According to local legend, many centuries ago a devi (a mythological giant, ogre-like creature) started haunting this village. The populace asked St. George for help, so he turned the devi to stone and saved the village.
The grateful inhabitants of Achi built a church in the town’s most beautiful place to glorify the saint, and people still worship at this 13th-century church to this day. The church, faced with burnished porphyry, has a lovely, deep red colour and is decorated with beautifully ornamented windows.
It is the interior of Achi St. George Church that really stands out, as its walls are covered in frescos. Two of these frescos are especially interesting from an iconographic perspective, as one depicts St. George taming a dragon with a rope around its neck, and the other was a Candlemas fresco depicting Joseph and Joachim with turtle doves in their hands.
The frescos in Achi Church have a lot in common with the fresco in the Trabzon Hagia Sophia, but you will find no other similar frescos in all of Georgian or Byzantine painting.
More conventional (but no less beautiful) paintings on the church’s altar depict groups of bishops and archangels, while the walls also display murals of the twelve Holy Days, the life of St. George, the Dormition of the Virgin, Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, and the lives of various saints. It is a stunning collection of religious art.
Within the church, you will also find a gilded silver cross dating back to Queen Tamar’s reign, as the great king’s army would pray in this church before marching into battle.
Like many Georgian churches, Achi Church was used as a fortification, as evidenced by the heavy stone walls which surround it.
For those interested in the Devi legend, you can see a massive boulder in the Achistskali River valley called “Devi’s Stone”, which represents the victory of good over evil as told in the legend.
So, whether you’re fascinated by religious iconography or just love a good legend, Achi St. George Church is well worth a visit.