King Demetre I was an author of several poems, mainly on religious themes. Shen Khar Venakhi (“Thou Art a Vineyard”), a hymn to the Virgin Mary, is the most famous of them.
Demetre was the eldest son of King David the Builder by his first wife Rusudan of Armenia. As a commander, he took part in his father’s battles, particularly at Didgori (1121) and Shirvan (1123).
Demetre succeeded on his father’s death on January 24, 1125. With his ascent to the throne, the Seljuk Turks attacked the Georgian-held city of Ani, Armenia. Demetre I had to compromise and ceded the city to a Seljuk ruler under terms of vassalage.
In 1139, he raided the earthquake-ridden city of Ganja (the present day Azerbaijan). He brought the iron gate of the defeated city to Georgia and donated it to Gelati Monastery at Kutaisi, western Georgia. Despite this brilliant victory, Demetre could hold Ganja only for a few years.
In 1130, Demetre revealed a plot of nobles led by his elder son David. The King arrested the conspirators and executed one of their leaders, Ioanne Abuletisdze, in 1138 (or 1145). David revolted again in 1154 and forced his father to abdicate and become a monk. However, David died six months later and King Demetre was restored to the throne. David was survived by his son Demna who was regarded by the aristocratic opposition as a lawful pretender.
Although Demetre was not as successful as his father David the Builder, Georgia remained a strong feudal power with well-organized military and political system and developed cultural and economical life.
He died in 1157 and was buried at Gelati Monastery.
On June 5 King Demetre was canonised as a saint of the Georgian church