The name Tkibuli was first mentioned in historical documents from the 13th century. There are signs of human habitation from ancient times (for example in the Magara Caves).
The famous ensemble of Gelati monastery lies eleven kilometers to the north-east of Kutaisi. Its construction was started in 1106 by the Georgian king David the Builder and completed by his son and successor Demetre (1125-1156). An academy was founded in Gelati from the very beginning. It was headed by the prominent Georgian philosopher loann Petritzi, who had translated Aristotle into Georgian and evolved the Georgian philosophical terminology. According to 12th-century sources, the academy in Gelati had a marvelous library with numerous books on theology and history.
The importance of the Gelati Academy transcends national framework: it held a place of honour in the cultural life of the entire Orient and its prestige was so great that it was referred to as "the new Athon" and "second Jerusalem".
Gelati ensemble consists of three churches. In the middle of the ensemble the church dedicated to Virgin Mary is situated. St. George's Church, resembling in many ways to the main church, was built in the middle of the 13th century.
The St. Nicholas Church was erected there in the 13th-14th centuries along the axis of the main church and the academy. Architecturally it differs from the two other churches but at the same time blends marvelously with the entire monastery ensemble.
A belfry was built in the second half of the 13th century over a spring near the main church. Along the wall there was the house of the Father Superior, the cells of monks, the refectory and other edifices.
Most of the murals of the main church and St. George's Church were made in the 16th-17th centuries. Portraits of David the Builder and other members of royal family were painted on the northern wall of the main church in the 14th century. In the altar there is an extremely rare monument - a mosaic of the Virgin Mary made of millions of tiny mosaic stones. By its artistic value this mosaic holds a special place not only in Georgian but also in world art.
The goldsmith craft and the production of enamels were extremely well developed in Gelati. The famous frame, also many manuscripts decorated with fine miniatures, beautiful lace and other treasures are kept in Gelati.