The Zarzma monastery is nested in the forested river valley of Kvabliani in the Adigeni municipality, 30 km west of the city of Akhaltsikhe. It is the complex of a series of buildings dominated by a domed church and a belfry, one of the largest in Georgia.
The earliest church on the site was probably built in the 8th century, by the monk Serapion whose life is related in the hagiographic novel by Basil of Zarzma. According to his source, the great nobleman Giorgi Chorchaneli made significant donation – including villages and estates – to the monastery. The extant edifice dates from the early years of the 14th century, however. Its construction was sponsored by Beka I, Prince of Samtskhe and Lord High Mandator of Georgia of the Jaqeli family. What has survived from the earlier monastery is the late 10th-century Georgian inscription inserted in the chapel's entrance arch. The inscription reports the military aid rendered by Georgian nobles to the Byzantine emperor Basil II against the rebellious general Bardas Sclerus in 979. In 1544, the new patrons of the monastery – the Khursidze family – refurnished the monastery.
The façades of the church are richly decorated and the interior is frescoed. Apart from the religious cycles of the murals there are a series of portraits of the 14th-century Jaqeli family as well as of the historical figures of the 16th century. After the Ottoman conquest of the area later in the 16th century, the monastery was abandoned and lay in disrepair until the early 20th century, when it was reconstructed, but some of the unique characteristics of the design were lost in the process.
Currently, the monastery is functional and houses a community of Georgian monks. It is also the site of pilgrimage and tourism.
A smaller replica of the Zarzma church, known as Akhali Zarzma ('New Zarzma') is located in the same municipality, near Abastumani. It was commissioned by Grand Duke George Alexandrovich, a member of the Russian imperial family, from the Tbilisi-based architect Otto Jacob Simons who built it between 1899 and 1902, marrying a medieval Georgian design with the contemporaneous architectural forms. Its interior was frescoed by the Russian painter Mikhail Nesterov.References:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.