Historical heritage of Georgia
There are about 150 museums and 12,000 monuments in Georgia, 4 of which are included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Fund: The museum-city of Mtskheta is the ancient capital of Georgia; architectural complex of Gelati, which includes the remnants of the medieval Academy – central temple with unique mosaic frescoes and the royal burial-vaults; Bagrati temple; upper Svaneti with its historic towers.
The 3500 years of the history of its statehood make Georgia a part of the ancient civilization. Out of the 14 written languages of the world, one is represented by the Georgian alphabet. The Georgian polyphony is unique in the musical traditions of the world. The Greeks of the ancient period attributed the legend of the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece to the power of the kingdom of Kolkhis. Kolkhida was also considered the birthplace of metallurgy. The Greek word for steel – khalib – signifies the metal produced by Khalibs who lived in Kolkheti. The other proof of the ancient culture is minting the silver coins in V c. BC. Beginning from the IV c. BC. Among the youths who received education in the philosophical school in Kolkheti, were the youths from the East Roman Empire. Apollonius of Rhodes considered that the art of cartography was known in Kolkhida before the it became known to the Greeks; On the threshold of the old and new millenniums a kingdom of Kartli, (i.e. Iberia, present-day eastern Georgia) accumulates power. Strabo appreciates the skills and art displayed in the architecture of buildings of various functions – whether of living and dwelling, or of those for public use or for various trades. The samples of handicrafts found in the excavations in Vani, Akhalgori, Armazi, Bagineti, Jinvali and other burial places prove the highly artistic skills of the goldsmiths.
From the first centuries of the new millennium, the Christian religion is introduced in the country and begins to spread, and in the IV c. it is proclaimed the official religion of the state. Correspondingly, the religious and cultural centres within the country accumulate and increase their power. Starting from the VI c. Georgia establishes the centres of that type in Palestine, Syria, Greece and Balkans. It is interesting to note that at that period the oriental legends on Buddha were also translated, and the Georgian monk Eqvtime of Athon translated them into Greek in the IX c. – which was subsequently translated into Latin and spread later in Europe.
The V-VI cc. are marked in Georgia by the increasing influence of Persia and Pre-Muslim Arabs, whether in politics and state affairs. This was followed by the parallel development of western Christian cultures along with the influence of Arabic and Persian cultures. The tolerant and liberal attitude and policy of the Georgian rulers in the XI-XII cc. towards the religious matters are almost unprecedented in the world. The Georgian royal court hosted the public figures of diverse origin and nations – Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Persians, Turks, and Armenians. This period was marked by the creation of "The Knight in Tiger’s Skin” – a poem that reflects the spirit of the contemporary Georgian culture, and indicates a significant event in literature – whether that of the east or of the west.
The churches and monasteries of that period still retain the colourful frescoes, samples of art of mosaic, objects done in gold and enamel; particularly impressive are crosses from Ishkhani, Martvili, Breti, Beriti Gospel, triptych of Saviour of monastery of Anchi; the Icon of Khakhuli is acknowledged a unique creation in the world and the image of the Holy Virgin is considered one of the most perfect among the famed creations done in the techniques of cloisonné enamel.