Guide-U Presents: This mysterious fortress defending Tbilisi
Let’s continue our city tour from the Bridge of Peace, which is a pedestrian bridge stretching over the Mtkvari River, between Metekhi and Baratashvili bridges. The Bridge of Peace connects Erekle II Street with Rike Park. The bridge was constructed thanks to former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s initiative and on the order of Tbilisi City Hall in 2009 – 2010. It was officially opened on 6th May 2010. The architect of the bridge is the Italian Michele De Lucchi (also the architect of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the president’s palace), and the lighting designer is the Frenchman Philip Martino (also responsible for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Presidential Palace and Tbilisi TV Broadcasting Tower).
The bridge consists of a stainless steel frame and glass panels which together form and area of 150m2. The whole structure is based on 4 solid steel columns with a walkway in the middle. The walkway is around 5 meters wide in the middle and up to 2 meters wide at either end. The total length is 156m. The bridge can be accessed directly from the paths running alongside the river via 4 staircases. At night the bridge is illuminated with up to 50,000 lights. From an architectural point of view, the bridge is an example of contemporary architecture, which is a novelty in this area of old Tbilisi.
The official budget of the construction project was around 12.5million GEL. This cost was included in the city budget and construction was carried out by the Italian company Permasteelisa.
The official name of the bridge is actually unknown, but the author explains; “The bridge itself is a symbol of merging – the convergence of different positions, the connection of different shores. It’s the best metaphor for peace.” This is why it became known as the ‘Peace Bridge’.
The bridge split public opinion. Some people even made complaints about the size and scale of the bridge and its over-expressive design and strange shape. However, many people love it and it is very popular with tourists.
Now, if we go back to Rike Park you might bump into a long queue of people who want to visit Narikala Fortress by taking the cable car. The construction of this ropeway was completed back in 2012 by Tbilisi City Hall. The cable car connects Rike Park with Narikala Fortress, in the shortest possible time (there is a road leading to the Fortress as well).
The ropeway is built in compliance with international standards and fulfills all of the European security and safety standards. The Rike-Narikala ropeway is quite fast and just 500 meters long. It includes several gondolas, each of them with huge windows to give you great views of Tbilisi’s old town and one of them even has a glass floor which adds a bit more excitement to the experience. The cable car is also accessible for people with disabilities. It only costs 2.5 GEL to ride the cable car and you can pay using the ‘MetroMoney’ card that is also used for the metro and city buses. If you don’t have one you can buy one here.
If you decide to go up, don’t forget to take your camera with you. At the top of the hill Narikala Fortress offers splendid views of Old Tbilisi. Using the pedestrian trail, you can continue your way up to get to the statue of Mother of Georgia (Kartlis Deda).
This monument doesn’t represent any particular woman, but it became one of the symbols of the city and a metaphor for the Georgian people. The female figure is holding a bowl of wine in one hand and sword in another. The wine is to welcome friends and the sword is to fight off enemies. The artist responsible for the monument is the same man that created the statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali near Metekhi church, Elguja Amashukeli. He was awarded the Shota Rustaveli State Prize in 1966.
The statue was erected on Sololaki Hill in 1958 to commemorate the 1,500th anniversary of the city of Tbilisi. The Initial structure was a wooden figure and was only meant to temporarily decorate the capital, but in 1963 the wooden monument was covered in aluminum, so that the sculpture wouldn’t get damaged.
In 1997 the old sculpture was replaced by a new, bigger one. The new female sculpture is 20 meters high, and is dressed in traditional Georgian national garments.
From the bottom of the sculpture you will get a nice view of the Tbilisi Botanical Gardens.
It’s hard to imagine Tbilisi without Narikala Fortress and its incredible views. This mysterious fortress defended Tbilisi from 4th Century and is one of the highest points in the center of the city.
According to some written sources, the fortress was originally called “the fortress of Shur”. Over time, especially during David the Builder’s reign, the fortress was significantly expanded.
Over the centuries Tbilisi and Narikala fortress were destroyed several times by the enemy. It has also been repaired and restored many times and it is evident that the newer structures were built on the ruins of older buildings. Nowadays, only the north-eastern towers of Narikala Fortress date back to the early feudal era and King Vakhtang Gorgasali’s reign.
Archaeological excavations have been carried around Narikala and the remains of an ancient church were found. This church was almost identical to Metekhi Church located on the opposite bank of the Mtkvari River. According to historical records by Vakhushti Bagrationi the church was built in the name of Saint Nicho
las. The church was almost completely destroyed and buried and therefore it was only after the excavations in the area that it was found. We now know that the church was made of stone and it was a simple cross-shaped structure. The interior walls of the church were painted with murals. This church was completely restored in the 1990’s.
When Tbilisi became the capital of Georgia, Narikala Fortress became the subject of numerous assaults and invasions. Narikala and Tbilisi were demolished by Persians in 5th century. The Byzantine Emperor Heraklé, sacrificed a huge part of his army to attack the fortress in 627, but nothing could conquer Narikala. After that, Herakle ordered the nobleman Adarnassi to capture the head of the fortress.
Narikala was in possession of Arabs in 7th century. Later the castle was taken back into Georgian control by David the Builder in 1122. Narikala was also damaged by the Mongols who called the fortress “Narin Kala”, translated as small fortress.
During the 17th century, Narikala was in Persian hands. In the same century, the castle was restored by Rostom-Khan, who also garrisoned the fortress with Persian troops.
King Erekle II took over Narikala fortress in 1747, but this freedom ended in 1795 when Agha-Mohammad Khan conquered Tbilisi.
A large part of the fortress wall was damaged by the earthquake in 1827.
Today, Narikala fortress stands proudly on a steep hill, overlooking Tbilisi. It’s a huge part of the history of Tbilisi and has seen more than any other building in the city.