Ikalto Monastery

The Ikalto Monastery was founded by Saint Zenon, one of the 13 Syrian Fathers, in the late 6th century. It was known as one of the most significant cultural-scholastic centers of Georgia. According to sources, the first academy in this area was founded in the 9th century AD, but during the Arab invasions it was entirely devastated. During the Georgian Renaissance, the teacher of David the Builder, scholar and philosopher Arsen of Ikalto initiated the idea of recreating a high school and the academy at Ikalto. The Academy of Ikalto trained its students in theology, rhetoric, astronomy, philosophy, geography, geometry chanting as well as in more practical skills such as pottery making, metal work, viticulture and wine making, and pharmacology. According to a legend, the famous 12th century Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli studied there.

There are three churches on the monastery grounds – Kvtaeba, Kvelatsminda and Sameba. The main church, Kvtaeba (Holy Spirit), was built in the 8th–9th century on the site of an older church, in which Saint Zenon had been buried. In 1616, the Persian invaders led by Shah Abbas I set the Ikalto Academy on fire and it stopped to exist.

The ruins of the Academy are behind the three churches with evidence of a once thriving wine culture. It was an academy in a monastery that taught oenology to students 900 years ago. Nowadays, there some plans to make Ikalto once again a center for teaching traditional wine and qvevri making.