The Timotesubani Monastery complex and the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin is located 17 kilometers from Borjomi. To reach it you should cross the first bridge outside Borjomi and pass the station heading up to Tsagveri. The road is well sign-posted. Then follow the river (past various guest houses and cabins- keep your eyes open for a true original wooden mountain cottage on the right) to the end.
The pink stone and red-brick cathedral sits on a hill surrounded by a well-cared for garden with scented roses, while the private monastery is located the other side of a narrow stream. Enter through a beautiful gateway with fabulously carved modern wooden doors and head up the steps. A small shop stands outside the cathedral near the bells (watch your kids don’t start ringing them!) selling icons, beads and candles. Scarves are available inside the cathedral doorway for ladies to borrow to cover their heads with while inside.
Constructed between the 12th and 13th centuries, during the "Golden Age" of medieval Georgia under Queen Tamar (r. 1184-1213), the cathedral is one of my favourites for the quality of the preserved frescoes- some of the best examples you’ll find in Georgia!
Try some of the natural, cold spring water pouring continuously from a tap in the parking area.
On your way back to Borjomi, be sure to buy some honey or pine jam from the road-side sellers and also spare 30 minutes to head into Tsagveri Park to try the famed mineral water and breathe the beautiful woodland air- also a popular picnic spot!
Legend has it that the Timotesubani cathedral was often visited in ancient times by warriors praying for victory before battle. Two of those were the brothers Shalva and Ivane Toreli- Akhaltsikheli. After one of their victories, in gratitude to the Virgin, the brothers built the Church of the Assumption near to the monastery.
In 1225, a battle took place between the forces of Shalva and Ivane and the Sultan Jalal al-Din of the Khwarazmid Empire (modern-day Iran). The brothers, hoping for re-enforcements that never came, were defeated. Ivane and most of the Georgian soldiers were killed. Shalva was captured and offered the choice: convert to Islam or face death by torture. He chose to die a Christian and for that sacrifice was later honored as a Saint of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
It is believed that Shalva was the inspiration of Rustaveli’s Knight in the Panther's Skin. This may explain the number of warriors and martyrs appearing on the walls of the Timotesubani church.