Sighnaghi Fortress

Sighnaghi Fortress

A monolithic fortress that encircles the entire city of Sighnaghi, Sighnaghi Fortress is one of the largest fortresses of its kind in all of Europe and the South Caucasus. Built by Erekle II, king of Kartli and Kakheti, in 1762, the fortress was of immense strategic importance not only for Sighnaghi, but for all of Kakheti.

The Structure of Sighnaghi Fortress

The total length of the fortress walls is four kilometres, with the area within the walls covering almost 40 hectares. 

Like the more famous Great Wall of China, the Sighnaghi Fortress walls follow the complex terrain of the landscape, flowing over the mountainous terrain much like China’s great fortification.

The fortress walls had six arched gateways and twenty-three military towers, the majority of which were two-story tall. The entire length of the battlements has a military footpath atop it, affording guards (and today, tourists) a breathtaking view of Sighnaghi, the Alazani Valley, and the Caucasus Mountains.

The largest tower, known as The King’s Bulwark or Kiziqi’s Bulwark, also houses the St. Stephen Church, which was King Erekle II’s favourite church. One might expect a king’s favourite church to be ostentatious, but the interior of this church is every bit as modest as King Erekle II himself.

The name “Sighnaghi” means “shelter” in Turkish, and King Erekle II certainly did manage to transform the city into a strong military outpost in which the surrounding populations could seek shelter in times of invasion. While the invaders are long gone, the city wall endures, protecting its people like a faithful knight.

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