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Petra Fortress - a historic fortress-town in Adjara, Kobuleti municipality, in the territory of the village Tsikhisdziri. The castle was built by John Strathegos in 535. "Petra" is the Byzantine name of this fortress and "Castle of Kajeti" is Georgian one. It is supposed this is a castle which is mentioned in the poem of Rustaveli “The knight in panther’s skin.” The fortress-town is located on the Black Sea coast, 440 meters above sea level, 9 km from Kobuleti.
Petra fortress was located on the rocky hillside of the sea, beside the wall it is guarded by a rocky terrain (Greek name "Petra" means rock). Petra was considered as an inaccessible fortress, its ruins are still preserved.
The archaeological complex includes the Citadel, outside of town and settlement. The ruins of the palace, antique baths, farmhouses and soldiers' residences, as well as the basilica of the VI-VII century, which is the remains of the Episcopal Cathedral of Peter, remain in the citadel.
Petra has attracted the attention of researchers for so long. Since the 30s of XIX (Swiss archaeologist Frederick Dubois de Montpere), the history of this fortress-town has been the subject of discussion until today. Some excavations were carried out here, first was in 1934 by S. Janashia and the other in 1953 by N. Khoshtaria. The rich tomb was discovered here in 1908(a large crystal within a golden frame is discovered here and it is kept in Hermitage). According to N. Khoshtaria, excavations found out that Petra Castle was Eristavi's residence in the first centuries of A.D.
Petra Foundation - One of the episcopal centers of the Diocese of Lazika, a square building in the Petra fortress is located near to the northeast wall of the inner fortress (3-4 meters away). The height of the walls is 2.5 m. There must have been a cathedral of a priest inside the building.
The Episcopal Cathedral was founded in the VI century and existed for a long time, subjected to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. After the abolition of the Petra foundation in the IX century, the Episcopal Center moved to Khinotsminda.
There was a small stronghold of Lazi people before building big fortress-town, but no trace is left now. Due to its favorable military-strategic and trade-economic location, this ancient settlement of Lazi was built in the 6th century by the order of the Byzantine Emperor Ioane Strathegos in 535. The place was called "The City of Justinian" in honor of that emperor.
Petra-Kajeti played a major role in the political life of western Georgia during the Byzantine era. S. Janashia compared the role of this fortress to Tbilisi.
The city had a narrow seaside road connecting western Georgia with the Byzantine provinces, Iran and Armenia. Petra controlled the sea sailing from Byzantium to the eastern Black Sea coast. Byzantium and Iran were interested in keeping Petra in their favor, as their political and economic expansion depended on Peter's control of the region. That was one of the reasons for the great war of Egris in the middle of the VI century. There were several important battles near Petra during the war.
During the period of the united Georgia, the city didn’t exist anymore. The bishopric must have been abolished in the 10th century, but the castle managed to maintain its importance. According to Ambrosio Contarin, a Venetian ambassador, in the XV century there was still a small town, he called it "Kaltikhea" (fortress of Kajeti) in a distorted form.
In the 20s of the XVIII century the Ottomans conquered and fortified Tsikhisdziri. During the Crimean War, they had 25 canons here. During the Russo-Turkish wars (XIX century) several important battles took place in Tsikhisdziri, but it couldn’t have been conquered. In 1878 Tsikhisdziri was returned to Georgia under the Treaty of Berlin. The western part of the fortress exploded during building the Baku-Batumi railway in the 19th century.
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