Uplistsikhe - the ancient pagan cave city

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Posted on Fri, Nov 07 2014 13:23:21

In the vicinity  of Gori, on the banks of the Kura River stands one of the rarest monuments in the world - the ancient fortress Uplistsikhe, carved into volcanic rocks of  Kvernaki ridge. Uplistsikhe, the Fortress of the Lord, was first mentioned in 1 B.C., and reached its full prosperity in the 9th-10th century. 

This bizarre rock city captivates with its unusual appearance from far away. The grottoes carved into the  mountain look like giant gaping mouths of the rocks. There were once huge majestic halls, temples, houses, connected with each other, winding streets, corridors. It is hard to believe that an entire city was carved in the rocks by the human hands.

Several hundred different buildings were carved in the rock - churches, public buildings, houses, streets, squares, etc. Despite the unusual construction process, the buildings in Uplistsikhe follow the  common architecture traditions with their columns, pilasters, capitals, arches and vaults. The city was surrounded by a protective moat, encircling the town from the east and from the north. Uplistsikhe had four gates oriented to the four cardinal directions. 

The remains of the ancient city feature the reception hall of Queen Tamara, with arched niches and huge pylons, and some accommodations, like the wine depository, parts of temples and fortifications, the secret underground tunnel through which Uplistsikhe was supplied with water. 

Uplistsikhe was a cult temple town and one of the main religious centers of pagan Georgia. All sorts of pagan rituals and sacrifices were held there. Later they started building Christian churches in the rock.

In the 13th century, as a result of the devastating invasion of Genghis Khan's hordes, Uplistsikhe deteriorated. By the 19th century Uplistsikhe  was already covered with a layer of dust and sand. It took a lot of work and extraordinary efforts of many specialists to do the excavation, cleaning, enhancement, restoration and study of this outstanding monument in the history of Georgian culture. After the earthquake in 1920, many of the vulnerable areas were destroyed, and the monument still remains under substantial threat. In 2000 the conservation program was launched by the Georgian government to not let the place deteriorate completely.

Gallery: Uplistsikhe - the ancient pagan cave city

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