in the Faroe Islands in 1538, all the real estate of the Catholic Church was seized by the King of Denmark. This was about half of the land in the Faroes, and since then called King"s Land (kongsjørð). The largest piece of King"s Land was the farm in Kirkjubøur due to the above-mentioned Episcopal residence. This land is today owned by the Faroese government, and the Paturssons are tenants from generation to generation. It is always the oldest son, who becomes King"s Farmer, and in contrast to the privately owned land, the King"s Land is never divided between the sons.
The farm holds sheep, cattle and some horses. It is possible to get a coffee here and buy fresh mutton and beef directly from the farmer. In the winter season there is also hare hunting for the locals. Groups can rent the roykstovan for festivities and will be served original Faroese cuisine.
Other famous buildings directly by the farmhouse are the Magnus Cathedral and the Saint Olav"s Church, which also date back to the mediaeval period. All three together represent the Faroe Island"s most interesting historical site.