If you’ve been to Georgia or are planning to visit the country, you might have noticed that most of the attractions in Georgia, apart from mountainous villages and main cities, are the Orthodox churches. Most of them played an important part in Georgia’s religious past, so here’s the list of those beautiful Orthodox churches you might want to visit.

Anchiskhati Basilica

Anchiskhati Church Entrance
Photo Credit: Andrea Massignani

Anchiskhati Basilica is the oldest surviving church in Tbilisi dating back to the sixth century. Originally it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, but since a treasured icon of the Savior of Ancha Monastery was moved to Tbilisi to preserve it from Ottoman invasion, the church was renamed to Anchiskhati, or Icon of Ancha in English, in 1675.

Atenis Sioni

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Atenis Sioni
Photo Credit: François Perret Rukhadze

This early 7th-century church in the village of Ateni is located around 10 km (6.2 mi) from the city of Gori. It is an early example of a ‘four-apse church with four niches’ domed tetra-conch, richly decorated with figurative reliefs and ornaments. The walls contain the earliest known inscriptions in Nuskha-Khutsuri, one of the versions of the early Georgian alphabet. The earliest known examples of Mkhedruli, a currently Georgian script, are also found here.

Manglisi Holy Dormition Cathedral

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Manglisi Cathedral
Photo Credit: Kakha Kolkhi

The cathedral dates back to the 6th-7th-century located near the town of Manglisi. The town used to be an important religious center back in the day. According to the ancient documents, the first church on this site was built by the King Mirian in the 4th century, however, it was demolished and the oldest part of it dates back to the 7th century. In 1002, the building was completely renovated and extended and is home to some of the ancient relics of the Georgian Christianity.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

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Photo Credit: Andrea Massignani

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, located in Mtskheta, is the masterpiece of the Early Middle Ages and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi, Svetitskhoveli is the second largest religious building in the country.

It is believed that Christ’s mantle is buried here and has been one of the principal Georgian churches since the construction in 1029. Since its existence, the cathedral survived a variety of misfortunes and many of its valuable frescoes have been whitewashed by the Russian Imperial authorities. Luckily, some frescoes were restored including a 13th-century depiction of the “Beast of the Apocalypse” and figures of the Zodiac. Many Christian Orthodox icons adorn its walls, most of which are not original as they are kept at the national museums. There are examples of the stonework that shows grapes on the walls, reflection Georgia’s ancient wine-making traditions.

David Gareji

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David Gareji
Photo Credit: Kozi_90

This rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery complex in the Kakheti region includes hundreds of cells, chapels, churches, refectories and living quarters hollowed out of the rock face. Part of the complex is located in Azerbaijan and has become subject to a border controversy between the two countries. The complex was founded in the 6th century by St. David Garejeli, one of the thirteen Assyrian fathers who arrived here to spread the Christianity.

Despite the harsh environment in a half-dessert surroundings, the monastery continued to be an important center of cultural and spiritual activity for many centuries. The high aesthetic skill of those frescoes found within the monastery made them an essential part of country’s treasure.

Vardzia

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Photo Credit: Andrea Massignani

Even though Vardzia is more of a cave-town, it has one of the most important religious venues of the country. The Church of the Dormition which dates back to the 1180s, the Golden Age of Queen Tamar, has a valuable series of wall paintings, including one portrait of the queen itself.

The church is 9.2 meters (30 ft) high and is entirely carved from the rock as the rest of the town. Additionally, the episodes from the life of the Christ are shown on the upper walls and vaults, starting with the Annunciation.

Jvari Monastery

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Jvari Monastery
Photo Credit: Shermazana

Overlooking the city of Mtskheta, Jvari Monastery is another important religious building in Georgia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dating back to the six century, the place is believed to be the exact spot where St. Nino, a female evangelist who brought Christianity to the country, erected a large wooden cross on the site of the pagan temple. The name “Jvari” in Georgian means “Cross”. The current church was built between 590-605 and showcases the names of the principal builders on its facade. Similar to Ateni Sioni, the Jvari Monastery is a ‘four-apsed’ church with four niches ‘domed tetra-conch and served as a model of many other churches to further develop Georgian architecture.

Alaverdi Monastery

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Photo Credit: Andrea Massignani

Located in Kakheti region, the parts of Alaverdi Monastery dates back to the 6th century and some parts were built in the 11th.  Founded by the Assyrian monk Joseph Alaverdeli on the vicinity of the former pagan center dedicated to the Moon. With the height of  55m (180ft), Alaverdi used to be the highest religious building in Georgia. Now it’s the second after Holy Trinity Church in Tbilisi. It should be noted that its overall size is smaller than of Svetitskhoveli.

Gergeti Trinity Church

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Gergeti
Photo Credit: Sergei Pronin

Nested at the foot of Mount Kazbegi, Holy Trinity Church near Gergeti village is one of the most picturesque places in Georgia at the elevation of elevation of 2170 meters (7120 feet) above the sea level. The church was built in the 14th century and is the only cross-cupola church in the area. It’s the primary destination for those visiting Stepantsminda town. You can climb the steep mountain from here, or take a jeep taxi and have an offroad experience before treating yourself with beautiful panoramic views of the Caucasus Mountains.

Timotesubani

Timotesubani
Photo Credit: Serg Brandys

Timotesubani is a medieval monastic complex located near Borjomi and consists of various structures built between 11th and 18th centuries. It is a domed cross-in-square shaped structure built of pink stone. The interior was largely painted by frescoed in no later than the 1220s. Those murals are noted for their liveliness and complexity of the iconography.

Bonus: Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral

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Sameba Church
Photo Credit: Dimitris

Frequently called by its Georgian name Sameba – Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral is the main religious building of the Georgian Orthodox Church. The construction of the church took almost 10 years, from 1995 to 2004 and is considered to be the third highest Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in the world. The building is a combination of traditional styles of Georgian church architecture of different periods and even features some Byzantine connotations.