Of all of Georgia’s most well-known sites from antiquity, Gori Fortress is one of the most overlooked. This castle sits in the middle of one of Georgia’s largest cities, yet it is rarely seen by visitors to Gori.
The city of Gori lies in the heart of Kartli, along Georgia’s main historical, transit, and cultural artery. The importance of Gori’s location comes from the earliest times, when the first settlement was used to move goods across the Caucasus. Gori sits at the confluence of the Liakhi and Mtkvari Rivers, with a large, steep hill sitting adjacent to the confluence. This hill towers over the surrounding area and provides an excellent vantage point of the Kartli Plain. It is here that Gori Fortress was built.
There are no concrete sources that are able to date when exactly Gori Fortress was built, but in 1474 a Venetian tradesman on his way to Persia passed through Gori and noted that there was a large wooden castle in Gori.
Numerous times, various Georgian nobles and kings attempted to siege the fortress fr their own fiefdoms, but had none had luck. This ended in 1599 when Simon I freed Gori from the Ottomans and destroyed much of their garrison in the fortress. After the Ottomans recaptured Gori in the 17th Century, they rebuild much of the fortress. Shah Tamaz was able to capture Tbilisi several times during the 16th century, but he could not manage to capture Gori, which as the last Georgian stronghold.
According to the travel notes of Italian missionary Christopher de Castelli, who lived in Georgia for 22 years during the 16th century, much of the modern-day fortress is remnants were built during this time period. Additionally, according to the travel notes of the French noblemen and traveller Jean Chardin, around 100 soldiers were garrisoned at the fortress during this time.
Gori Fortress lost its strategic importance since much of it was destroyed when Gori was incorporated into the Russian Empire in the 19th Century. Furthermore, much of the fortress was destroyed during an earthquake in 1920.
The fortress is composed of two main parts. The upper level of the fortress is located on a relatively flat plateau and takes the form of an ovular citadel (180 meters by 40 meters/590 ft by 130 ft). The walls around this level are mostly intact, as is the main gatehouse. On the eastern side of the citadel is the ruins of a small church. The second main structure is ცხრაკარა “tskhrak’ara” meaning “nine gates.” These are a series of walls that go from the base of the hill to the main citadel itself.
Despite being located in the middle of a city with around 50,000 inhabitants, Gori Fortress has all of the charm of a rustic mountain castle. Gori Fortress is sure to impress you with its magnificent views of the city and, if you're lucky, the Caucasus Mountains off in the distance.
The entrance to Gori Fortress is only accessible from the main gate, which is on the fortress's southern side. There are two paths which lead to the entrance, one which runs from Davit Guramishvili Avenue and runs to Simon Pirveli Street, and a second path which runs from Erekle Tatiashvili Sreet to the first path.
It is possible to climb from the main citadel through "Tskhrakara," but there is no exit to Guramishvili Street, so you will have to climb back to the main citadel.
The "Tskhrakara" portion of the fortress is fairly steep to climb.