The Saint John the Baptizer Monastery Complex

The complex was founded in Gareji by one of Assyrian Fathers – Saint David. In the VI century, Saint David inhabited a small cave in the Gareji desert, hence the first monastery of the area named after the saint himself. Saint David started building religious houses in his own life. The number of these locations was doubled and tripled later and yielded the complex which united monasteries of Saint John, Saint Dodo, White Desert, Tsamebuli, Udabno, Bertubani, Sabereebi, Kolagiri, Didi Kvabebi, Verangareja, Pirukughmari and etc.

The tradition flourished in IX century during the life of Saint Ilarion the Georgian and peaked in XII-XIII centuries, the era of Georgia’s political and cultural renaissance. The Gareji also became known for its own religious lifestyle and unique painting traditions; the location harbored very important and rich libraries. The most outstanding characters of Georgian history like King Demetre I, Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani, Besarion Baratashvil – Orbeliani, Nikoloz Cherkezishvili, Anthon I, Timothy Gabashvili, Gabriel Mtsire and others resided in the monastery.

The hands of time have destroyed the savannahs of Gareji which were later restored, but the monasteries torn down by the enemies have abolished.

Saint John Monastery is one of the most ancient religious shelters of Gareji. It is situated 8 kilometers West from Saint David’s original haven. Local manuscripts attach its origins to Saint Lucas’s deeds. Together with Saint David, Saint Dodo and Bertubani monasteries, it was one of the most important religious sites of Georgia. Saint John Monastery functioned incessantly from the second half of the VI century till the beginning of the XX century. It was renovated multiple times in the IX, XI, XII-XIII and XVIII-XIX centuries.

Currently, the monastery is one of the biggest savannahs of Gareji, uniting more than thirty monasteries arranged in multiple rows (churches, feast halls, burials and etc.) The central part of the complex – the temple, the feast hall and the leader’s house – is sharply outlined. The complex shelters multiple cave – chapels surrounded by fence and unique frescoes taken from XI-XIII centuries.
The treasures of the monastery were destroyed from 1921 and the life there began to revive only in 1990.

Ertguleba Charity Fund is an active assistant to the remodeling of the monastery. A new guest house was built nearby; the monks’ apartments were constructed as well as feast hall and leaders’ residence. The major temple and bell tower were remodeled.