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Alaverdi Monastery

Alaverdi monastery and Episcopacy cathedral is located near the hamlet of Alaverdi in Akhmeta region, 20 km from Telavi. Alaverdi Monastery was founded in VI century by St. Father Joseph Alaverdeli who arrived from Assyria (his tomb is the most important deity of the cathedral). Today‘s cathedral was built on the site of the church of St. George in the beginning of XI century on the Decree of the king of Rahns and Kakhs, Kvirike III (1010-1037), and after that it became the center of Episcopacy. The Father Superior of the monastery simultaneously was Archbishop of Alaverdi and carried the title of Amba Alaverdeli (or the Superior Bishop).

From XVI century Amba Alaverdeli is the main church official in Kakheti and is raised to the degree of Metropolitan. Alaverdi is the word of Arabic origin and means Bestowed by the God. This meaning was associated with fertility and harvest, therefore in those nations with primarily arable farming economy, this name is preserved for several populated settlements.

Alaverdy cathedral is the tallest construction (51 meters) among the Medieval Georgian architectural monuments. It is a cross-type, three arch construction. There are three entrances from three sides. Big space of the cathedral interior (42 m x 26 m) is illuminated by a light from 16 windows in the neck of the dome. Alaverdi has a relatively austere decoration with carving and ornaments generally typical for Kakheti religious monuments. The cathedral is built of cobblestone with internal part covered with pumice stone. The Alaverdi cathedral roof is constructed with glazed blue tiles. There are many instriptions of the walls of the cathedral.

The monastery is surrounded with a fence (XVII century) within which there is a three-level chamber – the residence of a Bishop; brick palace (constructed in 1615 by the potentate of Kakheti, Peiqar-Khan), bath, wine cellar, cells for monks.

Alaverdi has experienced many damages due to hostile invasions and earthquakes. In mid-XVII century Persians remade the Cathedral into a fortress. Its full restoration was made by the kings of Kakheti, Alexander I (1476-1511) and Erekle II (1744-1798). They rehabilitated neck of its dome and renovated the destroyed walls with bricks. Alaverdi was the burial site (XI century, XV-XVIII centuries) of the kings of Kakheti.

In XIX century by Decree of the Synod of the Russian Church Alaverdi like other Georgian churches was whitened with lime. Only in 1966 as a result of a restoration the rich fresco painting of the period of the cathedral foundation (XI c.) and later periods (XV-XVII cc.) was revealed.

Alaverdi cathedral was one of the important centers of Georgian literacy. Here was rewritten one of the oldest Georgian manuscripts – Alaverdi Gospels (1054) which today is kept at the National Center of Manuscripts. On September 27, the day of the Holiday of Universal Exaltation of the Cross, is celebrated the Day of Alaverdi – Alaverdoba. This is a time-honored tradition and is linked to the harvest and stockpiling of agricultural produce and is conducted for the sake of the founder of the cathedral, Joseph Alaverdeli. The worshippers during Alaverdoba come here from various regions to spend the whole night. From its inception, in old times, the holiday lasted three weeks.

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