The village Gelati is located on the left bank of the Tskaltsitela River, 10–11 kilometers far from Kutaisi. It is a hillside where the complex of Gelati monastery was built at the initiative of King David the Builder in 1106–1130. It contains the Main Church dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin from the 11th century and 13th-century churches of St George and St Nicholas. The Main Church is of the cruciform-domed form, including the attached buildings it is 35x36 meters large and the height reaches up to 34 meters.
The walls are covered with paintings created in the 11th century. In the main nave, there is a protected mosaic. It is a great pattern of highly artistic art, exquisite technique and mastery handcraft. The frescos expressing western Church Meeting are protected there as well. In the southern chapel, there is a portrait of David Narini created in 13th century. The fresco portrait of David the Builder is represented on the northern wall.
To the east of the main temple, there is Saint George’s Church, covered with 16th century paintings and to the west two-storied church of St Nicholas. In the northwest there is a bell tower; in the lower part there is a stone vaulted canopy, above it there is a room and over it – the bell tower.
Gelati ensemble includes an Academy founded by David the Builder in 1106. The Academy became an important cultural and educational center. Back in those times it was called “Another Athens” and “Second Eastern Jerusalem.” The head of the Academy was the main confessor. David the Builder employed there many important scholars like Ioane Petritsi, Arsen Iqaltoeli. Many important literary works were translated in the Academy. Among them was Arsen Iqaltoeli’s translation of “The Law of the Great Religion” and Ioane Petritsi translated Nemesius' treatise “On the Nature of Man.”
The Gelati Academy opened learning programs Trivium and Quadrivium. It gathered many scholars like Ioane the eldest monk, philosopher and rhetorician Petre Gelateli, Eudemon Chkhetidze, Ekvtime Sakvarelidze and In the southern entrance of the monastic ensemble there is a grave of the King David the Builder with the script: “This is my resting place for eternity. It is my wish to settle here.”
In the northeast, approximately 150 meters far on the other side of the road there are ruins of Sokhasteri’s monastery (it’s a place where monks live with a very strict way of life).
On a high hill south-west of the monastery, there are ruins of hall style church named after Saint Saba and nearby there is Saint Elli’s church. A bit further away, in the gorge of the Tskaltsitela River, there are ruins of a round castle called David's Cape, used for protecting monastery from the enemies.
Gelati belonged to the royal palace and it was a burial place, therefore, many kings have their crypts here. In 15th century, when Georgia was political, the monastery was controlled by kings of western Georgia.
The complex was attacked several times by Mongolians, Timur Leng, and Ottomans. It didn’t only had an impact on the cultural-religious life of the monastery but also caused a big damage of the site. In 1510, Gelati was burnt down by Ottomans.
The King of Imereti, Bagrat III, reconstructed Gelati with the support of west Georgia’s patriarch Eudemon Chkhetidze. He has also founded a faculty for bishops in the Academy. In the second half of 16th century, the residence of Patriarch was moved from Bitchvinta to Gelati. At the beginning of 19th century, Russian Empire invaded Imereti and took control over the Gelati monastery. Nowadays reconstruction works are continued in Gelati. It still plays an important religious and scientific role in Georgia and the Academy holds many cultural and educational conferences.