I’m not sure if it was the lagging weariness from travel, the dip in the hot sulfur baths, the afternoon beers at the local outdoor restaurant, or the superb, relaxed dinner at the hotel (or perhaps all four), but sleeping all night on the Italian Latex mattresses without waking up until the morning was very welcomed! This morning, after breakfast and coffee, we ventured out again for a more in-depth look at the inner city’s old town district. Although we walked through a small portion of this area yesterday, we knew very little, if anything about what we saw. With the help of our local guide, Sofi from Visit Georgia today we learned a lot about the history, the culture and religions of the city.
Metekhi Church and the Vakhtang Gorgasali Monument
The Metekhi Church was built in the 5th century by Vakhtang Gorgasali. It was the first church in the city, and the complex around it served as his royal residence. The church was burned as a result of the Mongol invasion in the 13th century and has been ruined and restored many times since. The area around the church was fortified in the 16th century with a garrison of around 3,000 soldiers. Under Russian control in the early 19th century, Metekhi lost its original religious purpose and became a barracks; despite opposition from the local Communist leadership, the church began to function again as a place of worship in 1988.
The equestrian statue of Vakhtang Gorgasali (also referred to as Vakhtang the Wolf Head) was built in 1970. It pays tribute to this King of Iberia during the 5th and early 6th centuries. He is credited with the founding of several cities, including Tbilisi, and the reorganization of the Georgian Orthodox Church, as well as the building of many churches and monasteries, including the Metekhi Church.