Mtskheta, one of the oldest cities of Georgia, is located about 20 km north of Tbilisi, at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers. It was formerly the capital of the Kingdom of Iberia. Mtskheta was declared as the "Holy City" by the Georgian Orthodox Church in 2014, as the birthplace and one of the most vibrant centers of Christianity in Georgia.
In 1994 the "Historical Monuments of Mtskheta" became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its historical significance and several cultural monuments. In 2016 UNESCO placed the Historical Monuments of Mtskheta under Enhanced Protection, a mechanism established by the 1999 Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. And these cultural monuments and some others are:
The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (literally the Cathedral of the Living Pillar), a masterpiece of the Early Middle Ages is the second largest church building in Georgia, after the Holy Trinity Cathedral. The construction of Svetitskhoveli began in the 11th century during the reign of the first king of united Georgia-Bagrat III (1001-1014). The main works took place during the reign of King George I (1014-1027), and the temple was finished during the reign of Bagrat IV (1027-1072). According to various sources, it has been built for 19 years (1010-1029). Svetitskhoveli is considered an endangered cultural landmark. It has survived a variety of adversities, and many of its priceless frescoes were whitewashed by the Russian Imperial authorities. Its present structure was completed in 1029 by the medieval Georgian architect Arsakisdze, although the site itself dates back to the early fourth century. Svetitskhoveli has long been one of the principal Georgian Orthodox churches.
Samtavro Monastery-Samtavro Transfiguration Orthodox Church and Nunnery of St. Nino in Mtskheta, Georgia, were built in the 4th century by King Mirian III of Iberia. The church was reconstructed in the 11th century by King George I and Catholicos-Patriarch Melkisedek. The famous Georgian Saint monk Gabriel is buried in the yard of Samtavro Church.
Jvari Monastery, a sixth century Georgian Orthodox monastery near Mtskheta is listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, along with other historic structures of Mtskheta. It stands on the top of the rocky mountain, at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, and overlooks the town of Mtskheta. According to accounts, on this location in the early 4th century, Saint Nino, a female evangelist credited with converting King Mirian III of Iberia to Christianity, erected a large wooden cross on the site of a pagan temple. The cross was reportedly able to work miracles and therefore drew pilgrims from all over the Caucasus. In c. 545 over the remnants of the wooden cross, was built a small church named the "Small Church of Jvari". The present building, "Great Church of Jvari", was built between 590 and 605 by Erismtavari Stepanoz I. The importance of Jvari complex increased over time and attracted many pilgrims. In the late Middle Ages, the complex was fortified by a stone wall and gate, remnants of which still survive. During the Soviet period, the church was preserved as a national monument, but access was rendered difficult by tight security at a nearby military base. After the independence of Georgia, the building was restored to active religious use. Jvari was listed together with other monuments of Mtskheta in 1994 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the 2004 Jvari was listed World Monuments Watch list by the World Monuments Fund.
Shio-Mgvime monastery (meaning the cave of Shio) is a medieval monastic complex in Georgia, near the town of Mtskheta. It is located in a narrow limestone canyon on the northern bank of the Kura River, about 30 km from Tbilisi. According to a legend, the first community at this place was founded by the 6th-century monk Shio, who was one of the Thirteen Assyrian Fathers that came to Georgia as Christian missionaries. St. Shio spent his last years as a hermit in a deep cave near Mtskheta which was later named Shiomghvime after him. By the end of the 6th century, it was populated by as many as 2,000 monks. It became a vibrant center of cultural and religious activities and remained under the personal patronage of Catholicoi of Georgia. David IV "the Builder" (1089-1125) made it a royal domain and dictated regulations (typicon) for the monastery (1123). The downfall of the medieval Georgian kingdom and incessant foreign invasions resulted in the decline of the monastery. It saw a relative revival when the Georgian king George VIII (r. 1446-1465) granted Shio-Mgvime and its lands to the noble family of Zevdginidze-Amilakhvari to whom the monastery served as a familial burial ground up to the 1810s. It went through Persian invasion and was reconstructed, also was closed under Bolshevik rule, but it is now functional and attracts many pilgrims and tourists.
The Zedazeni Monastery was founded by one of the Assyrian fathers Ioane Zedazneli. It is a Georgian architectural monument, northeast of Mtskheta, on the left bank of the Aragvi, near the Saguramo ridge. Of today's monastic buildings, the Baptist church is a trihedral basilica, built by the Catholicos at the end of the VIII century (on the site of the previous church). In 1705 monastic life was temporarily suspended and subsequently resumed. The monastery was reconstructed several times. There should be cultural and educational activities, but we know only about one of the famous Georgian literate, Mikhail Tsinamdzgvari (XI). Based on the materials provided by him, an unknown author described the life of the founder of this monastery, Ioane Zedazneli. The Monastery is under the supervision of the Mtskheto-Tbilisi Diocese.
Armazi is the ruins of the original capital of the early Georgian kingdom of Kartli or Iberia. It particularly flourished in the early centuries CE and was destroyed by the Arab invasion in the 730s. Archaeological evidence says that the ancient Armazi was far more extensive than it is today. Armazi's strategic situation was dictated by its ready access to the Daryal Pass, the main road over the Greater Caucasus, through which the Scythians invaded the ancient Near East. They have identified three major cultural layers: the earliest dates the 4th-3rd century BC (Armazi I), the middle one is from the 3rd-1st century BC (Armazi II), and the newer structure belongs to the 1st-6th century AD (Armazi III). Among the surviving structures are the royal palace, several richly decorated tombs, a bathhouse and a small stone mausoleum. The area is now a state-protected field museum administered as a part of the National Archaeology Museum-Reserve of Greater Mtskheta.
Fortress Beberi (Bebris Tsikhe Fortress) is an ancient medieval fortress in Georgia, built in antiquity. It is located in the municipality of Mtskheta, north of Mtskheta, on the right bank of the Aragvi River. The oldest time was known as Belta.