VANI CAVES MONASTERY complex carved in the rock (VIII-XVI cc.) is located in Javakheti, 27 km from Aspindza, on the right bank of river Mtkvari. In the center of the monastery stands church of St. George which was carved from the stone along with the main part of caves and cells in IXXI cc. In 1089 an earthquake seriously damaged Vani Caves. Its patron Ichkit Gurgenisdze started restoration of the monastery in 1186-1191, he restored church of St. George and family anteroom adjacent to it, and emphasized a donator inscription at both entrances.

In 1204 Anton Mtsignobartukhutsesi-Chkondideli revived a limestone barrier to the monastery. In 1204-1283 the monastery was supervised by the sovereigns of Javakheti – the Tmogveli. They established Rules for the monastery ‘Vani Cave Providence’ (1204-1234), built anteroom, belfry of the church of St. George and a hall church (1265-1283). In 1283 earthquake again destroyed Vani Caves. In 1551 and in 1576 the monastery underwent assaults of the Persians and the Ottomans. After that the monastery ceased its operation. Vani Caves include 200 caves carved in the rock (cells, anterooms, burial site, asylum, support stock rooms, communication caves and 6 churches) which are arranged in 16 floors. Water pool and remnants of 3 tracks of running water are extant. Archeological excavations have discovered 8 wine cellars, satsnakheli (grapes pressing tub) carved in the rock, ceramic shop. Scholars believe that construction and architectural experience of Vani Caves had prepared conditions for creation of Vardzia complex carved in the rock. On the last floor of Vani Caves, on the walls of a built-in church there are extant fresco painting of XII-XIII centuries and inscriptions of historical content, including those performed by nuns (Gulkan, Ana Rcheulishvili, Tumian Gojishvili…) using Mkhedruli script (XV c.). In inscriptions they make complaints of their misfortune. Nuns scribed on the wall also 2 lines from Vepkhistkaosani (Knight in the Tiger’s Skin): a part of a letter written by Nestan-Darejan to Tariel (1300; 1301) as well as pleasant lyrical poems.


Copyright © 2017. N. Elizbarashvili, B. Kupatadze
Copyright © 2017. “Dani” Publishing



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