Shiomgvime Monastery stands on the slopes of the Sarkine (Skhaltba) range, on the left side of the Mtkvari, 9km west of Mtskheta. There is a road to Shiomgvime from Mtskheta.
Shiomgvime is one of the best-known monasteries in Georgia. It was founded in the mid-6th century after St. Shio, a monk who had come from Syria, established himself here, having previously spent four years on Mt. Zedazeni with St. loane and other Syrian Fathers. A few years later St. Shio ordained a Mtskheta nobleman, Evagre, monk, who was soon joined by other monks. St. Shio himsetf continued lo live alone in a little cave at some distance from the monastery, but spent the last two years of his life and was buried in a dark cavern In the middle of the cloister.
Church of St. John Ihe Baptist, built between 560 and 580, within St. Shio's lifetime, is the oldest building in the monastery, the bottom part of which is erected on a rock carved out specially for the purpose. The church. built of broken stone is of a “croix libre” type. The central bay space is adjoined by a deep apse to the east and rectangular crossarms on the other three sides. The south and north crossarms are rather short. The west arm is longer. The transition from the square bay to the octagonal drum is effected through two-stepped squinches. The dome is constructed of an octagonal vault. There is a window in the sanctuary, another in the south crossarm and four more in the drum. On three sides (the west side is the exception) the church is half sunk in the earth.The facades are plain, divested of all decoration.
There are more than a hundred caves (some of them natural and some carved out by the monks) in a sheer drop of the Sarkine (Skhalta) Range, north of the monastery, where monks had lived ever since the Early Middle Ages. Most of these are inaccessible at present. The two houses to the south and northwest of the Dormition Church were built in the 19th century.
South of the main buildings of Shiomgvime, to the left of the monastery gate there Is a spring ("Tsremlis Tskaro" - Teardrop Spring) which is mentioned in "The Life of St. Shio". Its architectural design dates to 1901.
The little brick hall church of the Ascension of the Cross standing on the top of a hill dates from the 12th century, It has an entrance on the north side. A two storey brick bell-tower was built at the entrance in the 17th century, the grow floor of which serves as a porch.
The church was decorated with murals several times. Fragments of the original paintings are visible in the apse and on the south wall, The frescoes existing today date from the mid-13th century, they are the oldest of the murals that have come down to us at the Shiorogvime Monastery.
The murals are distinguished by calligraphic precision of the drawing, the variety of ornamental motifs. and the particular refinement of the figures, which show allthe principal signs of the "decorative" style typical of late 12th-13th century Georgian painting.