The famous Betlemi Stair-Street is composed of 120 steps along a cliff, which end at a small garden with roses, benches and old vines on the trellis. There, in the blissful silence, stands the Upper Betlemi Church. The place offers you an amazing view of Tbilisi.
The first church in this location was constructed at the end of the 5th century by the city’s founder, King Vakhtang Gorgasili. The King’s mother and sister are buried at the church.
In 1225, Betlemi Church was razed to the ground by Jalal al-Din. In the 13th century, a population of Armenian immigrants settled in the area, founding the Mother of God Monastery on the site, which they called Petkhain.
During the communist period, in which religious worship was prohibited, a jeweler’s workshop occupied the church. In 1991, the church was given to the Patriarchate of Georgia, and Orthofox services were resumed in 1994.
The cross-domed, hall-type structure, is decorated with ornamentation and bas-reliefs. Its current form dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries.
A small space called the baga or crib, which was part of the altar, is set aside symbolically within the church. Here you will see a star with an icon of the birth of Christ inset.
Cherubim and a depiction of the Mother of God among angels are depicted in bas-relief on the north facade, with the Mother of God and a chained lion on the tholobate. The paintings and icons of the church are new, done by Basil Zandukeli.
The holy relics of 6,000 monks from Gareja are interred in the church, along with an icon in their name.
To the east of the church is a two-story, brick, 17th-century bell tower, with a domed pavilion made of hewn stone set atop it.