Vardzia, Georgia’s Historical Medieval Cave Town

Vardzia, Georgia's Historical Medieval Cave Town

The city of Vardzia is one of the historic cave cities in Georgia. This city was built in the mountains near a river.

The city is located in Vardzia, Lesser Caucasus Mountains, South Georgia. Built into a mountainside, the city stretches for 500 meters and has 9 levels.

Vardzia has a beautiful landscape, surrounded by green mountains. Furthermore, the river beside the city makes the scenery even more amazing.

Vardzia was built in the 12th century by Queen Tamar, a famous Georgian ruler. The city of Vardzia managed to become a stronghold to resist enemy invasions until the 13th century.

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Queen Tamar in Vardzia History

The city of Vardzia dates back to the prehistoric Bronze Age, but it wasn’t until the early Middle Ages that it became a true cave city.

The development of this city was continued by Queen Tamar. When Queen Tamar wanted to live in a cave city, her father, Giorgi III, began construction of the city but did not get to see it finished.

In medieval times, the Kingdom of Georgia had to face attacks from the Mongols. Therefore, Queen Tamar was the one who completed the construction of the cave city of Vardzia.

Queen Tamar became Georgia’s first female consort. Back then, workers were ordered to carve out dwellings in the Erusheli mountainside, creating a sanctuary from invaders.

Queen Tamar ruled Georgia from 1184 to 1213 AD and was one of the most influential rulers in Georgian history.

Queen Tamar came to power at the age of 25. Under his rule, Vardzia became a prosperous and independent city. 

Hidden Passages and Secret Entrance Tunnels

In the past, the only access to enter the city was through hidden passages and secret entrance tunnels.

Throne rooms, churches, and 6,000 houses were built for monks and refugees. All the different levels are connected to each other through hidden passages in the ceiling.

According to one story, Queen Tamar had 366 rooms to herself. Therefore, if an enemy comes, it will be difficult to guess which room is Queen Tamar’s bedroom.

The tunnel entrance is a secret, hidden somewhere on the banks of the Mtkvari River. This is done to complicate the enemy.

Green City in the Middle Ages

During Georgia’s golden age, the city of Vardzia became a very prosperous green city. Moreover, the city functions as a self-sufficient green community.

The mountainous area of ​​Erushali is very fertile, making it suitable for agriculture. Provided that, this makes this city a strategic location.

The monks living in the cave cities terraced the mountainside and implemented elaborate irrigation systems. Vardzia is the only example of a self-sustaining medieval city in Europe, providing all residents with plenty of food and water.

Vardzia City Almost Destroyed by Earthquake

In 1283, a major earthquake occurred and destroyed around 75% of Vardzia city. This earthquake exposed the city buildings in the cave; today, the buildings in this city are visible on the mountain cliffs.

Currently, there are only 750 rooms left after the earthquake, during its heyday, it could have accommodated 50,000 people.

The remaining rooms include the monks’ cells, grand porch, treasury, cathedral, library, stables, bakery, and swimming pool.