Do you love visiting ancient places and being transported back in time? Are you in search of ancient religious artifacts? How cool is it to visit the place where Christ’s mantle was supposed to be buried? The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta, Georgia, is known as the burial site of the holiest of holy mantles in Christianity.
Mtskheta is one of the oldest cities in the ancient country of Georgia. It is home to a number of interesting religious landmarks, which include the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskhetis Jvari and Church of Samtavro. Visiting any or all of these churches will either transport you back in medieval times or drop you to your knees to worship, if you are the religious type.
The city paved the way for Christianity as the early Georgian rulers adopted the Christian faith in 334. Today, the official national religion is Georgian Orthodox Christianity with headquarters in Mtskheta. Below is a closer look at the unequalled churches and architectural wonders in this ancient town.
Also referred to as The Life Giving Pillar cathedral, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is one of the most revered structures in all of Georgia. It is shaped like a cross and punctuated by a dome. The cross-dome architectural style began in Georgia and was widely observed in the country since the Middle Ages. Svetitskhoveli is the largest religious structure in the country; the Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral in the capital city comes second.
If you love religious history and ancient architecture, you should see this iconic medieval church. It bears scars from past, including a few damaging blows that involve Tamerlane, the Central Asian conqueror in the 15th century and Tsar Nicholas II in 1830. What remain today are faint reminders of the many paintings and ornaments that used to beautify the cathedral walls and facades.
Today, as Mtskheta is the seat of Georgian Orthodox Christianity, the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral serve as the seat of the archbishop whose official title is Catolicos-Patriarch of All Georgia. The cathedral is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Not far away is another ancient place of worship, the Mtskhetis Jvari, also known as Jvari Monastery or Monastery of the Cross. Perched on a hill near the Aragvi River, the monastery is considered a holy place since found in the area is an ancient cross that was erected to replace pagan idols. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the monastery is overlooking the city of Mtskheta.
Finally, the third historic church you should see is the Church of Samtavro, which also followed the cross-dome architectural style. Crowned and buried in Samtavro monastery are King Mirian and his wife, Nana. Mirian was the Georgian king who adopted Christianity. Also found within Samtavro are a small 4th-century church of Santo Nino, a three-storey bell tower and few buildings that used to be a nunnery and seminary.
Mtskheta is one of the holiest places in Georgia; if you are an Orthodox Christian, it could very well be the most revered city in the world. To get there, simply take a local bus called marshrutkas from Tbilisi. The ancient holy city is only 15 km from the capital city.