Zemo (Upper) Svaneti is the most mountainous and hard-to-reach region of Georgia. Similar to the whole region of Svaneti, this part is also distinguished by its splendid nature and is loaded with ancient historical and cultural monuments. Here, you will also discover the highest-located shrine in Europe, for which you have to go to Mkheri mountain. Zemo Svaneti includes the Enguri River valley from Jvari to Ushguli. Zemo Svaneti is divided into two parts by the Bali ridge. Above the ridge, there are communities of Latali, Lenjeri, Mestia, Mulakhi, Muzhali, Ipari, Kala and Ushguli. Among the communities of Zemo Svaneti, we would like to point out the Latali community, which unites ten villages and is distinguished by the abundance of temples and sanctuaries. There are more than 60 churches built and painted here in the Middle Ages. Ienashi (community center), Matskhvarishi, Ipkhi, Kvanchianari, and Lakhushdi are among them. Sightseeing and cultural monuments are not the only things that visitors can discover in Latali. For example, in July, on the last Monday of the month, the traditional holiday "Lataloba" is celebrated here. A solemn mass is held in the church, Svan songs are performed for the guests of the holiday, local dishes are prepared, and Svan products are exhibited and sold.

The Church of Matskhvarishi (the Church of the Ascension of the Savior)

The church of the Ascension of the Savior is located in the village of Matskharishi, Mestia Municipality, Svaneti. It was built in the 10th-11th centuries. The name of the village comes from the name of the church. Based on the inscriptions on the fresco, the temple was painted in the 15th year of the reign of Demetrius I of Georgia, in 1140: "The church was painted during the reign of King Demetrius by Mikael Maghlakeli." The painting of the temple conveys an important historical fact - the ceremony of coronating of David Aghmashenebeli's son, Demetrius the First. This painting is unique in terms of composition. In the fresco, King Demetrius is killed by two princes (Eristavi) with a sword. One of them is the Eristavi of Svan - Vardanisdze. The church built with hewn stone indicates that Svaneti is one of the oldest centers of Georgian culture, spirituality, and statehood development. Many ancient engraved or painted icon-crosses are preserved in the temple. Among them, are a twelfth-century silver cross decorated with enamel and niello medallions. which is considered one of the important examples of Byzantine goldsmithing. In the church, at the door of the annex, is depicted Kvirike Mamasakhlisi (community head) in the robes of a monk. Next to him, there is a long inscription, his will: "Whoever is the head of this church, protect his icon from smoke, so that it does not fade." The church is included in the list of immovable cultural monuments of national importance.

Saint George Church in Latali

In Latali, the village of Svaneti, you can visit St. George's Church (Jgrag, St. Georgia in Svan language). There is a legend about its construction. According to the story, the church has to be built on a high ground between the churches of the Archangel (Taranglez) and the Savior (Matskhvarish). Although, in the end, people decided to let the yoked oxen go and build the church wherever they stopped. The oxen went on and stopped one kilometer away, between the two churches on a wooded hill. They built the church of St George there, which is a landmark of the Latali community.

Church of the Prophet Jonah

The church is located in the village of Ienashi and was built in the XI-XII centuries. This is the only church named after this saint in Georgia. In the treasury of the church of the Prophet Jonah, there is a large icon of the Savior from the 11th century. The Savior is holding the gospel in his right hand. The icon is completely covered with silver gilt, only the face of the Savior is painted, and only the outline of it has survived. There is a three-line inscription on the bottom bar of the frame, which is damaged, telling about the fire in the church and the fate of the church's treasures: "We saw the church destroyed, we found the jewel of the church stolen and buried... to offer it as a gift..." The inscription, the frame of the icon, and the nimbus of the Savior should be made after finding the icon.


The Church of the Prophet Jonah is a hall-type building, which is surrounded by an ambulatory on three sides. The interior of the temple is divided by a pair of two-tiered pilasters. On the first floor, there stands the pilaster that supports the arch, while arches, from the second floor, are connected to the long walls. The interior is lit by windows cut into the sanctuary and the center of the west wall. The annex chamber rests on the outer wall on one side, and the vault follows the wall of the church on the other side. The facades of the temple are completely plain, only the east and west corners have decoration. The eastern window has an arched shaft frame. The western window has a rectangular frame around it, and on top of it, there is an image of a cross. The north and west facades of the hall are plain, only crosses are depicted above the west door and on both sides of the window. The southern and eastern facades are decorated with arches. As for the interior of the church, it was completely painted, although the frescoes have been strongly damaged. The building stands on a shaft foundation. The facades of the church are completed by a shelf-like cornice, while the annex is completed by different types of cornices. The church is built with cleanly cut limestones. Church of the Archangels Three kilometers away from the Lakhushdi community, you will find a small church of Archangels, which is called Tanghil-Taringzel. Tanghil means pass in the Svan language. This pass connects two villages to each other by this pass. The painting of the temple dates back to the IX-X centuries. The mountain where this church stands was considered a holy place in ancient times. Then two cells were built here: one for the monk, the other for the monastics, which was made with the support of the parish and the village.


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