Today we visited a monastary out in the middle of nowhere near the border with Azerbaijan. This is the place where David Gareji, a Syrian Christian came after he was run out of Tbilisi as he was trying to preach the Christian faith to the people of Georgia. At the time, Georgia was controled by the Persians, who were Zoroastrians at the time. They didn’t take to well to David preaching, so the decided to frame him to disgrace him so people wouldn’t listed to him anymore. They paid a pregnant woman to publicly claim that David Gareji was the father of her child. People believed her and David was in disgrace. So he cursed her and then left the city for the wilderness where he could just focus on his faith. He ended up in a remote area with lots of lime and sand stone and caves, and this is where the monastery was formed. Back in Tbilisi, the woman gave birth to a stone, instead of a baby, and the people realized they had been fooled and they began following David Gareji’s teachings again.
Georgian history is quite diverse and really interesting. The country has been a crossroads and prominant and rich kingdom for a very long time. On the way back to Tbilisi from David Gareji monastery, we heard the story of King Tamara. She was crowned king, by her father who didn’t want to marry her to another prince and have his kingdom be in another family’s hands. The line of Tamara is the only royal dynasty in Georgian history. So at the age of 19, Tamara was named King while her father was still alive so that they could rule together and she could learn the business of running the kingdom. Then when her father died, she was coronated king, but not without some opposition. There were some nobles, who didn’t think a woman should rule their country. This is in the late 12th century, so this is not hard to imagine she met with difficulty in assuming the throne. She ended up facing a parliament who tried to curb her power, but then was able to get rid of the opposition and she ruled the kingdom as the absolute monarch.
Another problem she faced was that of marriage. She wanted to bring a husband in who could lead her armies, but who wouldn’t have any other power. The first match was with a Russian prince, but it didn’t work out – he was rude, an alcoholic, and apparently infertile. So after two years, Tamara divorced him and sent him away. A few years later, another match was made, and by all accounts this one was much better. The husband was competent, led the armies, and they had two children – a boy and a girl.
King Tamara is credited with so many accomplishments – building things, increasing the kingdom’s wealth, and much more. It was considered a golden age for the country.
Tamara died when she was 48 years old, and her son became king, followed by her daughter. It was during her daughter’s reign that the Mongol hoards swept through and plunged the kingdom into the dark ages. The golden age of King Tamara was over.