Trans Eurasia travel

Your virtual guide to Eurasia! Let's travel together!

Geguti Palace

Geguti, about 7km south in the plains of the Rioni, was known in classical times as the Phasis. This gave its scientific name, Phasianus colchicus, to the pheasant, which was discovered here, perhaps by Jason.

Geguti is the site of the great ruined palace of the Georgian kings, one of the few secular buildings left in Georgia from medieval times. Now it's a jumble of ruins covering 2,000m2, set on a plinth 2.5m high housing heating conduits. This site is archaeologically fascinating, indeed.

The first building on the site of Geguti was a hunting lodge with a large fireplace, built in the eighth century. At that time the plains were covered in oak, and Geguli was the summer residence of the Georgian kings. It is said to have been the favorite residence of David the Builder (1089-1125), Demetre I (1125-1156), Giorgi III (1156-1184), and Queen Tamara (1184-1213). In 1179 George III proclaimed his daughter Tamar his co-ruler here, and in 1360 David VII died here; later it fell into disuse and was destroyed in the 17th century. The additions to the original hunting lodge-the great central domed hall and wings-are from the tenth century. Side rooms serving as storage areas and private chambers were added in the 12th and 13th centuries under the initial impetus of Giorgi III.

Covering an area of 2,000 sq. meters, the palace stands atop a plinth 2.5 meters high. Running throughout the plinth was a heating system. The walls are of brick faced with dressed stone. The basic rectangular outline of the structure is relieved by rounded towers that project from the corners and the middle of each side. The official entrance to the palace is from the north. A staircase ran between two projecting walls into the central domed hall. The vestibule leading into the hall led past a bathhouse to the right and domestic quarters to the left. These rooms form the northern arm of the basic cruciform structure formed around the central cupola hall. The southern arm is almost twice as deep as the northern, western, and eastern ones. It contained the bedchamber of the king on the right and his treasury on the left. Beyond the walls in the south is an aisleless church that probably dates to the 12th or 13th century.

The central cupola was 14 meters in diameter. Only the southern vaulted portion remains. The weight of this dome was supported by enormous squinches; only the southern ones remain. The western rooms were added during the 12th and 13th centuries and were originally two stories high. The second floor was reached by an enclosed stone staircase. The eastern portion of the structure houses the original hunting lodge with massive fireplace. On two floors, it was probably built by King Archil when he lived in Kutaisi. He was obviously not overly concerned with his cholesterol level, for the huge fireplace was there to roast the game that he killed during the hunt. You can almost smell the stag turning on the spit. The palace was destroyed by the Turks in the 17th century. It was not made accessible to the public until the initial excavations of 1937 and the additional work done in 1953-1956.

Given the cruciform ground plan, the parallels with ecclesiastical architecture of the period are easily drawn. Because so few secular buildings of this scale remain, Geguti is of major architectural significance. But it has also given us insight into the lives of the Georgian kings. As a result of archaeological and preservation work carried out in the 1950s, we know that the walls of Geguli, like royal palaces else-where, were covered with frescoes and the windows had panes of glass. Medieval sources refer to the battle scenes depicted in these frescoes, as well as the lavish furnishings: tapestries, oil lamps, and furniture fitted with gold and silver.