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twelfth-century cave dwellings in the valley of the Kura River, approximately 70 km south of the city of Borzhomi in the Georgian SSR.

Vardzia is an outstanding monument of the Georgian plastic arts of the Middle Ages. It was built for the most part between 1156 and 1205 (during the reigns of Georg III and his daughter Thamar) as a fortress and monastery for Georgia’s southwestern frontier. At the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th, it was rebuilt (after an earthquake) and completed. It consists of several dozen homes, religious buildings, and businesses that have been carved into a sheer cliff of tufa to form tiers of dwellings with interconnecting passageways. In the center of the monastery is the main cathedral, which is of the hall type, with a flat vault (girded by arches) and pilasters. On its walls are murals that include portraits of King Georg III and Queen Thamar done by the master Georg in the 1180’s. In a nearby square stands a bell tower constructed at the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th. In 1551 the monastery was destroyed by the forces of the Iranian shah Tahmasp. At the end of the 16th century it was seized by the Turks and fell into complete neglect. In 1828, Russian forces freed it, but study of it began only after the establishment of Soviet power in Georgia. In 1938 it was declared a museum and preserve.


Gaprindashvili, G . M. Peshchernyi ansambl’ Vardzia. Tbilisi, 1960.
Melitauri, K. N. Vardzia. Tbilisi, 1963.
Gabashvili, Ts. Vardzia. Tbilisi, 1966. (Published in Russian and French.)