Once a flourishing trade city and a capital of Kakheti, Gremi was razed to the ground by Shah Abbas I in 1615.
While it wasn't possible to restore its previous glory in the upcoming centuries, the former territory of the city still boasts a fortress with an imposing church and a three-story palace-bell tower, a wine cellar with a wine press, a towering wall with guns mounted on it, a stone-built secret passage to the Intsobi river, bathhouses and several smaller churches.
Fortunately, the whole Gremi complex has a well-preserved original architectural appearance, consisting of multi-purpose buildings. The main attraction of the complex, the Gremi Church of the Archangel, is an excellent display of Georgian architecture that was built and painted between 1565-1577, during the reign of King Levan of Kakheti.
The portrait of King Levan holding a model of the church is depicted in the interior of the church. To the left of the king is the figure of a holy warrior, and to the right is the Virgin Mary sitting on a throne, holding baby Jesus. Gremi is King Levan’s burial site and his grave lies below this mural.
The Church of the Archangels is still active today under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Nekresi and Hereti.
If you visit the monastic complex, you see the portraits of King Levan, his wife Queen Tinatin, and their son on the south wall of the basilica, and the Nativity. The basilica was built at the turn of the 6th-7th centuries AD but, it was painted much later in the 16th century, under the rule of King Levan.
During the visit, take time and pay a visit to the Gremi Museum as well. A small part of its exhibits are shown in the palace's bell tower, and the major display can be found in the museum building, located downhill.