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Khikhani fortress, Khirkhati fortress (Abuseridzes family fortress) - Medieval fortress in Adjara, in the upper village Tkhilvana of Khulo municipality, on the top of a steep rocky cliff. The fort includes different buildings: the wall, towers, churches and remains of various buildings.
Khikhani fortress is one of the most important fortresses in Adjara. It was built in a strategic location and also one of the shelters of Georgian nobles. When the enemy was attacking the fortifications of Tbilisi and Gori, they were escaping this side. The archduke Tbel built St. George church by the order of his brothers Abuseri and Vardan, in the late 30s of the 13th century. Khikhani fortress and Tamar Queen are connected with many legends. Sometimes Khikhani fortress is also called Tamar Castle. Adjara Cultural Heritage Protection Agency has been implementing rehabilitation of the fortress since 2012.
The Khikhani fortress area is almost one hectare. Only a small part of it is planted. The rest is on a steep slope. The castle is strategically located, with the only pedestrian path to the south-east.
There are several layers in the fortress construction: ancient - X-XI centuries, new XVII-XIX centuries (Ottoman ruling period).
The ruins of many buildings in Khikhani fortress are partly preserved and some are completely destroyed.
- Currently, the remains of four towers are preserved in Khikhani fortress.
There are five Kvevri(a large earthenware vessel originally from Georgia, used for the fermentation and storage of wine) in the ground (some whole and some damaged) in front of the tower. This is Khikani Marani( Georgian Wine Cellar) Marani, as it is known, was in a special building in the old wine house. The remains of such a "wine house" must be here. It is a rectangular building with a length of up to 12 meters and a width of 4.5 meters. Its north wall is up to the ground, and the south wall is up to one meter high.
The castle had the wall. It is built with brick. The height of the saved walls reaches 5-6 m. The thickness is 90-95 cm. Nowadays some parts of the wall are damaged and even destroyed. The remains of St. George's Church are located in the southeastern part of the castle. The foundation is kept. The church is small (5.5X3.5 m) and it belongs to a hall-type structure.
The remains of different buildings have been found in the area of the fortress. There is a large pit (well) in the middle of the castle, which resembles a secret warehouse. Currently, it is partially filled. The diameter of the well is 2 m. There are some remains of bakeries and Marani in the area of the fortress.
The exact date of building Khikhani fortress is unknown, but most of the scientists think it was built in the X-XIII centuries. This is also confirmed by the fact that in the historical documents, Begula, the wife of Abuseridze Tbel took part in the completion of Khikhani fortress. Also, according to some legends among the people, the King Tamar was the initiator of building the fortress.
In XI-XVI centuries, Khikhani fortress was the main residence of the Abuseridze family. Later, the Ottomans occupied it. Selim Khimshiashvili was fighting against the Ottomans in 1815 and he died here.
Selim-Beg Khimshiashvili the Pasha of Akhaltsikhe, took advantage of the political situation of the Sheriff-Beg of the Akhaltsikhe Pasha, took his post and then didn’t obey the Sultan. The sultan seized Selim and sentenced him to death. He sent Mahmud-Pasha to kill him in 1815. When Selim heard this, he brought 400 people to Khirkhati fortress. Mahmoud-Pasha went to the fortress with his 15,000 people army and camped there. He had been trying to get hold of Salim, but he couldn't get to the castle. Selim sent a man to the Sultan: “I’ll come to you, tell everything, and kill me if I am wrong." But unfortunately the man was given a bribe he preferred the silver and became betrayer.
Selim was taken out of the fortress and they did not let sleep to sleep for three days until he was killed. Then they gave to an Armenian man gold, who beheaded Selim. Before his death, he proudly said: "You are going to kill me, but I am telling you, Gurjistan (Ottomans call it to Georgia) never becomes to Ottomans.”
Later Selim's son killed this Armenian. Less than 2 hours was passed when Sultan ordered: "If you catch Selim, bring him alive to me." Mahmoud-Pasha sent Selim's head to the Sultan to Istanbul as a trophy. The Sultan was very angry about killing Selim and he said to Mahmoud Pasha : You didn't appreciate this great man and I don’t feel pity about you too.” And he ordered to cut his head too. Selim's head is buried in Istanbul and there is an inscription of the tombstone on his grave. His body was buried by Georgians in the village of Nigazeuli.
According to the legends, the Khikhani fortress had many underground secret roads that were connected with nearby villages during the blockade. There are many legends about Khikhani fortress and King Tamar:
There is a tunnel in the village of Bako near Khikhani fortress. According to legend, the tunnel was connected to the Khikhani fortress, from where King Tamar used to go to the Zarzma Monastery for praying and also, she was taking water from the river secretly.
King Tamar was using the tunnel inside Prasnauli Mountain, across the village of Kveli - in the Potskho Gorge. When the Shah found the tunnel, his army tried to capture her. King Tamar didn’t surrender them and poisoned herself. These legends about King Tamar express people's belief in her power.
The road goes from Batumi to Bakibako village, where any type of car can go.
From the village of Bakibako to the fortress, there is a 4 km long steep road and 900 m slope to the fortress that should be covered on foot. This road starts at 1800 meters above sea level and rises to 2220 meters. This is a trail on a steep forest slope, which is quite difficult to cover and it needs physical strength.
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