A masterpiece of Early Christian Orthodox architecture, Jvari Monastery is dated 585-604 cc AD. Located on the hilltop near the town of Mtskheta, it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994. The name is translated as the Monastery of the Cross.
It is one of the best places for catching a glimpse of magnificent views over the town of Mtskheta and at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers.
According to traditional accounts, in the early 4th century, Saint Nino stayed there to pray, and erected a wooden cross on Mtskheta’s highest hill. The church was built on the crest of a cliff at the conjunction of the rivers Mtkvari and Aragvi. It is a representative of the tetra conch architectural type that was popular not only in Georgia but also in the Byzantine world.
Jvari served as a model for many other churches in the country. Unusual and varied relief sculptures decorate its façades. The importance of the Jvari complex increased over time and it attracted many pilgrims. According to legend, pilgrims visiting the site shed tears while praying and the nearby natural lake was so named the Lake of Tears.
The harmonious relationship between the landscape, architectural forms and divisions, the well-thought-out disposition of decorative elements and splendid reliefs carved on big slabs of stone, give the south and east walls particular expressiveness. Among the reliefs of the east wall are the portraits of the nobles who built the church and also one of the oldest Georgian examples of writing.
The driving distance from Tbilisi is 19 km (20 min).