|Akhali Shuamta from the approach|
note the amazing wild flower meadow
Our target for today is the churches and monasteries of the Kakheti region, famous for its vineyards. We have the usual minibus shuttle service to take us down from the hotel to our coach by the side of the lake (now starting to fill up again, albeit slowly!), and we make our way back through Telavi to our first stop, an hour's drive away, at the new Shuamto monastery, Akhali Shuamta, high in the Gombori mountain range.
The monastery is still active, and the guidebooks did warn us that the nuns here were unfriendly! The Russians have whitened some of the frescoes, and some have been cleaned.
|The Church of the Holy Spirit Ikhalto|
|The Ikhalto monastery complex|
|Icon of King David the builder|
|whose tomb is this in the Church of the|
Holy Spirit Ikhalto?
|At Ikhalto monastery|
Like Shuamto, the Ikhalto monastery was an education center or academy, and was founded in the late 6th Century by St Zenon, one of the Syrian Fathers who established Christianity in Georgia.It began as a local place of learning but became one of the most significant cultural-scholastic centers of Georgia, (the other being at Gelati), when King David the builder further developed the academy in the 12th century. Many subjects were taught there including theology, astronomy, philosophy, as well as practical skills such as pottery and, perhaps not surprisingly, wine-making. Legend says that the famous Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli studied here. The academy was destroyed by the invading Persians in 1616 when it was set on fire.
|view of the refectory and other academy ruins Ikhalto|
|the wine fermenting jars set deep in the ground|
|6th century church of the Trinity|
Levan tells us that 90% of Georgians are Christians and many go to church often, including the young people - although girls tend to be more pious than the boys. The liturgy can be 5 - 6 hours long for special days, and traditionally females stand to the left, males to the right, although nowadays there is a greater tendency to mix. I had not noticed this before really, but on the iconostasis the Virgin Mary is always the icon immediately to the left of the entrance to the inner sanctuary, the icon to the right is of Jesus.
This site was restored quite recently and there are posters with some comprehensive information about the restoration process at the entrance to the site.