Gremi was the capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti in the 16th and 17th centuries. Founded by Levan of Kakheti, it functioned as a lively trading town on the Silk Road and royal residence until being razed to the ground by the armies of Shah Abbas I of Persia in 1615. The town never regained its past prosperity and the kings of Kakheti transferred their capital to Telavi in the mid-17th century.
City of Gremi, capital of vanished Kakhetian Kingdom of Georgia, located on the Gilian-Shemakha branch of the Great Silk Road, was destroyed by the army of Shah Abbas in 16th c. and never been restored since then. The ruins of Gremi city are now important Late Medieval archaeological site with ruins of churches, trading arcades, baths and dwellings. Gremi attracts visitors with the well-preserved architectural complex: Church of Archangels Michael and Gabriel and the Royal Tower.
The town appears to have occupied the area of approximately 40 hectares and to have been composed of three principal parts – the Archangels’ Church complex, the royal residence and the commercial neighborhood. Systematic archaeological studies of the area guided by A. Mamulashvili and P. Zak’araia were carried out in 1939-1949 and 1963-1967, respectively.
The Gremi Church was built and painted upon the order of King Leon in 1565. Peculiar relation of proportions to separate volumes of Gremi Church attaches new features to traditional structure of Georgian cross-cupola churches. The main cross of the building is very high and narrow. The arches are arrowed and have not capitals or tractions. The dome is supported on two free-standing piers and the extensions of the apse. The fabric is of the so-called Georgian brick. The façades are samples of developed brick church decorative system characteristic to late feudal epoch in Georgia. The forms of décor are achieved through deepening of planes and turquoise fittings. The wall painting of construction period is preserved inside the Church. The Gremi Church has become a prototype for a whole group of other church buildings in Georgia.
A three-store tower is erected beside the Church of Archangels. The two bottom floors are built earlier than the Church itself. There is a big, wide and high room on the ground floor. Along the back wall of the room, there is a corridor, which leads to the first and second floors. There is a belfry on the top of the tower.
The aspiration and rush for height of the Kakhetian architecture is shown in Gremi with force incomparable hitherto. Elegance of silhouette of a Church and a Tower is an attractive architectural dominant in vast space. Through its location and interrelation with the surrounding landscape, the Gremi Church acquires outstanding artistic importance and remarkable force.