The village of Shemokmedi in Guria is highly regarded because of its rich past. “Shemokmedi” means “creator” in the native language. It is home to a magnificent monastery which dates back to ancient times.
The Shemokmedi Monastery is located southeast of Ozurgeti, 5 kilometers from the city centre. The monastery, like most Georgian churches and temples, is built on a hill. A turbulent mountain river, Bzhuzi, flows between the village and the monastery. On the right bank of the river, at the foot of a hill, there is a cave where monks used to live.
Tedo Sakhokia recalls: “The monastery is located very conveniently. Mount Jumati is visible from the south-west. The Adjara Mountains stretch out in the east. In the south-west, one can see part of Guria’s territory and the turquoise shape of the Black Sea, above which common ringed plovers spread their wings”.
The monastery consists of two temples and a bell tower. The “Gvtaeba” temple was built in the 12th century, while “Zarzma” – in the 16th century. The temples are built next to each other.
The Shemokmedi Monastery was considered to be one of the richest monasteries not only in Guria, but all across Georgia. It served as a burial ground for Guria inhabitants. This is a burial place for: Mamia Gurieli, his mother Queen Marine, bishops of Shemokmedi ...
The inhabitants of Guria took patronage over and gave numerous donations to the Shemokmedi Monastery. Valuable crosses were brought here for safekeeping after the principality of Samtskhe-Saatabago was liberated from Georgian rule.
Two excellent manuscripts have survived until today at the monastery: “Gulan” – a collection of Orthodox literature and prayers, and “Putkari” – a collection of biographies on Greek Church saints. “Gulan” consists of 1004 very thick sheets of paper.
The monastery complex of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel in Jumati is located approx. 15 km from the centre of Ozurgeti. It was built on a quite high hill, offering a panoramic view of the surroundings.
Jumati is considered by Guria inhabitants to be a place of considerable historical importance, though not as important as Shemokmedi. The episcopal church of Jumati was a richly adorned and stately building. It was known for its immense wealth, including real estate and valuable icons. The historian Vakhushti described it: “At the top of a high mountain stands the Jumati Church – large, domed and majestic ... the seat of the bishop, the shepherd for the area between the Supsei and Rioni rivers”.
The monastery complex of Jumati includes an extended building of a medieval archangel church, a bell tower and other buildings. The interior frescoes date back to the 16th-18th centuries. Wonderful works of Georgian engraved art were placed in the church for safekeeping (e.g. St. George gold icon from the 11th century, which was lost during the attack on the church). A fragment of the icon’s frame has been preserved in the Hermitage.
The village of Likhauri is located in the southeastern part of Ozurgeti, on a slope of the Adjara-Guria Mountains. Likhauri is a village steeped in history. Particularly noteworthy is the small, ancient church built by Kakhaber Gurieli in 1552, erected on a hill.
To the west of the church, there is a small bell tower built in 1442 by the ruler of Guria, George Guriela, and his wife Helena. An Old Georgian inscription (Khutsuri) on the belfry indicates that Likhauri was called Rekheuli in ancient times.
The Achi Church is built on an artificially raised hill, on the right bank of the Achistskali River. The temple is surrounded by a high and well-built stone fence, probably as a defense against attack. The temple is a square-shaped hall type building. On the outside, the temple is covered with porphyry and limestone aggregate. The windows and the pillar cross on the eastern façade of the temple are covered with finely carved patterns, one of the finest of their kind in Guria.
The church building is small in size. Dimitri Bakradze says: “We don't know when exactly the church was built. In any case, it is considered one of the oldest buildings in all of Guria. Its interior walls are entirely covered with numerous and colourful paintings, mainly with Greek inscriptions. The frescoes include a depiction of a person called “Onesimus of Trapizon” – possibly the author of the work.”
The Udabno Monastery is located on the steep slope of Mount Ascension in the Chokhatauri Municipality.
There are two churches in Udabno. The first one is old and small, half carved into rock (the date of erection remains unknown). According to architectural data, the church was built in the second half of the 6th century. The second church is domed and spacious. It was built of hewn stone as a hall type structure. According to one of the inscriptions, the church of St. John the Baptist was built in 1858 during the reign of Archimandrite Gabriel Tuskia (later the Bishop of Guria). Nowadays only ruins remain.
One of the abbots of the Udabno Monastery was Ioseb Tuskia, a copyist at the Shemokmedi Monastary, who is historically known as “the Sovereign of the Gurian Gate” (as mentioned by Mamia IV Gurieli in 18th century) and “the shepherd of the Jumati land, a Schiarchimandrite”…
The monastery has an extensive library collection. Particularly noteworthy is the book “Udabnos Mravaltavi”, which was discovered in 1920 by Akaki Shanidze. According to the palaeographic and linguistic, it dates back to the 9th century. According to scientists, the book is in no way inferior to the famous manuscript “Sinuri Mravaltavi” (864 AD). At the monastery, Dimitri Bakradze discovered translations of Gospels by John Chrysostom and Metafras, i.e. Lives of the Saints and a collection of 29 heraldic letters. It contains a list of donations made to residents of Udabno by Guria inhabitants, community leaders, clergy or lay people. The ancient and richly decorated Bakari Bible (1743) was kept in the library.
The convent is located in the village of Sameba-Dzhikheti, in the Lanchkhuti Municipality. This magnificent church, which is located within the convent, was built by the famous architect Ilarion Menabde. Construction of the church was completed in 1895. A school was also opened in the convent where skills such as reading and writing as well as housework and handicrafts were taught.
According to the historical sources of the monastery, the local nuns were in close contact with the Monastery of St. John the Evangelist in Athens. In 1905, the head of the Monastery of St. John the Evangelist, the priest-monk Jonah, sent the icon of the Mother of God from Mount Athos to the Sameby-Dzhikheti Monastery.
The church is located in the village of Erketi, in the Chokhatauri Municipality, on the right bank of the Gubazeuli River. Many years ago, the village was the property of the Georgian noble family Eristavi of Guria. The Erketi Church is dedicated to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. The monastery probably dates back to the 10th-11th centuries. It was built in accordance with applicable construction and decorating rules. It is similar to the Likhauri Church. It has three gates. The interior is painted in light colours. A Gulani (liturgical book) has been kept safe in the church until today. It bears the following inscription: “This Gulani was written by Bishop Tsaishi Maksym”.
St. Marina Church
Description of the building: V. Melitauri, Candidate of Science (architecture), believes that the church was built in the 17th-18th centuries. St. Marina Church has been preserved. Traces of old paintings have been preserved on the internal walls and door of the church. The door is made of grapevine stalks. Height: 197.9; distance from the city centre: 3 km; distance from the road: 50 m; Municipality: Ozurgeti.
Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Vaniskedi
Description of the building: The monastery is located in the village of Mtispiri, which lies next to the Askani fortress and the restored church of Okroskhedi. The monastery of John the Baptist is a hall type building dating back to the 11th-13th centuries. Its historical importance is on par with the previously mentioned monasteries. The temple was built in the 11th century and thoroughly rebuilt in the 17th century. A large part of the ruined church was rebuilt in the 19th century. Height: 466.1; distance from the city centre: 4 km; distance from the road: 40 m; Municipality: Ozurgeti.
Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration in Mtispiri
Legend: On the outskirts of the village, on a hill, there stands a hall type church of the Holy Transfiguration. The legend says that the nun Mariam used to live in the church, which is why the hill is called “Mariam Hill”.
Description of the building: The church is a hall type building. In 2004, a new church was built on the old foundation from small stones that were extracted from the river. The corners of the building were made of green cut stones. The old entrance to the church, located in the south, has been preserved. A new entrance has been provided on the west side. The church has windows on the west and east sides. The church and the monastery are still in use today. Height: 304.9; distance from the city centre: 3 km; distance from the road: 60 m Municipality: Ozurgeti.
Zarzma Monastery of Transfiguration (Gvtaeba)
Site description: Shemokmedi Architectural Complex consists of four monuments, two of which are Orthodox churches: 1. The Shemokmedi Church of the Creator 2. The so called ,,Zarzma” which was built by Vakhtang I, the chief of Guria, to place the remaining part of the Transfiguration Icon that was transferred from the Zarzma Monastery in the 16th century and hence the church got its name. 3. Various buildings from the 16th century. 4. The Bell Tower.
In addition, „Gori Gwerdi” church belongs to Shemokmedi Complex as well. It is considered to be a developed medieval monument and its fencing and ruins are still preserved, Height: 233.3 m; Distance from highway: 2 km; Distance from road: 300 metres; Municipality: Ozurgeti.
Temple of St. George
Site description: the temple is located on the right side of the main road in Dwabzu village. The church dates back to the 5th – 6th centuries, and the bell tower to the 10th century. Height: 142.5 m; Municipality: Ozurgeti
Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary
Legend: The church was built in the early 20th century. It is currently not in use, and its reconstruction has been underway since 2015. The reconstruction of the church is financed by entrepreneur Giorgi Bitsadze.
Site description: the Orthodox church is not in operation, and its restoration is currently underway. Height: 40.1m[AH1] ; Distance from centre: 2 km; Distance from road: 40 m; Municipality: Lanchchuti.
Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
The construction of the church began in 2003. The construction is finished, but the liturgy is not yet celebrated due to the lack of liturgical objects. Only prayers are held. The priest of the church, monastic father David Shecurili, is also the head of the David the Builder Monastery in Ninoshvili. The church was built with the help of Karlo Gujabidze and bears the name of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Height: 55.8 m; Distance from centre: 50 m; Distance from road: 50 m; Municipality: Lanchchuti.
Kristefore Guruli Church
The construction of the church began in 2002 and it has been built with donations from the worshippers, and it is the only church in Georgia named after Kristefore Guruli.
Site description: The church is in the process of completion. Height: 76.9 m; Municipality: Lanchchuti.
Swimon Kananeli Church
The construction of the church lasted 10 years. The opening took place on the 23rd of May 2011. At the beginning, the head of the church was priest Gabriel, then priest Pavel Kinkladzefor one year, and now the head of the church is priest Davit Tsuladze.
Site description: the church is open and services are held every Sunday. Height: 18.5 m; Municipality: Lanchchuti.
Orthodox church of the Virgin Mary Iverskaya
The construction of the church began on the 13th of April 1999. On the 18th of September 2001 Archbishop Joseph blessed the temple and held a service.
Site description: The temple is open and the liturgy is celebrated regularly. Height: 41.3 m; Distance from centre: 800 m; Municipality: Lanchchuti
The Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel was built in the 9th century. The frescoes date back to the 14th-15th centuries, which is inscribed in the sculptures below them. The altar stone also dates back to the 9th century. The monastery has about 20 members.
Site description: The temple consists of three parts, a small chapel - the first part is named after Nino, Nana and Miriana. The legend has it that Stalin was hiding in the small temple. The second part of the monastery is named after all the saints - Mother Mariam has been living alone in the church since 2006 - 1 year and 6 months.[AH2] The third part is named after the Virgin. It is possible to hold 4 services in one church. One of the building elements collapsed during the construction in the resting place of the fathers. As a result of this fact and excavations a cave was discovered, which was believed to be a resting place of the monks, that is a place for solitary prayer. Altitude: 400 m; Municipality: Chokhatauri
Monastery of the Monks
The Monastery of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist has been in operation since the 7th of July 2007. The new church was built on foundations from the 18th century, the church contains, among others, an engraved "Hide my sorrow" icon of John the Baptist from the 16th century and an icon of the Virgin Mary, which cannot be found anywhere else in Georgia. The rock-cut temple with three domes dates back to the 6th century, it is the only temple in western Georgia, and it still has its original appearance.
Site description: Liturgy is celebrated, Altitude: 407.6; Municipality: Chokhatauri.
Church of St. John the Baptist
The Church of St. John the Baptist dates back to the 18th – 19th centuries, it was built of stone and mud. During its construction people were standing between the Khevistskali River and the temple and were passing stones to one another, and so the temple was built with the use of eggs and mud. The important people of the church were Ushveridze and Tewzadze - the last one was priest Silibistro Tewzadze. Tsulukidze's young son (aged 12) is buried in the church. Every Easter, members of his family used to dedicate to the church the paska cake (so called “Domni Paska”) and a candle, both as tall as the child was. The chapel was built by Nuri Gurielidze.
Site description: A periodic liturgy is held; Height: 294.6; Municipality: Chokhatauri.
Ruins of a hall church
They called it "Shubani Sakhtari". It stood on top of Shubani. Its history began only two and a half centuries ago. It was built by Sikharulidze, whose name is believed to be Mirian, at his own expensein the middle of the 18th century.
Almost nothing is left of the Subani Church. As in many other cases, it was transformed by communists. It was a new temple, and it would probably be intact to this day, if it were not for a fiendish decision - it was converted into a collective fertiliser warehouse. Large quantities of fertiliser were dumped into the temple and the doors were closed. The chemical fertiliser stored in the enclosed space had a huge impact on the building. Suddenly the church collapsed. All that remains is what can be seen in the photo.
Site description: The ruins of a 19th century hall church have been preserved in the village.The church is built of hewn stone, large stone is used only in the corners and is separated by a slightly sloping profile. The quadrangular walls are finished as one piece. Municipality:Chokhatauri.
Orthodox Church of St. Peter and Paul
Respect for the Lomiskareli icon was particularly strong, it was considered to be a great misfortune, and the oath taken on the Lomiskareli icon could hardly be broken by a Gurian (inhabitant of Guria region).[AH3] The Christian faith was strong in ancient Guria, in the last century the Gurians faithfully and bravely carried the cross of Christ, they always had the cross in their hands together with the sword, if they did not keep this attitude, they could not keep Guria and could not remain Georgians. (M.Gogiberidze)
Site description: Constructed from the building material of the Orthodox Church of St. George (known as Lomiskareli), it is now a club. There is the newly built Orthodox Church of St. Peter and Paul nearby. Liturgy is periodically celebrated in the church. Height: 299.9 m; Municipality: Chokhatauri.
[AH1] “m” added, no measure unit in the original text