Mtskheta – the Cultural and Religious Centre
Mtskheta is truly a special city and it represents the rich history of Georgia. located 21 km. away from Tbilisi. The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage and was the capital of Georgia until the XI Century. This beautiful area was even inhabited in the bronze age! III to II thousand years ago. Even though it lost its strategic significance after Tbilisi became a capital and the damage done by the foreign invasions has left its mark, Mtskheta to this day is a huge cultural and religious center due to Heritage sites like Svetitskhoveli, Jvari Monastery, Bebris Fortress Pompey Bridge and much more.
Historically, through its years Mtskheta found itself to be a trading center of all the Caucasus regions. It was rapidly developing and spreading its legend of being the chosen city of old Georgian god “Armazi”. The strong economy made by the various metal deposits including gold, the high agricultural potential of fertile land, craftsmanship, and trade put Mtskheta on a map as one of the most important cities of the old world. That’s why in 65 BC the great Roman Leader Gnaeus Pompey came here personally to spread Roman influence and trade network.
Christianity and Patron Saint Nino of Cappadocia
The massive change happened when at the beginning of the IV century Saint Nino from Cappadocia traveled to Mtskheta and began baptizing the Iberian and Kartli Kingdoms. When she arrived in Mtskheta the Pegan King Mirian the III and his spouse Queen Nana. They refused to forsake their old gods Armazi and Zaden but allowed Nino to stay in Mtskheta. This period is of miracles and mass healings from Nino and the population was slowly converting to her faith.
Things escalated when Queen Nana got severely ill and nobody could ease her pain. Nana after finding out that none of her courtiers could help her, she ordered to bring her Saint Nino. After days of prayers, Nino was able to fully cure Kartlian Queen and as a way to express gratitude, Nana became Cristian.
Mirian the III was still hesitant and didn’t believe Nino, even after she saved his wife’s life. One day Mirian went hunting in the mountains north of Mtskheta. At one point the sky turned black and the thick fog surrounded the Pegan King. He first pleaded to his old gods to have mercy on him and show him the way, but nothing happened. Lost and scared he prayed to “Nino’s God” to help him and show himself if he’s truly the one true God. The sky cleared and upon his return back to Mtskheta he enforced Christianity as the state religion and Saint Nino as a Patron and Enlightener of Georgia in 326 CE.
In the of our lord 334 the construction of the oldest and the most significant cathedral in the history of Georgia began. Its Name “Svetitskhoveli” – representation of Biblical Pillar of Life. Burring site of many Georgian Royals and Saints, also a possible holder of the Holy Robe of Jesus Christ, which he was wearing moments before his crucifixion.
the Symbol of Georgian faith went through a harsh and brutal history, like the whole of Georgia itself. Damaged by many earthquakes and invasions by Arabs, Persians, and Tamerlane. Cathedral went through few massive reconstructions the main one being by the legendary Georgian architect Arsukidze from 1010 to 1029. Arsukidze was chosen by King George the I to repair the pillar of life that Georgia desperately needed. Genius Architect spent 19 years of his life tirelessly working on the creation of one of the most impressive architectural masterpieces in the whole known world.
According to legend after Finishing his Magnus Opus the king, shocked by the architects’ talent, ordered to cut off his right hand and bury it in the cathedral wall (where it is till this day visible) so that there’s no way that the superior masterpiece will ever be created.