Queen Tamari Bagrationi (თამარი ბაგრატიონი) (Mtskheta 1160-1212) reigned in Georgia from 1184 until her death. She was the eldest daughter of King George III (1156-1184) and Queen Gurandukht. During her reign, Georgia became the most important state of the Caucasus region. She greatly expanded the borders of the country at the expense of the neighboring Muslim powers. Her importance is shown by the fact, that, in spite of being a woman, she was endowed with the title “King” (მეფე, mefe). After her death she was followed on the throne by her two children, George IV Lasha (1213-1223), and Queen Rusudan (1223-1245). Queen Tamar’s grave has never been identified with certainty.
Under Queen Tamar, Georgian culture also had its golden age. Georgian-language literature was renewed – this is the epoch of Shota Rustaveli, author of the Georgian national epic –, and, in the wake of the construction of a large number of churches, fine arts also flourished.
The castle of Abastumani looks down on the valley of Adigeni, some thirty kilometers from Akhaltsikhe. The fortress, built under the reign of Queen Tamar, has survived in a good condition. From the peak rising near Abastumani one could well control the two valleys and the neighboring highlands. The valley leads from Akhaltsikhe to Kutaisi, and in the age it was an important trade route towards the Armenian and Turkish region. This explains the construction of the large number of fortresses in the villages along the route, and the presence of such towns and fortified monasteries as Vardzia or Vanis Kvabebi. In the Soviet period the fortress was often visited, as it is shown by the several Cyrillic inscriptions on its walls. Today it is only looked up by a few tourists who know it exists, and by local believers, as it is attested by the icons and candles placed in wall niches, as well as the large cross of Saint Nino.
The icon of Queen – King – Tamar stands alone in a niche which is difficult to reach, highlighting the devotion to the Queen and her significance. Her feast – თამარობა, Tamaroba – is celebrated today, on 14 May all over Georgia.