Ancient caves monastery in Georgia closed due to threat of collapse

Aspindza, Georgia, October 18, 2018

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One of Georgia’s most unique spiritual treasures has been closed due to the threat of collapse.

The Vanis Kvabebi Monastery cave complex, an historical monument from the 8th century located in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, near the town of Aspindza in southern Georgia, will be closed to tourists for some time, Interfax-Religion reports, with reference to the National Agency for the Cultural Heritage of Georgia.

Although there are periodic rockslides at the complex, the corresponding risks rise in the fall due to frequent rains. The agency thus decided to close to complex based on the opinion of experts who say there is a serious danger of collapse.

“The primary data is alarming, given that rockslides are an irreversible process. Taking safety standards into account, we have closed the complex to visitors,” Agency Director Nikoloz Antidze said in a recent interview with Georgian public television.

A detailed study of the monument and surrounding areas is planned for next year, after which experts will determine a specific plan for restoration. Experts will also undertake a hydrogeological study to understand how to avoid the accumulation of water in the complex, and archaeological research to study the part of the monastery that was destroyed by an earthquake in the Middle Ages.

Financial resources have already been allocated for the monastery.

Vanis Kvabebi Monastery dates to the 8th century. The complex is a sample of ancient Georgian architecture, with 19 levels. It once had three churches on its territory, though only two have survived. The oldest also dates to the 8th century. The St. George Church, on the lower levels of the complex, dates to the 9th-11th centuries.

The monastery was originally inhabited by nuns and was known for its very strict life. According to legend, nuns could even be thrown off the cliff for violations of the habitation’s rules. The monastery is still known for its strict lifestyle today.

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