This perfectly restored outstanding monument of Georgian architecture was the centre of spiritual and scientific life of the Middle Ages, the tomb of Georgian kings, the cult place for pilgrims. It is located 1 km from the city of Kutaisi and is under UNESCO protection as a site of cultural and historical legacy.
In fact, Gelati is a rich historical architectural complex comprising the ancient monastery, the bell tower, the church and the academy set up in 1106 by the great king of Georgia David the Builder. Thus, Gelati was not only the spiritual centre of the country but also the largest centre of culture, history, and science. David the Builder, who wanted to create a large educational centre in his country, gathered the best Georgian scientists in the academy. In Gelati there was a big and rich library, the teachers and scientists in the academy were the most educated people of the time.
The main structure of the complex is the church of Assumption of the Virgin.
This temple keeps well known Gelatian mosaics and frescos dated the 12th – 18th centuries. The most valuable are the paintings with the images of the Holy Mother of God. On the northern wall of the temple, there is a fresco with the image of David the Builder. Beside those Gelati complex includes St. George the Victory-Bearer cross-dome church (the 13th century) which is a smaller replica of the main Gelati temple. The church has 16th- century frescos. The two-level St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker church is also part of the complex.
… Here is the short history of Gelati. From the 12th to the 14th centuries, the monastery was the property of the King's house. King David granted it enormous grounds and generous treasures – the trophies of the victorious wars. The monastery was the place where such religious relics of entire Christian world as Khakhul icon of Divine Mother and the Atskuri icon of Divine Mother along with ancient manuscripts and many other relics were kept.
King David ordered to arrange a tomb for the representatives of imperial family in the monastery. Nearly all the kings of united Georgia are buried there: Demetre I, George III and presumably Queen Tamara. In his testament David the Builder ordered to bury him in such a way, that everyone entering the tomb would step on his grave. The legend says that it was how the king wanted to be punished for his sin of arrogance. Now king’s body is resting under the southern gate of the temple and everyone who enters the temple has no other choice but stepping on his tomb. There is also the tomb of Imeretian kings since after the disintegration of the united state the monastery was in their possession. In 1510 Gelati was burnt by Turkish aggressors.
After that, the kings of Imeretia Bagrat III and George II thoroughly repaired the monastery. Afterwards the residence of the Katholikos was transferred from Bichvinta to Gelati in the second half of the 16th century (until the 19th century). In the 17th century, the monastery was renovated again. After Imeretian kingdom joined Russia, Gelati ceased to be the church possession and became a state property.