The famous Shiomgvime Monastery is located in the Kura river gorge, in a distance of 12 km. north-west of Mtskheta, on the very foot of crumbly rocks with the edges resembling an ancient amphitheatre spotted with lots of once used hermit sells. All essential buildings of the monastery are grouped around John the Baptist church built in 50-60-ies of VI c by one of the13 Assyrian Fathers, stringent hermit St. Shio Mgvimeli (Shio of the Cave). Heaving the configuration of “free cross” (with very deep apse, long western arm and short lateral arms), particularity of this temple is determined by its specific location- half of it is beneath the lend surface and only upper sections of walls and the dome, that is in fact a bunch of arches, are the above-ground sections of the construction built of rubble stone. The building has not changed for senturies thus its original features are preserved allmost untouched (interior is covered with XIX c wall painting of low artistic and historical significance, although the beautiful and perfectly safe stone iconostasis of XI c with rising ornamentation is exhibited in Sh. Amiranashvili State Museum of Art of Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi). Several constructions and rooms were attached to the main church from the West in course of time, so that almost every century, inclusive XVIII-th, has left its footprint on the monastery. This very first temple of the complex creates the impression of harshness and archaism. Another large church of the Assumption of Virgin of the beginning of XII c. built by King David IV The Builder stands slightly upwards of the main temple of John the Baptist. Only some sections of this domed brickwork church – particulary the sanctuary and small parts of the load bearing walls have survived up to now from times of David the Builder. Current lengthy building of three-nave basilica configuration with one pair of columns was built in 1678. The initiators and donnors of restoration of the old building were Prince Givi Amilakhvari and his spouse Tamar – daughter of King of Kartli Vakhtang V (called Shah-Navaz). The tower that adjoins the church from the west is of the same times. Wall painting was performed in the turn of XIX –XX cc. Large arched brickwork refectory built on the slope, slightly lower of the main church gradient still has got some fragments of wall painting, scattered here and thee. This building incorporates shreds of earlier, XII-century construction that had been built of neatly hewn stones. Refectory has the entrance cut through the western wall. From this point forward, if go through a long corridor, one will get upon the pit where St. Shio spent the last year of his earthly life. A will is arranged outside the monastery, that since XII c until recently had been serving as the gathering vessel for spring water supplied by means of a water pipe system from the village of Skhaltba located over the range. A small, single-nave church of Elevation of the Holly Cross stands on top of a hill with some fragments of XIII c. wall painting in the interior. Another small church of relatively later times is located above the road that leads to the monastery. It is built just over that small cave where St. Shio lived in the early period of his hermitage until his fame spreaded all over the country leading to the formation of a large congregation at Shiomgvime. Religious life of the monastery had not been interrupted until XIX c. when this save heaven was annulled due to repeated devastating rides of Dagestan tribes. The period of termination of montic arctivities were ended at the very fell of XIX c., when the famous clergyman of that times Bishop Alexander (Okropiridze) restored the Monastery. Wall painting of the Virgin Assumption church and several of new hermit cells are contemporaneous to the Bishop’s deeds (the Bishop himself is painted on one of the frescoes performed by the artist Gigo Zazashvili). Very few monks lived in the monastery until the 60-ies of the last century, when, after their death the place was repeatedly abandoned. Roughly three decades later, in 1990-ies the hermits gradually began to appear here and there. Since than the monastery has been developing more or less sustainably with permanently growing number of monks.
Mtskheta Shio-mgvime Monastery