The Old Shuamta complex is comprised of three churches: a 5th-century triple-naved basilica, a 7th-century domed church similar to Jvari Monastery, and a small domed 7th-century church.
In the 16th century, Old Shuamta was abandoned and two kilometers away, New Shuamta’s Khakhula St. Mary Monastery was built. The wife of Levan, king of Kakheti (ruled in 1520-1574), Queen Tinatin, contributed quite a lot to its construction.
Queen Tinatin is a fascinating figure. It is said that she only lived with her husband for a short time, as she could not forgive her husband's infidelity and requested a divorce. She then joined the New Shuamta convent where she lived until her death in 1591. The queen, according to her will, is buried in the main church of the monastery. The graves of the royal family - including King Levan and his heir Giorgi, can be found by the southwest wall of the church,
This church is also the final resting place of the 19th-century poet and public figure, Aleksandre Chavchavadze, along with other members of the famous Chavchavadze family.
Throughout its history, the Shuamta has been home to countless treasures donated by Georgian kings and feudal lords, but the main holy relic was the Khakhuli Triptych, donated by the father of the queen, Mamia Gurieli. The triptych is embossed in gold and adorned with precious gems. Today the triptych is kept in the National Art Museum of Georgia in Tbilisi, while a perfect copy is kept in the church itself. The other treasures of the monastery, including its extensive library, are now kept in museums around Georgia.
On the 10th of July, 1926, the communist government closed the monastery and worship stopped. After dissolution of the Soviet Union, Georgia restored its independence in 1989 and monastery life was renewed.