Planning a visit to Central Asia? The Southern Caucasus, comprising countries such as Georgia and Armenia have much to offer. Here are six UNESCO destinations in the Southern Caucasus. As one of the more famous tourist sights included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, these unique monasteries and temples definitely worth a visit. (The pictures really do them justice).
1. Echmiadzin Cathedral
Echmiadzin Cathedral is one of the oldest temples in the world. It is located in a small Armenian town of Echmiadzin, which, despite its size, attracts many tourists because of the history and sights. As it is known, Armenia is the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion. It happened in AD 301, and after that important event the construction of the first Christian church started – the Echmiadzin Cathedral. It was built firstly in wood, and only in the VII-th century was it rebuilt in stone. The Cathedral preserves many valuable artifacts, including the spear of Longinus. Today, the cathedral is the main church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and the residence of the Supreme Patriarch Catholicos of all Armenians. The visit to the cathedral is included in almost all tour packages to Armenia.
The Geghard Monastery is one of the unique architectural creations in Armenia. It is located in Kotayk region, in the valley of the River Goght. The monastery is famous for its rocky architecture as one part of it is carved into the rock. As seen from the photo, Geghard looks great against the blue sky and majestic surrounding nature. The name “Geghard” or “Gegardavank” is translated from Armenian as “the monastery of the spear.” The fact is that for a long time, it had kept the spear of Longinus which was later transferred to the Echmiadzin Cathedral.
3. The ruins of Zvartnots
Not far from Echmiadzin you can see the ruins of the early medieval Armenian architecture – the temple of Zvartnots. It was built in the VII century and once was such a beauty that the Byzantine emperor asked the chief builder of the church to come to Constantinople to erect a similar creation. Unfortunately, the temple was destroyed by an earthquake and today we can see only the ruins found by archeologists. In 2000, Zvartnots was included into the UNESCO World Heritage List.
During your trip to Georgia, we recommend visiting the majestic cathedral of Svetitskhoveli which is located in the ancient town of Georgia – Mtskheta. For many centuries, it was the main cathedral throughout Georgia. The name “Svetitskhoveli” is translated from Georgian as “life-giving pillar”, and there are several interesting legends associated with the origin of this name. According to one of them, in place of the cathedral once stood a small church of St. Sidonia. After its destruction, many have tried to restore it but failed. After some time, a cedar tree grew at the site of the church and it seemed as if Heaven gave a sign to help people. The people decided to use this tree as a first pillar of the temple. The construction went successfully and thus was built the temple of Svetitskhoveli. This is one of the main pilgrimage sites along the Silk Road, and is also the tomb of the Georgian kings.
Another attraction of Mtskheta, included in the UNESCO list of sites under protection – is Jvari Monastery, situated on a high hill. The top of the hill offers a beautiful view of the two most famous Georgian rivers – Kura and Aragvi. This monastery was mentioned in the work of popular Russian writer Lermontov «Mciri». The Georgian name «jvari» is translated to «a cross» in English. It is said that this was the place where St.Nino placed the cross as a sign of the adoption of Christianity in Georgia.
6. Bagrati Temple
Bagrati Temple, built in Kutaisi during the reign of the King Bagrat III at the beginning of the Golden Age, is one of the biggest and most important in its historical role. Due to its proportions, it became a new word in the history of the Transcaucasian architecture. Once the The temple was once exquisitely decorated, however it was destroyed and only the ruins remained. It has been fully reconstructed and has become as alluring as before.
*The Travelling Squid’s note: I’ve visited Israel early this year and Armenian history and culture caught my eye. Armenia is definitely a destination on my bucket list.
This is article is by Arpine Ghazaryan.