|Tskaltubo Resort the Restaurant Building|
For the tourist there are caves to visit nearby, at Kumistavi, with 15 chambers underground, including an underground waterfall, and the habitat for 10-12 species of bat. But we are pilgrims so the bats are given a miss!
Monday morning sees us setting off at 9am after a good breakfast at the hotel to visit Kutaisi itself. The road to the town is sadly littered and unsightly, but I am pleased to see that at least some people care; I see a man picking up litter outside a small roadside café, and an old lady is sweeping the pavement in front of her small shop. And the town itself, as with most towns we visited here, was relatively clean and tidy.
|beautiful frescoes, Cathedral of the Virgin, Gelati Monastery|
|the mosaic Virgin and Child in the Apse, Cathedral of the Virgin, |
|King David's grave|
|The iron gate at King David's grave|
|the rather curious St Nicholas church |
with the bell tower behind
|information plaque at Gelati Monastery|
One of the best detailed descriptions of the Gelati monastery complex is at the UNESCO website.
Having spent some time at Gelati, we retrace our steps in the coach to Motsameta (meaning; martyrs) Monastery, founded in the 8th century. This is smaller than the Gelati Monastery, and again we have the place pretty much to ourselves, at least to start with, although as at Gelati, the liturgy is being said at the time of our visit.
I still find it very difficult to take photos whilst respecting the mystery and divinity of the occasion. The present church was built in the 11th century by Bagrat III, the bell tower perhaps later, in the 16th century. The buildings are set in a spectacular cliff-side setting, with fabulous views into the gorge far below. Within the church there are two skulls in a casket, recovered and reburied from the earlier church. These belong to the brothers David and Constantine Mkheidze, now saints, who refused to convert to Islam in the 720s and were killed by Arabs and thrown into the gorge. I missed my chance here of having a wish granted. Apparently this was available to me if I had crawled three times beneath the tomb of the saints, without touching it! A missed opportunity! The church has only been open again for two years, and has modern frescoes. There may well be a secret tunnel between Gelati and Motsameta, useful in periods of the all too common invasions that this country has suffered.
|Motsameta Monastery from approach road|
|The Bagrat Cathedral, Kutaisi|