The construction of Bagrati Cathedral, named after Bagrat III, the first king of united Georgia, started at the end of the 10th century and was completed in the early years of the 11th century. Although partly destroyed by the Turks in 1691, its ruins still lie in the centre of Kutaisi.
The monastery belongs to the 'golden age' of medieval Georgia, a period of political strength and economic growth between the reigns of King David IV 'the Builder' (1089-1125) and Queen Tamar (1184-1213). It was David who began building the monastery in 1106; it was completed in 1130 in the reign of his son and successor Demetré. Buildings were added to the monastery throughout the 13th and early 14th centuries, but there ensued a period of foreign invasion and internal feuds which resulted in much damage being incurred, culminating in the destruction by fire of the church in 1510 by Turkish invaders. Restoration work began in the early 16th century when it became the residence of the Katholikos of western Georgia, and continued throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Gelati Monastery escaped the Turkish invasion, but it lost its episcopal role in the early 19th century when Georgia was annexed by Russia.
Bagrati Cathedral is located on a hill on the left bank of the Rioni, and it is reached by a long, winding stairway. Although partly destroyed by the Turks in 1691, its ruins still lie in the centre of Kutaisi. Richly ornamented capitals and fragments of piers and vaulting are scattered throughout the interior. It is cruciform in plan; three of the cross-arms (east, south, and north) terminate in semicircular apses whereas the west arm is squared off.
The Gelati Monastery, whose main buildings were erected between the 12th and 17th centuries, is a well-preserved complex, with wonderful mosaics and wall paintings. It was not simply a monastery: it was a centre of science and education, and the Academy established there was one of the most important centres of culture in ancient Georgia. The cathedral and monastery represent the flowering of mediaeval architecture in Georgia.