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Ananuri Castle

Surrounded by the picturesque forested mountain range Sheupovari, the fortified Ananuri Castle juts out over the turquoise waters of the Zhinvali reservoir. The Castle belonged to the Eristavis of Aragvi, a Georgian dynasty of dukes which ruled over the Aragvi valley for several centuries. The architectural complex of this stronghold, which is one of the best-preserved old buildings from late feudalism in eastern Georgia, features guard towers, residential space, a few churches, a bell tower, springs and reservoirs as well as other buildings. The old walls of Ananuri are transfused with an incredible spirit of greatness and bravery as the stronghold had to drive back invasions of the Iranians, Turks and Lezgins many times. Today Ananuri is a well-known tourist attraction. It is popular because it is situated at the famous Georgian Military Road which dates from the late 18th century and is used to the present day.

History of the Castle

There are no records when exactly this stronghold was built, but many archaeological excavations carried out there have shown that by the 13th or 14th century a hillfort which was a barrier to the enemy in the Vedzathevi gorge already existed on the left side of the Aragvi. The first written records of Ananuri, where the dangerous Eristavis (dukes) of Aragvi who ruled over these lands lived, cannot be found until the 17th c. At that time the complex of buildings was much richer; the Castle has survived to the present day, but it is only the upper part of the former Ananuri stronghold. (more)

What can you see there?

Today there are no interiors or museum exhibitions open to visitors so the churches and towers that survived many battles and are open to the public are the main attraction. During construction work, five towers were incorporated into the fortified walls surrounding the castle complex. Originally, the walls were maximally 6 metre high, later another 2 or 3 metres were added to strengthen the fortifications.

The highest, low-rise Sheupovari tower is Ananuri’s main tower; it once combined defensive, residential and observation functions. During the time of Teimuraz II, there were fireplaces, niches and holds for soldiers on each storey. The wooden floors have not survived to the present day, but you can go up the stone steps leading to the very top of the tower, where a view over the church's dome, the reservoir and the majestic densely forested mountains stretches.

The most interesting facility of the Ananuri Castle Complex is the huge Church of the Assumption with a dome. It draws attention with the artistry of ornaments on its outer walls. There is a big carved cross directly fixed to hewn stone walls on each side of the elevation. The cross on the south side is not only decorated with a fine sculpture but also is placed around the likeness of people, animals and birds pecking clusters from stylized grapes. The inscriptions on the wall show that the church was constructed in 1689 during the time of Bardzim of the Eristavis. Only some of the murals have survived inside the Church of the Assumption, most of them were destroyed in the fire of 1739.

Another old attraction in Ananuri is the small Mkurnali church, or rather its bell tower. The church is situated in the lower part of the stronghold so it is unavailable to visitors, but the bell tower in the form of arches on an octagonal base course is at the height of the fortified walls. The bell tower against the background of the artificial Zhinvali reservoir became a distinctive feature, a hallmark of the stronghold; visitors have pictures taken of themselves against its background to have a souvenir of their stay in Ananuri.

Ananuri is open to visitors: every day from 10:00 to 18:00.