Day I Arrival
Day II

Sightseeing around Mestia

Ethnography Museum of Mestia

The museum was founded in 1936. It keeps unique archeological and ethnographic material, a rich collection of ancient Georgian manuscripts, among which the most remarkable are: "Adishi Four Gospels" (year 897), "Jerusalem Judgment" (X century), and "Mestia Four Gospels" (year 1033), other old editions of the Gospel, a number of important exponents of Georgian engravings and paintings. The chronology of the exponents begins from the 3rd millennium BC.

The Cathedral of the village of Laghami of Transfiguration of Our Savior is a two level building with an exterior painting. After disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Cathedral has resumed service. Liturgy has been chanted in the Cathedral on the Holiday of Transfiguration (August 19) since 1988.

The first level of the Cathedral is a small size basilica - of the Great-Martyr Holy Barbara (Barblash) - dated back to the 9the century. It retains the fragments of a fresco painting. Two painted layers are observable clearly.

The 2nd level was built on top of the first one later in XIII-XIV centuries. It has wall paintings. The Cathedral also keeps the XIII century gold and silver engraved icon of Our Savior (Pantocrator).

An outer wall of the Cathedral exposes a painting, the north facade depicts the "Banishment of Adam and Eve from the Paradise" and the east face illustrates the "Hunting of St. Eustaphios".

The surroundings and the layout of Seti St. George (Jgrag) Church are indicative of a once existing monastery. The today’s Russian style Cathedral was built in the 19th century. It is based on a foundation of a Cathedral of X - XI century that was known as the only dome Cathedral in the whole Svaneti. Russians have reportedly pulled down the Georgian wall-painted Cathedral and the current Cathedral has been built following the outline of the old one. In the period of the Soviet atheism, this Cathedral has been used as a base for establishment of the Svaneti Ethnography Museum. The first exhibition hall was allocated in this Cathedral from 1937 to 1995.

In 1995, the Cathedral became functional and today it is the main Cathedral where liturgical service is offered regularly. Among the sanctuaries kept in the Cathedral we can point out a unique cross with a depiction of St. George’s martyrdom - the sample of a XI century engraved art and a unique gold and silver engraved icon of St. George on a horseback killing the Roman emperor Diocletian with his lance. Our Savior’s painted icon and a miracle-working icon of the Holy Virgin that has recently appeared to father George are remarkable as well. This icon has not been studied yet and is supposed to belong to the XII - XIII centuries.

The surroundings of the St. John the Baptist Church (Natumtsveli) of Lekhtagi village indicates to a once existing monastery. A minor basilica is built in the 19th century on the place of the ancient Cathedral. The information on whereabouts of the most valuable treasure of this Cathedral, the Grand Silver Fish (Trout) in particular, gets lost in the beginning of the 20th century. Depiction of a fish-whale is frequently exposed in Georgian epical and religious motifs. The locals assume that the treasure must be kept in the surroundings of the tower of the temple.

The Holy Virgin (Lamaria) Church of the Lekhtagi village is a two-level construction - the first level includes three rooms of a cellar type that are thought to be burial places according to their current state. The church is built in the Chartolanis community.

There are fragments of a fresco image of the Virgin on the apse, on the 2nd level of the church. On the western and the southern walls, there are illustrations 9 historic persons, among them Pirnatel Japaridze, his family members and Demetre Chartvelani, the latter bearing the following inscription: "May Lord Have a Mercy on Demetre Chartvelani, the builder of this Temple". This fact is also verified by the oral tradition saying that "Lamaria" of Lekhtagi was build by Papi (Bapi) Chartvelanis. Liturgical service is offered in the church for the last several years. The paintings of the church are dated back to the 14th century.

The Archangel (Taringzeli) Church of the Lanchvali village is situated in the Margianis community. The church was restored in the 19th century. According to oral tradition, a landslide once entirely covered the temple. However, the construction has not ruined. Later they made a hole through the top of the temple and took the sanctuaries, many icons and crosses, out off the place.

The most valuable artifact among these sanctuaries is the 11th century icon of Our Savior (Pantocrator). An inscription says that this exquisite icon was made by Giorgi, son of Gvazavai, on demand of Johan Dorobelasdze. Our Savior, blessing the people with the right hand - The Blessing Right Hand, is depicted on the icon. This kind of hand position is an example of a Byzantine Art that had arrived there from Greece. This was characterizing feature of the V-VI cc icon painting of these countries. The icon of Taringseli is painted in Svaneti and such type of depiction of Our Lord is characteristic for Svaneti though rare for the rest of Georgia. There is another similar icon known not of Svanetian origin, which was made on demand of the Queen Rusudan, the daughter of the King Demetre. At the end of the 20th century, criminals completely looted the temple.

Holyday in the oldest Pusti Temple located on the main area of Mestia is celebrated in the 4th week after the Easter - in the week of Healing of the Sick of the Palsy.



There are sixty-three Christian churches in the village where numerous relics, valuable painted or engraved icons and crosses are kept. The walls of the church expose the X-XII century frescos. The gold engraved icon of St. George that was used in an anointing ceremony of the Queen Tamar is believed to find its place in the village.

At present there are about twenty-five family temples in the village. Most of them are damaged. Many of them are located in the mountain far from the highway.

Matskhvari, the Our Saviour Church (in the village of Matskhvari); Taringzeli, the Archangel Church (in the village of Matskhvari), Jgrag, the St. George Church (village Lankvami) and Yeni (village Yena) are the most famous among the churches.

One of the oldest churches is the only one throughout Georgia dedicated to Jonah the prophet and apparently is very rare in the whole world. Godly prophet Jonah found himself in the stomach of a whale because of disobedience to the God where he stayed for 3 days. October 5 is the day of his commemoration. The church is active.

Matskhvari Church is built on top of the hill overlooking the highway. The church belongs to the XI - XII centuries and the chapel placed on four wooden columns was built in the VII - VIII centuries.

Matskhvari was painted by Michael Maghlakelidze in 1142. Besides traditional biblical scenes, one can find an interesting and unique fresco illustrating enthronization of Demetre I, the son of David IV the Builder. This is the only fresco among those that survived to date which has kept the face of the King Demetre I, alias reverend Damiane - the author of the doxology "Thou Art the Vineyard".

There are plenty of richest and ancient icons and crosses in the church. Silver engraved unique prior’s cross with enameled faces of the saints is outstanding among them. This is a cathedral church where liturgy is offered regularly.

The Archangel Temple of Tanghili. This is the only temple in Svaneti, which partially has a shape of a church with a dome. The construction of this oldest church symbolizes all three - a cross, a nave and communion bread. A visiting priest once exclaimed with admiration: "The contrast between the modest exterior and grand space of the interior is amazing". Indeed, the church as big as the communion bread harbors the images of the 8 Lord’s holidays and icons of many saints. Monastic life has begun at the temple.

300 meters up the slope there is a tiny Church of Jgrag. On the facade under the roofing, there is a stone relief, which is not often found in Upper Svanetia. The paintings in this little church are wonderful. One can see here the oldest among Georgian fresco images of "The Nativity". Its unique composition is not repeated in any later images of this theme. The nimbi of all Saints here are white, gray and purple characteristic of the Georgian monumental art in general. First, this method has been used right in the paintings of this small church. There are some remainders of external paintings too - the composition of a half-length Deesis and standing worriers underneath.

Trip to Mazeri, visiting the Ushba base

Village of Lenjeri

The Our Savior Church of (Nesguni) offers an exterior fresco painting of the beginning of the 10th century to us. XIV century frescos of Taringzeli church illustrate lay episodes mainly from the legend on Amirani. Together with the Chazhashi Church, the Lenjeri temple of Taringzeli is the only church in Georgia, which keeps Georgian monumental lay paintings. Fresco painting is easily observable in this church - Hermit fathers constitute a rare part of the picture. Here in the shrine is the image of a holy father of the world church, St. Maxim the Confessor in a pontiff’s vestments. There is no other image of the father Maxim the Confessor in Georgia, neither on a fresco nor on an icon. The church is functional and the service is offered here frequently.

Church of Lenjeri Mkheri

Day IV

Ushguli. The Church dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Lamaria). The village of Usguli, the highest settled place in Europe, and its all seven churches were embellished with a great number of engraved and painted icons and crosses as witnessed by the records made in the past century. The majority of these sanctuaries are now kept in Chazhashi Church of Our Savior; the rest is taken to the tower, nearby to the church, which serves as a branch of the ethnographic museum of Mestia. The Ushguli Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary - Lamaria is a functional temple.

Day V

Kala, Tsvirmi, Ipari

Theodore, who was a contemporary and a royal painter of the Greatest King of Georgia David IV the Builder, painted three churches in Svaneti for 40 years with different intervals. These are Ipari Taringzeli (1096), Kala Lagurka (1111), Nakipari Jgrag (1130). These churches are situated in two neighboring communities of Kala and Ipari. Art experts think that the painting of Tsvimri Temple of Our Savior also belongs to Theodore or his school. The Temple is located in the village of Tsvimri near the village of Ipari.

The Archangel Church of the village of Ipari that belongs to the Kala community is remarkable with its exterior facade painting along with its interior painting. Beside the frescos of the 11th century, here are samples of older icons as well.

A sacred shrine Lagurka known by its miracle making power is situated in the Kala community. "Lagurka" is a Svan word meaning a holy place. The church is built on the top of a high hill and bears the name of St Kvirike and St. Ivlita. The holiday is commemorated on June 28. The people from the whole west Georgia gathers here. There are many pilgrims today as well. In old sources, the church is referred as the Monastery "where the princess Thekla was admitted to a veil".

The royal painter Theodore painted the church in 1111. Fresco images of Kvirike and Ivlita are repeated many times. The church harbors many precious old icons and crosses and other sanctuaries. So called - Shaliani icon is especially remarkable. The icon made by an enamel gold and silver engraving technique represents the crucifixion. The icon is a sample of the Byzantine art and represents an icon of holy relics, namely, the Life-Giving Cross of Our Savior. The icon is said to make many miracles.

The last several years the liturgy is offered on the holiday of the icon on June 28. The believers can approach and pay the honor to the holy relics.

At the foot of the church, on the other bank of the river there is a small temple of the great martyr Barbara. The temple belongs to the XII century and is beautified with fresco paintings.

Day VI

Nakipari Church, of the great martyr St. George, belonging to the community of Ipari is painted by the royal painter Theodore in 1130. The Church is also decorated with exterior paintings. The Church keeps unique icons and crosses. The most remarkable is a silver engraved icon of St. George. Several icons are made by Asana and Theodore Gvazavaisdze. A small golden chalice is kept in the church as well. Honorable guests are offered this cup full of Svanish brandy Rakhi. The Holiday is commemorated on both days May 6 and November  27.

Art experts think that the XI century painting of Tsvirma church of Our Savior also belongs to Theodore.

In addition to the aforementioned sanctuaries, there are many holy relics and their remnants or ruins all over Svaneti making it obvious that spiritual life and religious activity has been intense in this area.

Day VII Departure

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