The district was one of the earliest inhabited areas on the city’s territory. According to traditional accounts, King Vakhtang I Gorgasali erected here a church and a fort which served also as a king’s residence; hence comes the name Metekhi which dates back to the 12th century and literally means “the area around the palace”. Tradition holds that it was also a site where the 5th-century martyr lady Saint Shushanik was buried. However, none of these structures have survived the Mongolinvasion of 1235.
Metekhi was first mentioned in the chronicles in the 13 th century. The temple was repeatedly destroyed and restored. It suffered the most during Mongol invasion after which the first restoration took place. In the 15 th century it was destroyed again by Persians. The Georgian kings rebuilt the temple in the 16 th – 17 th centuries. The next restoration was in the mid-19 th century; back then all the surrounding fortifications were dismantled and replaced with the prison building.
The Metekhi church is a cross-cupola church. While this style was the most common throughout the Middle Ages, the Metekhi church is somewhat anachronistic with its three projecting apses in the east facade and the four freestanding pillars supporting the cupola within. The church is made of brick and dressed stone. The restoration of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries mostly employed brick. The facade is for the most part smooth, with decorative elements concentrated around the windows of the eastern apses. Horizontal bands below the gables run around all four sides and serve as a unifying element. The north portico of the main entrance is not a later addition but was built at the same time as the rest of the church.
Legend has it also that the Metekhi cliff was a site of the martyrdom of Habo (8th century), Tbilisi’s patron saint. A small church in his honor is now under construction at the foot of the cliff.
The cliff is connected to the opposite, right embankment of the Mtkvari river, via a reinforced concrete bridge, which was constructed in 1951 at the place of the two older bridges.
Right in front of the temple stands a modern monument - a bronze equestrian statue of Vakhtang Gorgasali, the founder of the city.