The Bethlehem Churches at the foot of Narikala Fortress in Tbilisi

Anano Chikhradze | Live the World

November 23, 2022

When you decide to visit Tbilisi, the best way is to explore the old city on foot, as many places are unreachable by car. You have to walk in the narrow streets and see all this beauty around. In this article, I will tell you about the upper and lower Bethlehem Churches that are located at the foot of Narikala Fortress in Tbilisi. 

Both Bethlehem Churches are located in one of the oldest districts of Tbilisi. This street is also named  ‘Betlemi Street’, and it is constructed on the rocky slope of the Sololaki Range

The Lower Bethlehem Church

According to the legend, the first church that existed in the place was built in the 5th century, during the reign of King Vakhtang Gorgasali. People say that his mother and sister were buried there. When you start walking up the Betlemi Street, you will see the Lower Bethlehem Church. It was built later by Armenians, in the 1725-1727 years. The church is constructed with old Georgian bricks that are built into the stone. From 1988, the Lower Bethlehem Church operates as a Georgian Orthodox Church. Famous Georgian painters D. Khidasheli and M. Chakvetadze painted the interior of the church in the 1991-1997 years. The church is active until now, and the prayers are held every weekend.

© iStock/efesenko

To come to this church, you will need to climb up 120 stairs, constructed in 1850. If you follow the stairs, you will see the Upper Bethlehem Church on the top

The Upper Bethlehem Church

The Upper Bethlehem Church was also constructed by Armenians, in the 15th century. This church was renewed in the 18th century, and from 1994, it belongs to the Georgian Orthodox Church. However, before that, at the end of the 13th century, the chapel was founded there. Later on, during an archaeological excavation that was held inside the church, the basement of the chapel was explored. For now, only one part of the chapel survived, and the other parts are under the church. Therefore, Georgians were considering this place to be holy, and they were attending prayers for centuries. The Upper Bethlehem Church is also built with the old Georgian bricks, just like the Lower Bethlehem Church. 

© iStock/bruev

Nowadays, these churches are some of the most favorite places not only of Georgians but also our guests from all over the world. While being in Georgia, do not miss the Bethlehem Churches that are located at the foot of Narikala Fortress in Tbilisi. You will not be lazy to climb up the stairs because you will see amazing city views from the top. This place is in the heart of the old town, but at the same time, it is very calm and harmonious. 

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