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East Georgia

On the trail of the Assyrian Fathers

Tour: On the trail of the Assyrian Fathers.

Type: Piligrim .

Transportation: passenger car, mini-bus, bus.

Duration: 4 days.

Meals: triple.
The tour can be changed according to your wish.

Objects to view: Zedazeni Monastery, Samtavro Monastery, Shio Mghvime Monastery, Tsilkani Monastery, Samtavisi Monastery, Urbnisi Monastery, Breti Monastery, Ulumbo Monastery, Martkopi Monastery, Ikalto Monastery, Alaverdi Monastery, Nekresi Monastery, Khirsi Monastery, and David Gareji Monastery.

Tour program: among religious tours one of the most popular is visiting the Assyrian fathers’ graves. After St. Nino, the most important contribution to the Christianization of Georgia is made by them. Fathers coming from Assyria revived the spiritual life in VI century Georgia, laid down the rules of monastic life, built many monasteries and temples. Nunneries set by them became the centres of Georgian erudition and education. Assyrian fathers’ graves are spread in different parts of Georgia. They are canonized to be saints: Ioannes Zedazneli, Shio Mghvimeli, Joseph Alaverdeli, Anton Martkopeli, Tadeos Stefantsmindeli, Piros Breteli, Ise Tsilkneli, Stephen Kizikeli or Khirseli, Isidore Samtavneli, Michael Ulumboeli, Zenon Ikaltoeli, David Garejeli, Abibo Nekreseli.

I day

Breakfast in the morning and departure in the direction of Mtskheta, sightseeing of Zedazeni Monastery, Samtavro Monastery in Mtskheta, lunch, then departure to Shiomgvime Monastery, return to Mtskheta and accommodation at the hotel, free time – sightseeing Mtskheta and dinner.

Day II

Breakfast in the morning and departure in the direction of the west, sightseeing Tsilkani and Samtavisi Monasteries, lunch, a visit to Urbnisi Monastery and then visit to Breti and Ulumbo Monasteries, in the evening return to Tbilisi and accommodation at the hotel.


Breakfast in the morning and departure in the direction of Martkopi, then departure in the direction of Kakheti and visiting Ikalto Monastery, lunch, then visit to Alaverdi and Nekresi Monasteries, dinner in the evening and accommodation at the hotel in Kvareli.

Day IV

After breakfast a visit to Khirsi Monastery and departure towards Davit Gareji Monastery, lunch on the way, sightseeing of the monastery and return to Tbilisi, dinner on the way.

The founder of Zedazeni Monastery is Ioannes Zedazneli. He came to Georgia from Antiochus in the middle of VI century together with his followers (Assyrian fathers). They first lived in Mtskheta, and later built a monastery on Zedazeni Mountain. Exactly from here he sent the fathers to Kartli and Kakheti to spread Christianity and establish churches and monasteries. From the monastery constructions, three-aisled basilica of baptizer is remained on Zedazeni, which was built at the end of the VIII century, in place of the previous church with halls. Here you can find the spring, which originated in Ioannes Zedazneli’s prayer. After a long time activity, St. Ioannes passed away here and was buried in the monastery. The beautiful view opens from the monastery, from where Mtskheta and Tbilisi are also visible.

According to the legend, Holy Martyr Abibos Nekreseli’s non-composed parts are buried in Samtavro Monastery under the refectory. Blessed by Ioannes Zedazneli St. Abibos worked in Nekresi, fire-worshipper Persians ruled at that time in Georgia. The Holy Priest saw once how the fire was worshipped; unable to bear he put out the fire with water. Persian executioners mercilessly tortured the Holy Father and took his body out of the city and left it there. At night the monks secretly buried him with full honors in Samtavisi monastery, from where he was redeposed in Samtavro Monastery. The main temple of the current monastery is of XI century, to the east of it there is St. Nino’s Church and blackberry bushes - the place where St. Nino prayed. St. Nino, having arrived in Georgia for sermons, lived here for three years; here the first Christian King Mirian and Queen Nana are buried. In the courtyard of the temple there is Father Gabriel the Confessor’s (Father Gabriel) tomb. The Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II was baptized here. Currently the Nunnery is operating in Samtavro.

Shio Mghvime Monastery was founded by the Holy Father Shio. Submissive Shio took the permission to go to the desert from his spiritual father - Ioannes Zedazneli. Nearby Mtskheta, in Sarkineti rock he found a cave, and there began working, he was buried there according to the will. The cave was considered to be a sacred place, hence the name of the monastery (Shio’s cave, Shiomghvime). Mghvime-well (bottom 3 m x 4 m, altitude 11 m), where Father Shio spent the last years of his life, narrows above and finishes with the hole, from which he was supplied with food and water. The oldest building of the monastery when St. Shio was still alive, built in 560-70's the Church of St. John the Baptist, there are some more temples in the complex. To the right of the entrance gate on the territory of the Monastery there is a spring called Lachrymal spring. This water has healing qualities, virtue water. It comes in the form of tears, as the fathers of the monastery say 100-120 liters of water come out during the day. The monastery has a very long history, like the country's history, it sometimes raised and sometimes fell. Despite all this, it has survived and it is still an active monastery here today.

The Christian Church was built in Tsilkani in the first period of spreading Christianity in Kartli. At the turn of V-VI centuries instead of Tsilkani church three-aisled basilica was built. In the II half of VI century Tsilkani was ruled by Ise Tsilkneli, who Christianized the northern highlands population, built churches and founded Tsilkani Monastery. There are many miracles associated with his period of activity. Ise changed the course of the river Ksani with his magic wand and laid water to Tsilkani Church. He travelled throughout the whole eparchy and with a hand touch healed the sick and handicapped. Holy saint passed away after a long period of work and is buried in the Virgin Mary’s Tsilkani church. The special relics of Tsilkani temple should be noted - the Blessed Virgin Mary’ miraculous icon, according to the religious legend, the creation of that miraculous icon belongs to Luka the Evangelist. Now the icon is kept in the treasury of the Museum of Georgia, and the copy of the icon is in the temple.

Samtavisi monastery complex is more studied among those monastery complexes where the Assyrian fathers worked. Archeological excavations in Samtavisi temple confirmed the existence of a large monastic complex, but before its construction there was a church here, which is built in 472. St. Isidore is considered to be the founder of that monastic complex. The Holy Father after leaving Zedazeni settled on the left bank of the river Lekhura. Blessed by the priest he for a long time preached in Kartli. After a long apostolic career, he built a monastery near the village of Tchala. According to the legend, the father of Isidore had with him the icon of Savior - Jesus Christ, which was placed in the monastery built by him. Isidore Samtavneli passed away in the monastery built by him and is buried here as well. The main temple of the monastery is a masterpiece of Georgian architecture; it should be seen to be shared with the secret of Georgian ornaments.

Holy Tadeos Stephantsmindeli, the same Tate Mamebeli, the closest associate follower of Father Ioannes Zedazneli. Firstly working in Mtskheta, he built a monastery at the foot of Zedazeni. After death of St. Ioannes St. Tate handed the monastery over to the deacon Ilia, and he, with the Cross and the gospel went across the mountains, built many churches, including the famous St. Stephen's Church in the town of Urbnisi. After a long period of living on the Holy Apostles’ footsteps, St. Tate wished to start the construction of the Monastery. He selected high, forested mountains called Tslevi Mountain above the river of Rukhula and there he built the monastery, and he himself lived in a small base for a long period and he died there. It is still unclear where exactly there is a tomb of the Holy Father, probably monastery fathers found that grave. However, is not officially ascertained. It can only be said exactly that the Holy Father worked for a long period in Urbnisi. In Urbnisi before Holy Father, St. Nino coming to Kartli stayed for a long time and continued the way to Mtskheta.

Breti Monastery blessed by Saint Ioannes Zedazneli was built by the Holy Father Piros in Shida Kartli, on the left bank of the river Prone. Initially Piros Breteli built the Blessed Virgin Mary temple in Breti that is now referred to as the Piros Breti Church and St. George's Church was built in the 7th century. Those two temples have a common wall. The Holy Father was buried in the church yard, but not exactly known where; conventionally his tomb was arranged in the temple. There is relics in St. George's Church, the bone of knee of Saint George, which is an icon - “St. George of Breti ". As it may be strange, you may see a strange thing on St. George’s Holy Church of Breti, icons on the outer w of the wall. At the time when the temple was "unable" to function, people from outside could light a candle and pray at the temple walls. A small tomb in the church should be notable as well, it is always wet. Next to St. Piros Breteli church there is a nunnery, according to the legend, there was a secret tunnel in the church that ran under the river Prone and joined the Holy Trinity Cathedral on the mountain, which is half destroyed.

Ulumbo monks’ monastery is the sixth century monastery. Michael Ulumboeli worked there, one of the thirteen Assyrian monks who preached Christianity in Kartli and Ossetia. Ulumbo monastery dates back to the second build date 1400-1415. Ulumbo current church with the aim of updating the priests’ service was restored in 1871, but still exist the traces of the ancient times church (with the length of approximately 24 meters). Not yet is determined the exact location of Michael Ulumboeli’s tomb, but it is known that he is buried in the territory of Ulumbo monastery. Today, there are nunneries of the monks, the monks worked in the upper Ulumbo monastery (in 0.8 kilometers) and at least in 20 minutes a person can climb there, however women are not permitted to visit due to the rules of the temple. The road towards Ulumbo monastery is not so good, but the nature on the way is the most beautiful.

Martkopi deity Monastery was founded by the Holy Father Anton. Father Anton loved being alone and supplication to God. That's why he was called "Being alone" (“Martomkopeli”) or in short “Martkopeli” and the place accordingly got the name of Martkopi. Father Anton had a brick hanging on the chest with the image of Jesus Christ’s face. The Holy Father prayed day and night in front of his miraculous Icon and made many miracles. As a result, crowds of people started to visit him, and when their number has increased immensely, Father Anton decided to build a monastery and he built the tower for himself on the top of the mountain, stayed there and dwelt till his death. After death, father Anton's body was taken to the tower to the monastery founded by him, and he was buried in front of the icon of the Virgin Mary. The temples of the monastery Deity, St. Mary, are in the name of Father Anton and St. George. The stone pillar was erected for the lighthouse on the way to the monastery to make it easier to get to the the monastery at night. The remains of this lighthouse are left, that is called «prayer".

St. Zenon Ikaltoeli preached in Kakheti Mountains, then founded the monastery in Ikalto and lived there until his death. Zenon Ikaltoeli’s activity contributed to strengthening of the Christian Church in Kakheti. Ikalto is a sacred symbol of Orthodoxy for Georgians. In XI-XII centuries the teacher of David the Builder, who came from the Gelati Monastery, founded the academy here. Theology, rhetoric, astronomy, philosophy, geography, geometry, metal processing, viticulture and wine making, pharmacy, religious singing etc. were studied at the academy. There are three churches on the territory of the monastery: Deity, All saints and Trinity. In recent years, the restoration of Ikalto complex was completed, monastery's main church got back to its original look. The temple where are kept the Holy Father Zenon’s and Arsen’s bones, survived.

Alaverdi monastery was founded by St. Joseph Alaverdeli in the middle of VI century. The existing St. George's Cathedral was built in the first quarter of XI century. Blessed by St. Ioannes Zedazneli, the Holy Father preached in different place of Kakheti. Finally he started his heavy monastic living in a dense, uninhabited, barren place of Alaverdi between Iori and Alazani. His preaching was accompanied by miracles, which was accomplished by the wooden Cross made of pastor Christ's Cross wood that had never parted with him since childhood. After conversion of Kakheti Father Joseph alone based in one place of the monastery, where he passed away. According to the legend, he was buried in the temple. Some time ago, during the ongoing archaeological excavations in Alaverdi main temple it was discovered that Joseph Alaverdeli’s remains were not buried Alaverdi Cathedral, as it was previously thought, but - in the wall of the temple. Alaverdi Cathedral is one of the largest religious constructions in Georgia (41,7 x 26,4, the height up to 50 meters). Other relics of Alaverdi Cathedral are the holy parts of Kakhetian Queen - the Holy Martyr Ketevan.

Nekresi Monastery - was the most important and ancient cultural center of Kakheti. Its foundation is related to the name of Abibos, Ioannes Zedazneli’s fellow, which was consecrated to be the bishop of Nekresi. He was the bishop in a very difficult period for Georgia. Persians, settled in Kartli did their best to implement Islam that was strongly rejected by Abibos, that is why he was severely tortured and his body was left abandoned in the countryside. The monks secretly took his body first to Samtavisi, then to Samtavro monastery. Recently the rehabilitation of Nekresi took place. Domed church, two smaller churches and basilica are rehabilitated, Nekreseli’s palace was restored, castle-tower, refectory, two wine cellars, etc. The open wine cellar in the courtyard is interesting as well, which is of 5-6 century and consists of 10 different sized kvevris. The monastery is located on the branching of the Caucasus Mountains, on the forested slope of the mountain. The infinite breathtaking space view of Alazani valley opens from the monastery.

Khirsi monastery in Georgia was founded by one of the preachers of the Christian religion, Stephen Kizikeli (Stephen Khirseli). By the historical tradition, he is buried there. The monastery played a great role in the religious life of Kakheti, in particular, in its south-eastern part. IX-X century domed temple has been preserved so far, which was built in the VI century at the site of basilica. There is Stepanoz Khirseli’s fresco left in the temple, which was spread in the form of the icon. One of the ancient relics of the temple was St. Stephen’s little finger, which is likely to be laid by Stephen himself. By today St. Stephen’s little finger is in Bodbe Nuns monastery. Old Georgian customs were kept in Khirsi monastery until the beginning of XX century. According to the legend, men around the monastery sacrificed their physical labor. They worked in a monastery for several months without any charge. The monastery was destroyed many times but rebuilt. The parishioners had always cared about its recovery and construction that helped the temple to go through fourteen centuries, until the present.

Father David initially chose Tbilisi for his work. He settled in the cave on the slopes of the mountain to the west of the city and arranged a small chapel there. On Thursdays, he went to the city with a preach encouraging the people at the place where the Holy Father liked preaching; now St. George's Church is called Kuashveti. The Holy Father, according to the outcasts’ rules, wished to settle away from people. For that he chose Gareji desert in Kakheti and together with the monk Lukiane settled in a small cave cut into the rock. Father David instituted a rule, for those willing to settle with them to cut a cave in the rock and to live solitary cell for three years. So was growing the number of monks wishing to live in the desert. For this reason, Lukiane built another monastery branch of the Baptist, in Gareji desert. Monk Dodo joined Gareji fathers, so Holy Dodo built more than two hundred cells on the top of the rock, and later built the Virgin Mary’s temple. Thus, another branch of the monastery complex was founded – Dodo’s branch. After a while David Garejeli decided to go to pray to holy places. The Holy Father did not consider himself worthy to enter the holy city, and prayed at the gates of the city. Father David with a great faith took three stones from the Grace range. At the request of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, two stones were returned to the city, for the city did not to lose completely the grace of Christ and the third, when returned to Gareji was laid in the church. A touch to it healed prayers from incurable diseases. Father David, after a long work died at Gareji monastery, the monks buried the Holy Father in the same cell, where he spent many years. There is a legend that three prays in David Gareji are equal to one pray in Jerusalem.
For more information please contact us:
26 Rustaveli Ave. 0108 Tbilisi, Georgia
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