Georgy III, the father of the legendary queen Tamara, began to build the monastery fortress Vardziya in the 12th century at this steep, tuff rock to protect the fertile Georgian lands from attacks of the Turks and the Persians. The place for this fortress was chosen brilliantly. Thanks to features of a relief and masking of an outpost in the rock, this citadel played a crucial role in the protection of the southern boundaries of Georgia against attacks. Only three manholes in the foundation of the rock was conducted and the whole underground complex consists of more than 600 rooms in which churches, chapels, inhabited cells, storerooms, treasury, refectories and baths were located. This complex is attached and built to the rock and got between 5 to 13 floors with an height of totally 50 meters. The construction could place garrisons capable to stop the enemy without regard to the number of enemies due to the knowledge of the area and its steep construction.
After the death of the father, Tamara continued the construction of the complex, having finished it shortly before the war with the Turkish Seljuks.
In 1283, as a result of a powerful earthquake, the majority of rooms of this cave city monastery collapsed, and it lost it’s military value. The monastery was tried to be restored, but in the 16th century, the Persian troops under command of the shah of Takhmasp took a stronghold here. By order of the shah, the monks in the monastery got burned, killed and wounded.
Above is an painting depicting Georgy III and Tamara from the inside of the Church of Assumption.
45 years after the accession of Georgia to the Russian Empire, the Russian troops freed the Javakheti region which the monastery is located. After the release orthodox Greeks renewed services in the monastery, but after the abolition of monkhood in the USSR, I was announced that the cave became a monastery memorial estate. This complex is a tentative candidate for Unesco World Heritage list since 2007.