Alaverdi Monastery is the main shrine in Kakheti. It’s located 20 km away from the capital of Kakheti – Telavi. The cathedral was founded by Assyrian monk Joseph Alaverdeli in 6th century. The origins of the name are unknown; it might derive from Turkic language and mean “Allah gave”, but it there’s no point in giving Turkic name to a Christian cathedral. Another hypothesis is that the name is distorted Alva-Hvardi. People would gather there to listen to monk’s sermons about faith, virtue, and vice.
Joseph Alaverdeli was buried in a church, in northern part of modern cathedral. In the beginning of 11th century, tsar of Kakheti built cathedral of Saint George and Alaverdi Monastery on remnants of an ancient church. The cathedral and monastery have suffered through a lot of things: invasions, earthquakes, and man-made destructions.
In 1530, the monastery was damaged by an earthquake. In 1614, the Persians invaded Alazani Valley; they turned Alaverdi Cathedral into a foldyard, vineyards into pastures. In 1660, they were banished and the cathedral was rescued. Forty years later it was attacked by the Lezgins. In 1742, the monastery was severely damaged by an earthquake. In 18th century the monastery served as convent for women-monarchs who were cloistered in a monastery.
Despite all damages, the cathedral managed to preserve its original look; the only part that’s missing is the gallery that used to encircle the building. Today the Alaverdi Cathedral is functioning men’s monastery with a complex of buildings: Saint George’s church, a bathhouse, a bell tower, and a winery. There’s a museum of vine with more than 500 kinds of vine, some of them are extinct, some are rare.
The Alaverdi Cathedral is 50 meters of height, it used to be the tallest cathedral in Georgia, before Tsminda Sameba Cathedral was built. The interior of the monastery is comprised of ancient murals; the walls are adorned with carved ornaments.