Near the entrance into the Ikalto complex, this house is used by the wardens of the site. Nothing says if the house and the vaulted shed are old or new. However, old or new, they are of the same making that the old building of the Ikalto Academy. This is especially obvious if you compare the arches of the shed with the arches of the wine processing tanks shown in another tip.
As Ikalto Academy tought also the art of pottery making, no wonder that when the site was dug by archeologists, a great number of amphoras were found. Some of them are displayed along the walls of the main building. Some are in such good condition that they look as if there had been made yesterday !
If wine was produced, they needed to store it. Huge amphoras (500 to 1000 liters) were buried to the neck. Wine was poured to fill them completely and a stone cover was adjusted in order to be airproof and sealed. Wine could be kept several years and aged as it does now in wooden barrels. The photos show amphoras whose cover had been removed. They were found empty but remains of wine have been identified at the bottom. Moreover, the practice of buried wine is still in use in some parts of Georgia : an amphora is buried on the occasion of the birth of a boy and opened to celebrate his marriage.
The arched structures shown on photo 1 and 2 look amazing and at first, it is difficult to figure out what they were designed for. Photos 3 and 4 show the inside but are not of much help. I learned that they were tanks were grapes were collected and stored to let them fermentate into wine ! Ikalto Academy was not only for theology but had an oenological section!
The Ikalto Academy is famous in Georgia. It has been a main center for teaching everything that had to be taught : theology, philosophy, rethorics, astronomy, geography, geometry, etc. The great national poet Chota Rustaveli, that gave its name to the main street in Tbilisi, is said to have been a student in Ikalto. The Academy taught also practical skills such as wine making (we would now say oenology !), pottery making, curing with plants, metal work for example.
In 1616, the armies of armies of Shah Abbas invade Kakheti from Persia and destroyed the Academy. It was never rebuilt since then.
This two levels house is supposedly a bishop’s house dated from the Xith-XIIth century. The ground floor (half underground) is a cellar. Most of these buildings were uncovered as a result of archeological excavations.
Inside of of Sameba church, there is little to see : there ae a few modern icons that have been added. If you look carefully at the third photo, you will notice the steel stove with the pipe going outside through the window and on the rear a standard letterbox which is very likely to be used to collect gifts !
Sameba church (Church of the Trinity) was built in the Vith century. It is about the same size and same height than Kvelatsminda church but it had a larger entrance that has been partly walled as can be best seen on photo 3.
Kvelatsminda church was built in the VIIth century. It is a small building on one single level. On the rear, a narrow window provides some light inside. The inside is bare and has again little interest though the church was recently restored but the restoration dealt only with the structure of the church..
Zenon and Arsen Ikaltoeli, two of the holy fathers were buried inside the south west part of the church but I have not seen their grave. May be I have not paid enough attention. The inside of the church was whitewashed by the Russians in the XIXth century. There is actually little to see in Khvtaeba church and the outside is more interesting.
Ikaltoeli means : from Italko. Zenon and Arsen were not brothers : they lived 6 centuries apart, Zenon in the Vith century and Arsen in the XIIth century.
Khvtaeba church (church of the Transfiguration) was built on a cross like design, which is best seen on the first photo (side view).
On the left of the first photo stands Sameba church (see following tip).
The last photo shows the rear of Khvtaeba church
Khvtaeba church stands in front of the entrance into the Ikalto monastery complex. It is the largest of the three churches. It was built by Zenon on the site of an older church and was not much altered along the centuries. Most of it has been built between in the VIIIth and Ixth century. The cupola is made of bricks and was added in the XIXth as well as the bell tower (left of the second photo). It was restored in 2010.