|Location:||Upliszikhe, 10km east of Gori.|
|Fee:||Georgians GEL 0.60, Foreigners GEL 6. [20??]|
|Classification:||Cave Temple Cave House|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Upliszikhe (The Lord's Fortress) is an ancient cave town located 10km east of Gori on the left bank of the Mtkvari River, on a rocky ridge. The city is probably 3,000 years old and said to be the oldest city in Georgia. It is on the tentative list of the UNESCO WHL.
The strategic location of this city is on one side the massive fortification using the natural cliffs of a rock outcrop. And it is located at the silk road which made it an important merchant center. All caravans on the silk road stayed at the city. The city once had 20,000 inhabitants on an area of some 8ha.
The city was probably founded much earlier, but according to the Medieval legends it was founded by the mythical Uplos, son of Mtskhetos, and grandson of Kartlos. Those legends were part of the Georgian heritage, but during the Middle Ages they were written down. Actually there is no archaeological evidence for those legends. But the Kingdom of Iberia or Kartli existed between the 4th century BC and the 5th century AD, the time in which the city Upliszikhe became a major political and religious center of the country. In the early 4th century Kartli was Christianized and the importance of Uplistsikhe declined. But during the 8th and 9th century with the Muslim conquest of Tbilisi it became the principal Georgian stronghold. After the Mongol raids in the 14th century it was abandoned. It was still used as a temporary shelter in times of foreign intrusions. In 1920 much of the city was destroyed by an earthquake.
The city is divided into three parts, the lower city is the merchant and craftsman quarter. The middle city is the main living area, the upper end is dedicated to churches and the chateau. The specialty of this city is the soft sandstone, which allowed a rather extraordinary architecture. Houses, churches, and even the roads were cut into the soft rock. Many rock-cut structures can be found in the middle part, most of them simple housings without decorations. But some larger structures resemble normal buildings, with coffered tunnel-vaulted ceilings. The stone is carved in imitation of logs, pillars are chiseled from the rock, arches are cut out instead of being built. The structures show Hellenistic and Medieval styles.