Shavnabada Monastery near Tbilisi

Shavnabada Monastery (Georgian: შავნაბადა) is a must-see medieval complex located in southeastern Georgia, approximately 2 kilometers from the village of Teleti and 25 kilometers from Tbilisi.

History Meets Legend

Shavnabada Monastery was built atop a mountain of the same name. The monastery’s initial church was built in the 12th century and refurbished in the 17th century. The bell tower and an additional church were built in the early 19th century, yet the complex was not officially designated as such until shortly after Georgia gained independence from the Soviet Union.

The monastery received its modern-day name in the late 18th century, when, according to legend, a knight donning a black cloak (pronounced shavi nabadi in Georgian) assisted the Georgian army in battle against Iranian ruler Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar. In 1795, after the Khan gained control of Tbilisi, the Persians began to plunder the city. However, each night a knight in a black cloak would ride into their camp and proceed to murder Persian soldiers. Unable to seize this Night Rider, the frightened Khan ordered his army to retreat, vowing to return the next year and raze the city. But a year later, on the eve of his attack, Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar was found dead inside his heavily guarded tent. Many locals believe that this legendary knight was actually St. George, patron saint of Georgia.

Shavnabada Monastic Complex

The monastery and church are still functional, and in fact the prayers of its priests and monks continue around the clock. The complex includes St. George Church, the residence of the Catholicos-Patriarch, a bell tower, bakery, wine cellar, monks’ chambers and a famous iconographers’ school. The frescoes inside the church are quite remarkable. The most notable is a painting of Saint Nino, an important spiritual figure who is credited with bringing Christianity to Georgia in the 4th century and is depicted in the painting as holding a grapevine cross.

Since 1998, the Shavnabada wine cellar has been producing famous wine from Georgia’s renowned Saperavi (red) and Rkatsiteli (white) grapes using traditional clay qvevri vessels. In addition to winemaking, the monks also engage in beekeeping and the production and sale of natural honey.

With its pleasant views, famous wine and historic ties, Shavnabada Monastery is perfect for a short getaway from Tbilisi.