HISTORICAL PROVINCE OF WESTERN GEORGIA, IMERETI, IS USUALLY DIVIDED IN TWO PARTS – ZEMO (UPPER) AND KVEMO (LOWER) IMERETI. ITS AREA IS 66000 SQ.M. PROVINCE INCLUDES MUNICIPALITIES OF CHIATURA, TKIBULI, TSQALTUBO, BAGHDADI, VANI, ZESTAFONI, TERJOLA, SAMTREDIA, SACHKHERE, KHARAGAULI AND KHONI. GEOGRAPHICALLY, THE REGION OCCUPIES CENTRAL PART OF THE NATION. FROM THE NORTH IT IS BORDERED BY RACHA-LECHKHUMI AND KVEMO SVANETI, FROM THE EAST – BY SHIDA KARTLI, FROM THE WEST – BY GURIA, SAMEGRELO AND ZEMO (UPPER) SVANETI. ITS SOBRIQUET IS CONNECTED WITH THE LOCATION OF THE PROVINCE – IMERETI, OR A TERRITORY BEYOND THE LIKHI RANGE. ITS ADMINISTRATIVE CENTER IS THE CITY OF KUTAISI WHICH IS 221 KILOMETERS AWAY FROM TBILISI. IN THE PAST, DURING CENTURIES, IMERETI WAS PART OF THE OLDEST TRANSIT TRADE ROUTE – GREAT SILK ROAD, CONDUCTING THE FUNCTION OF A TRANSIT LINK BETWEEN EUROPE AND ASIA. ONE CAN HARDLY FIND A GORGE OR A HAMLET IN IMERETI WITHOUT ANY FOOTSTEP OF THE PAST PRESERVED UP TO THE PRESENT. MONUMENTS OF THE TERRITORY’S CULTURAL HERITAGE, SUCH AS FORTRESS-TOWN IN KUTAISI, BAGRATI CATHEDRAL, GELATI MONASTERY COMPLEX, FORTRESS-HALL OF GEGUTI, MOTSAMETA, FORTRESS CITADEL OF ANCIENT PERIOD IN SHORAPANI, ANCIENT SETTLEMENT OF VANI AND OTHERS EVERY YEAR ATTRACT MORE AND MORE VISITORS. THERE ARE A LOT OF NATURAL SIGHTS AS WELL – KARST CAVES AND UNIQUE NATURAL SIGHTS FOR THE PRESERVATION OF WHICH IMERETI CAVE PROTECTION TERRITORY WAS FOUNDED. IMPORTANT TOURIST RESOURCE OF THE PROVINCE REPRESENT RESORTS AND RECREATIONAL AREAS AMONG WHICH STAND OUT SPA RESORTS OF TSQALTUBO AND SAIRME.
Следы более 200 видов хищных и травоядных ди¬нозавров были обнаружены в 1933 году на известняках в Западной Грузии, в 260 километрах от Тбилиси. Эти следы находятся на высоте 500 метров над уровнем моря, в зоне влажного субтропического климата на возвышенности западной ветровой (дующей с Чёрного моря) экспозиции.
Ajameti Conservation Area is located in Western Georgia, at the eastern end of Colchis lowland, 265 km from Tbilisi. It was founded on the site of a reserve of the same name which had functioned since 1946.
The territory of conservation area is 5 sq. km and is mostly covered by polidominant ancient Colchis forests. From plant species widely represented are oak, hornbeam, orchid, elm, winghut, walnut tree, et al. In the taiga forest we see evergreen rhododendron, Pastukhov ivy, medlar, rosehip, et al. Such relict species are protected here as well as Imereti oak (Quercus imeretina), zelkova (Zelciva carpinifolia). The age of some tree species attains several centuries.
The wildlife of Ajameti conservation area is relatively poor. However, there are some species which have been included in the Red Book of Georgia: small bat noctule, Caucasus squirrel, dormouse, forest dormouse, and Caucasus otter.
On the environs of Ajameti conservation area there are numerous monuments of big importance. Among them are settlement Vartsikhe (was built on the ruins of Antique township Rodopolis), Geguti (XI century ruins of Hunters’ Palace), the city of Kutaisi, et al.
Colchis combining plain lowland is located in Western Georgia, up to 200 meters above the sea level. It has a form of a triangle with its bottom attached to the sea coast. It is a former hollow of the sea which was filled with river rocks. The western part of the lowland is sinking which is a cause of frequent flooding and marshing effect.
Colchis lowland has a small slant, therefore the flow of rivers on it is weak. They create meanders which facilitate formation of frame lakes. In the vicinity of Black sea there are marshes which are located on the routes of migrant birds.
Colchis lowland is a hub where moist (western) and dry (eastern) blowing winds mix. Eastern winds facilitate evaporation of excessive moist and good harvest. However, due to them, in summertime hot and stifling weather takes shape followed sometimes by drought and destruction of harvest.
Colchis lowland from the times immemorial was a venue of human settlement and husbandry. Ancient Greek colonies were present here, and the legend on Argonauts and Golden Fleece is also linked to Colchis. Nowadays the lowland is heavily settled (150-200 persons per sq. m) and is almost fully occupied. Natural environment here has been preserved only in the sanctuary and on the highly damp territories.
Gelati monastery complex is located in 11 km to the north-east from the city of Kutaisi, in the gorge of river Tskaltsitela. The monastery was founded by the king of Georgia, David IV Agmashenebeli (1089-1125). The territory of the monastery is restricted by a fence and consists of 5 constructions. These edifices are the main cathedral of the Assumption of Virgin Mary (1106, sizes of the Cathedral: 35m x 36m x 34m), church of St. George to the east of the main cathedral (XII century AD), two-level church of St. Nicholas (XII-XIV centuries), bell tower with stone arch built over spring to the north-west from the main cathedral, and a building of Gelati Academy.
The main cathedral is embellished with limestone and is rich with mural paintings. In the arch of the altar the mosaic of Gelati is preserved (the Virgin Mary with adolescent, Archangels Michael and Gabriel), in the western entrance there is a XII century fresco with the image of a church assembly; in the southern eukterion there are two portraits of the king of Georgia, David VI Narin (1246-1293) (in royal garments and casual national costume – chokha); on the northern wall there are images of the members of Imereti royal family (XVI century), next is the portrait of David IV Agmashenebeli (1089-1125) restored in XVI century.
To the south of the fence of Gelati monastery, in the main entrance, there is a tombstone of David Agmashenebeli (the tomb itself presumably is in the church). According to historical sources, Gelati was the burial site of the united Georgia kings, and all kings of XII-XIII centuries (David IV, Demetre I, Giorgi III, Tamar, Giorgi IV) and kings of Imereti of XVI-XIX centuries (Bagrat III, Giorgi II, Giorgi III, Aleksandre V, Solomon I, the last Georgian king Solomon II) are laid to rest in Gelati.
Gelati was a royal monastery in XII-XV centuries and reported directly to the king and the first minister (Mtsignobartukhutsesi). Rector of Gelati Academy, or Chief Confessor at the royal court, was considered to be a high profile figure, arguably tantamount to Catholicos. The senior monkhood of the monastery were members of the Royal Council.
In the 20-ies of the XVI century Bishop cathedra was set up in Gelati, and at the end of XVI century the seat of the Catholicos-Patriarch of Western Georgia was removed from Bichvinta to a more secure venue in Gelati. In various times the richest Georgian manuscripts and national treasure (Khakhuli Icon of the Virgin Mary) were kept in Gelati. In 1923 the Bolsheviks closed the monastery. Its renovation occurred in 1990.
Gelati Academy – the most important education center in the medieval Georgia – is part of the Gelati monastery complex. People of those times compared Academy with Jerusalem and Athens, since education process here embodied traditions of Antique and Christian sciences. Along with learning process, the Academy was noted for translation and scientific research activity and creation of original works..
The Katskhi Church of Saviour is located in the hamlet of Katskhi, in the gorge of river Katskhura, in Chiatura region. Cathedral was built at the beginning of XI century. Its main parts were constructed in 1010 -1014 by the feudal family of Bagvashi (on the main entrance of the edifice one can see segments of the Bagvashi family coat of arms: lion and elderly angel). Katskhi was their family church and venue for burial. In Katskhi was laid to rest one of the most powerful and noted feudals, Liparit IV Bagvashi (died in 1064). After downfall of the family of Bagvashi and their extradition from Georgia Katskhi cathedral has been ravaged. In XVI century neglected and damaged cathedral was resuscitated by its new holder Abulasar Amirejibi. In XVII-XVIII centuries Katskhi belonged to the family of Abashidze, and from 50-ies of the XVIII century it was transferred to the management of Royal administration.
Katskhi is surrounded by five-angle fence. It has old bell tower with the function of a gate. Katskhi cathedral is one of the outstanding and original monuments of the Georgian religious architecture. There is no other architectural feat with the same form. Construction consists of three staggering parts: outer space, building of a church and a neck of a dome. It is a six-apse cathedral. The construction used to be decorated with rich ornaments. However, as a result of a restoration conducted by the Exarchate of the Russian church in 1854, ornaments were removed and frescos were painted. On the tops of all entrances to the church there are bas-reliefs (primarily with images of lion). All bas-reliefs of the cathedral have inscriptions in Asomtavruli. Most of the legends are in tittles.
Motsameta church is located within 6 km distance from Kutaisi to the East, in the gorge of river Tskaltsitela. The history of its foundation is linked to the names of the nobles of Argveti, David and Konstantine Mkheidze. They were detained by Murvan Kru who invaded Georgia in 736-738 and punished them to death for fidelity to Christianity. The church has beatified martyred heroes as saints. Their Holy Remains at first were laid to rest at the destroyed Annunciation church. In XI century Bagrat III rebuilt destroyed church and reburied martyrs to this church. In 1844-65 under the auspices of the Bishop of Imereti, David Tsereteli, Motsameta was refurbished and expanded. Dome was mounted on the cathedral, stone flooring made and iconostasis changed. In 1923 the Bolsheviks closed the church and exhumed Holy Remains from the tomb and threw them into the water. The local residents managed to save Holy Remains. They were handed over to the museum of Kutaisi. Motsameta has restarted its function in 1954. The bodies of David and Konstantine were carried from the museum and reburied in the church. The holiday of Motsameta is celebrated on October 15.
Within the distance of 160 km to the West from Tbilisi, to the left from the backbone expressway, in Kharagauli region, is located Ubisi Monastery Complex. It consists of the church of St. George (was founded in IX century by the disciples of Grigol Khandzteli, Christephore and Theodore), 4-level tower with column (the Asomtavruli legend of the church tells that this tower was built by the first minister of the Kingdom of Georgia, Svimon Chkondideli, Chief Chancellor, in 1141), residue of the fence and lean-to of XVI century.
Cathedral and tower are constructed with pumice stone, they are plainly ornamented and walls have some construction inscriptions. The main attractions of Ubisi are XVI century mural paintings performed by Damiane. Here are brilliant compositions of all Holy celebrations: Annunciation, Palm Sunday, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Epiphany, etc. Among the murals Fresco of St. George of Ubisi and Last Supper can be singled out. These paintings represent mixture of Georgian and Byzantine style of painting..