The Ikalto monastery was founded by Zenon of Ikalto who was one of the Thirteen Assyrian Fathers. It’s located 7 km away from capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti – Telavi. Assyrian Father are monks who came to Georgia in 6th century to strengthen Christianity and establish several monasteries. Ikalto monastery as one of the first to be founded by Assyrian Fathers. Zenon of Ikalto lived in Kakheti till the end of his lifetime; he cured ill people, guided followers, and initiated growth of monastery.
Eventually, congregation built new buildings and the monastery became center of culture and enlightenment of the region. Ikalto monastery became the last resting place for its founder, however, the exact location of the burial is unknown. In 9th century, temple of the Holy Spirit was constructed and the first ever academy of winemaking appeared. In 12th century, during the rule of David the Builder, Church of the Assumption was built. Arsen Ikaltoeli ordered to construct an extension of the new church, which became the Academy of Ikalto. There were only two famous academies in Georgia; Gelati was built in the area of Kutaisi, but the Academy of Ikalto was based in already existing monastery.
The academy became one of the most significant cultural-academic centers in Georgia. Students of the institution studied a wide variety of subject: astronomy, philosophy, theology, geometry, pottery making, wine making, and pharmacology. Shota Rustaveli - one of the most outstanding poets of the Georgian Golden Age and the author of masterpiece of Georgian literature – “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin”, studied in the Academy of Ikalto. Unfortunately, glorious academic center was destroyed by Shah Abbas I of Persia in 1616.
The monastery was brought back to life only in 19th century. This complex still has remnants of past fame: ruins of corpus of the academy, wine cellars, ruins of bishop’s house. Anyone can take a walk around these ruins and imagine what the monastery looked like back then, when it was an aademical center of Georgia.