Experiences > Religious Monuments > Middle East and North Africa > Churches and Monasteries of Georgia and Armenia

Location: Georgia Armenia Iran

Armenian Monasteries of Iran

There are three Armenian monasteries in north-western Iran - St Thaddeus, St Stepanos and the Chapel of Dzordzor which date to the 7th century and have a high spiritual significance for the Armenian Church. These have been rebuilt several times over the past 1,400 years and today are the only vestiges of Armenian culture in this region.


Mtskheta was the former capital of Georgia and contains many outstanding examples of ancient and beautiful churches. These include the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral - the largest functioning cathedral in Georgia, the 6th century Jvari church - the most sacred place in Georgia and perched on a hill overlooking the valley, and the 11th century Samtavro which contains the grave of the first Georgian Christian king.


Kutaisi was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Colchis and is famed for being the location where Jason stole the Golden Fleece from King Aeetes. The city's golden age was under the reigns of King Bagrat and Queen Tamar between the 10th and 13th centuries. The ruins of the 11th century Bagrati Cathedral lie in the city. Outside the city the Gelati Monastery Complex was founded in the 12th century by King David the Builder. These beautifully preserved buildings are famous for their frescos and mosaics. In addition to the religious buildings, King David founded the Academy to act as a centre of science and education.


The wine growing region of Kakheti lies in the east of Georgia, a region renowned for its hospitality, good food and of course wine. From a base in the town of Telavi, a number of historical monuments can be explore including 11th century Alaverdi Cathedral surrounded by defensive walls and Nekresi Monastery, set on a hillside with excellent views of the surrounding countryside. In Telavi itself, King Hereklie's Palace and the house of Prince Chavchavadze are worth visiting.

Monastery of Geghard

The Monastery of Geghard is located at the entrance of the Azat Valley, northeast of the capital Yerevan. This complex of churches and tombs have been carved deep into rock and date back to the 4th century AD. It is believed that the spear which pierced the body of Jesus on the cross was kept here along with relics of the Apostles Andrew and John. Nearby the Roman temple at Garni dates back to AD 77, a pagan temple in the pre-Christian era.

Cathedrals of Echmiatsin and Zvartnots

Echmiatsin was the capital of Armenia from 180 to 340 AD during which time Armenia became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity. The cathedral at Echmiatsin was founded in AD 303 and was Armenia's first church. The nearby Zvartnots Cathedral dates to the 7th century.

Monasteries of Southern Armenia

There are several beautiful ancient monasteries in southern Armenia, all set in spectacular locations. Khor Virab Monastery is located near the Turkish border, one of the holiest sites in Armenia. Set against the backdrop of Mount Ararat, it provides excellent photo opportunities. The nearby village of Areni produces some of the best wine in Armenia. Tatev Monastery is located on top of an almost impregnable plateau, overlooking Vorotan Gorge.

Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin

In northern Armenia near the border with Georgia lie the 10th century monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin. Built during the period of prosperity of the Kiurikian dynasty following independence, these were important centres of learning and represent the peak of Armenian religious architecture. Sanahin comprises the Cathedral of the Redeemer and other buildings located on a plateau above the Debet Gorge and was famous for its school of illuminators and calligraphers. Hahgpat comprises the Church of the Holy Cross as well as a gravit, chapter house and library.

Travel to Churches and Monasteries of Georgia and Armenia

Further Exploration for Churches and Monasteries of Georgia and Armenia

Bradt Georgia


Jun 2011 (4th ed.), 288 pages


Bradt Armenia with Nagorno Karabagh

Armenia with Nagorno Karabagh

Sep 2014 (4th ed.)