The ancient fire-worship temple in Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi known as Ateshgah has been added to a list of sites of national significance.
This brick building with a protective curved roof located at Gomi #3 below Narikala fortress in the old part of Tbilisi is believed to be the only remaining Zoroastrian temple in the country.
Based on historical sources, Zoroastrism was spread in Georgia in the 5th-7th centuries due to the Persian presence.
The word Ateshgah also comes from Persian, and means "place of fire".
It is believed that later in the 17th-18th centuries the Turks who reigned in Tbilisi turned Ateshgah into a mosque. However, it has preserved its historic name.
In 1986 the Soviet government gave Ateshgah the status of a site of national significance; however, in 2007 the former Government of Georgia assigned it the status of a site of cultural heritage.
In 2007 the Georgian National Committee of International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Division, and Directorate for Cultural Heritage of Norway (Riksantikvaren), reconstructed Ateshgah to preserve it as a part of the Betlemi Quarter Revitalization Project.
Director General of the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia Nikoloz Antidze said Ateshgah has been a popular tourist destination in recent years; however, with the renewed status highlighting its nation-wide importance, the site will now have more infrastructural and financial benefits.
He said the district where Ateshgah is located is quite densely populated. To get to the ancient fire-worship temple one needs to weave through the courtyards of the neighborhood. This is why Antidze believes it is everyone’s "collective responsibility” to take care of the site of cultural heritage and contribute to its further preservation.