caravanserai, Tbilisi, Sioni st. 8

Caravanserai, Tbilisi, Sioni st. 8

Tbilisi was almost totally annihilated as a result of the Persian King Agha-Muhammad-Khan invasion in 1795. Most of the city’s buildings in their current form were constructed following this violent period. The former caravanserai, located at 8 Sioni st., is one of the best examples of so-called architectural palimpsest.

History of the Building

The word “caravanserai” originates from the Persian “Kerevan” and the Turkish “Saray” (meaning “palace”) and means a place to stay for traveling merchants. 

The history of the building starts with King Rostom (1565-1658), when he built the caravanserai adjacent to Sioni Cathedral and gifted it to the church. 

The metropolitan Domenti III of Tbilisi updated the building in the 18th century, only for it to succumb to the Agha-Muhammad-Khan invasion.

The remains of the caravanserai were purchased and rebuilt by the merchant Gevork Artsruni, who migrated from Turkey to Tbilisi in 1821. 

The Aphrikiants brothers purchased the building in 1908 and fully reconstructed it. The modern-style facade looking out onto Sioni st. belongs to this period, with the date of reconstruction officially stated as 1912.  

The Building Today

Following a large-scale rehabilitation in 1984, the building was transferred to become Ioseb Grishashvili Tbilisi History Museum. 

On its first floor, there are mock-ups of old Tbilisi houses, musical instruments, traditional clothes of various ethnic groups to have resided in Tbilisi, furniture, home appliances, and other items. 

The second floor includes exhibition spaces, whereas the basement, dating back to the King Rostom period, hosts a wine museum where one can explore the depths of the 8000-years-long history of winemaking, taste Georgian wines, and later shop something for home in the stores of Georgian handicraft souvenirs, clothes, jewelry, and paintings.  

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