The Betania Monastery of the Nativity of the Mother of God, often just Betania Monastery, is a medieval Orthodox Georgian in Eastern Georgia, just 16km from Tbilisi.
It is from the Golden Age of Georgia (11th to 13th centuries), and is notable for wall paintings inside depicting three notable Georgian monarchs. These are the three Georgian rulers of the Golden Age: George IV, aka Lasha, (son of Queen Tamar), George III (father of Tamar) and Queen Tamar herself.
Meaning and History:
Like many churches at the time, it is named after a place in the Holy Land. This one is derived from the village of Bethany in Palestine, the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
There is some speculation as to when exactly the church was built.
It was supposedly constructed in the early 13th century. This is based on the fact that the murals inside date to back to 1207, according to historians, and on the reports of the Russian Prince Grigory Gagarin. According to his reports, he discovered and cleaned the image of Tamar in 1851, though there is nothing about the actual date as to when the church was originally constructed.
Like many other churches in Georgia, Betania Monastery endured numerous invasions and at one point in history, was completely abandoned and half-destroyed.
Most of it was later restored in the second half of the 19th century by monks who were later executed during the Soviet purges. As a result, from 1963 till 1978, it was officially not functioning.
Finally, it was restored again in 1978 by the Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II and then refurbished in the 1990s, when it grew again in size and influence.
What to see:
The monastery is located near a small forest next to the Vere River, with a great view of the surrounding nature and stream.
You can tell that it was surrounded by a wall, based on the scattered stone rocks around the church. The church has an interesting cross-in-square design with a dome on top of it.
Aside from that the mural, the walls also depict frescoes and icons of prophets, scenes from the Old Testament and from the life of Christ.
The road is a quite long and winding and can be bumpy at times near the end.
So getting there and exploring the full view might take some time. It is advisable to save more than half a day for your visit.
How to get there:
- A taxi is probably the most convenient, but also the most expensive way.
- There are also special city buses that go there from Liberty Square.