Vardzia

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Vardzia Cave Monastery

Vardzia aka The Castle of Roses is a monastery cave in Georgia. It is located near the village Vardzia. The graceful and fertile lands of Georgia have always been the subject of war. To protect the borders of the Georgian kingdom from Iranian raids, the Vardzia cave monastery was built.

Cut into the rock, the complex is located on the left bank of the Mtkvari River. Originally it was planned as a fortified tower, but then it became a well fortified monastery that played an important role in the political, cultural, educational and spiritual life here.

Nineteen levels extend from west to east along the mountains, with a length of eight hundred meters, into the depth of the mountain - fifty meters and a height of nine floors. Inside is entered through three secret entrances, from which thousands of Georgian soldiers unexpectedly appeared to invaders.

There are residential premises - one, two, three and four, and there are bunk rooms. The monastery has many vertical tunnels and secret links between the premises. The complex has over six hundred rooms - residential, religious and household. There are also libraries, bathrooms and dining rooms. When enemies attack, the rock fortress can hold up to twenty thousand people.

In the middle of the complex is a temple, which is covered with frescoes. They are preserved under a thick layer of soot. In 1551 the monastery was destroyed by Iranian troops, but at the end of the sixteenth century, it was conquered by the Turks. They set fire to the monks in the middle of the temple, so the walls are covered with soot. Among the frescoes are portraits of Queen Tamara.

Behind the temple is a pool that served as a reservoir of spring water and was considered a sacred place. The name of the monastery has an interesting history. The young Queen Tamara played hide and seek in the caves with her uncle. She decided to joke with her uncle and hid so that he could not find her long hours. Finally, he started to cry. She suddenly jumped behind him and said, “Ak vard zia”, which meant: “I'm here, Uncle”. Later, he recounted the story to the court and so was created the name of the monastery.

After a strong earthquake in the thirteenth century, a track with a width of about fifteen meters broke away from the mountain, resulting in the monastery being open and it lost its importance as a fortress.

Actually Vardzia was more of a city or fortress than a monastery. In the cave there is a lake that is miraculous. Many women from all over the world come here to wash their face with water from the cave lake. It is generally believed a woman who washed his face with this water will remain young for many years. Today, monks live in the Rock Monastery and conduct services in the temple.

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