Uplistsikhe is one of the most ancient cave cities in the world, located in Georgia near the town of Gori. Translated from Georgian, the name means “God’s Fortress.”
According to researchers, there was a large settlement not far from Uplistsikhe on the Katlaniskhevi hill, but due to a severe fire, the inhabitants also left it. Those who remained founded a new city in the mountains around 2000 BC. Uplistsikhe experienced several ups and downs, but in the 19th century it was completely abandoned by the inhabitants. Today the cave complex is an important monument of Georgian architecture. At the best of times, there were over 700 caves in the city, but only 150 have survived to this day.
Archaeological excavations indicate that the caves were used for religious purposes. Ruins of temples, pits for animal sacrifices, and figurines of pagan gods were found. In ancient times, pagan gods were worshiped here, and the most important temple was the Temple of the Sun, which was destroyed in 337, when Christianity came to Georgia. There were also Hellenistic temples in the cave city, among them it is worth noting the Makvliani temple with an area of about 300 m2. But with the advent of Christianity, almost all pagan temples and temples were rebuilt into Christian churches. In addition to temples, you can see living quarters, wells, city gates, wine storage facilities, and drains. In places where there is no natural barrier, ditches were dug and walls were erected.
The architectural elements in Uplistsikhe are not similar to the architecture found in the Caucasus. In the thickness of the rocks, builders tried to recreate the shape of wooden beams and decorated walls and columns. In its architecture, the cave city is similar to Petra, which was also built when Greek culture flourished in the Middle East after the conquests of Alexander the Great. There are no natural caves in Uplistsikhe; all of them were built manually using the pick-and-place method. First, a room was hollowed out in the rock, then, using water and an abrasive stone, the walls and columns were ground in, giving them the desired shape. This method not only made it possible to achieve the required shape of the walls, but also strengthened them by applying a protective word to fragile sand rocks. But nothing lasts forever; the cave city is in a deplorable state nowadays due to soil erosion and seismic activity in the region.