April 18, 2013

0606 GEORGIA (Samtskhe-Javakheti) - Vardzia-Khertvisi (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

0606 Vardzia

Vardzia-Khertvisi, comprising a vast territory in the upper reaches of the Kura River (Mt'k'vari in Georgian) basin, and spread over 18 km from Khertvisi (Medieval residence) to Vardzia is significant in many respects: unique natural conditions contributing to the specific microclimate and landscape, historical context and diversity of cultural heritage.Vardzia is a cave monastery site excavated in the slopes of the Erusheti Mountain on the left bank of the Kura River.

The caves, stretched along the cliff for some 500m and in up to 19 tiers, were built in four phases: the first during the reign of Giorgi III (1156-1184); the second between his death and the marriage of his successor, Queen Tamar, in 1186, when the Church of the Dormition was carved out and decorated; the third from that date until the Battle of Basian (c.1203), during which many dwellings, defences, water supply, and irrigation network were constructed; the fourth - a period of partial rebuilding after the earthquake of 1283. After the arrival of the Ottomans in 1578, the monks departed and the site was abandoned.

The minster of St. Virgin’s Assumption was cut in the center of the monastery, the central of other 12 churches scattered on the territory of the complex. Artist George who was the chief painter of the monastery completed adornment of the minster with wall paintings in 1186. In parallel with the scenes reflecting the histories and deeds of Jesus frescoed of George III and Queen Tamar are also performed there, coupled with the portrait of Rati Surameli, Eristavt - Eristavi of Kartli, one of the Grandees of Georgia of those days.

The main lower site was carved at an elevation of 1300m above sea level and it's divided into an eastern and a western part by the Church of the Dormition. In the eastern part are 79 separate cave dwellings, with 242 rooms, including six chapels, "Tamar's Room", a meeting room, reception chamber, pharmacy, and 25 wine cellars. In the western part, are a further 40 houses, with 165 rooms, including six chapels, a refectory with a bakery, other ovens for baking bread, and a forge. Infrastructure includes access tunnels, water facilities, and provision for defence.

About the stamps

The both stamps are part of the series Georgian Manuscript Monuments, issued on 2011 and comprising three stamps with the values of 1.00 GEL, 1.50 GEL and 2.50 GEL (the last two are on the postcard).

Vardzia - Wikipedia
Vardzia - National Agency For Cultural Heritage Preservetion of Georgia official website
Vardzia-Khertvisi - UNESCO official website

Sender: Khatuna Tamar Kipiani (direct swap)
Sent from Tbilisi (Tbilisi / Georgia), on 05.03.2013
Photo: Zurab Gengiuri


  1. This monastery has an awesome location!

  2. what a great view and awesome stamps, love it