Historic Churches of Mtskheta (World Heritage)

By | September 16, 2021

Mtskheta in the east was the spiritual center of the country. The Samtavro Monastery with its Saint Nino Church and the Sweti Tskhoveli Cathedral, both built in the 11th century, as well as the Jvari Monastery from the 6th / 7th centuries. Century are among the most important examples of medieval sacred architecture in the Transcaucasus. The sites have been on the Red List of World Heritage since 2009.

Historical churches of Mtskheta: facts

Official title: Historic churches of Mtskheta
Cultural monument: Former royal residence and spiritual center of Eastern Georgia with the Jvari (cross) church, the Samtavro monastery (chapel and domed church, 11th century) and the three-times converted Sveti Tskhoveli cathedral
Continent: Asia
Country: Georgia
Location: Mtskheta, north of Tbilisi (Tbilisi)
Appointment: 1994; on the Red List of World Heritage in Danger since 2009
Meaning: one of the most important examples of medieval sacred monumental architecture in the Transcaucasus

Historical churches of Mtskheta: history

66/65 BC Chr. The Eastern Georgian Kingdom of Iberia is conquered by the troops of Pompey Magnus
at 337 Christianity became the state religion for the first time in Eastern Georgia
2nd half of the 5th century by King Wachtang Gorgassali of Kartlien (Central Georgia) foundation of a stone pillar basilica; Relocation of the residence to Tbilisi
585 / 86-604 / 05 Foundation of the Jvari Church near Mtskheta
1010-29 Expansion of the dilapidated basilica into a cross-domed cathedral with a fresco “Christ as Ruler of the World”
1089-1125 under Dawit the renewer (builder) Georgia rose to a regional hegemonic power
1184-1213 under Queen Tamar the great climax and conclusion of the “golden age” of the medieval Georgian central state
1801 Burial of Giorgis XII., The last (east) Georgian king, in Sveti Tskhoveli
1937/38 extensive excavations on the site of the late antique Armasiziche residence
1968-72 During excavations in and around the cathedral, the foundations of the previous buildings were discovered
1970 Legend of the building of the cathedral as a subject for Konstantine Gamsachurdia’s novel “The Master’s Right Hand”
1972 the icon wall erected in the course of Russian assimilation measures in the 19th century will be replaced by a choir screen when the original interior design is restored

Under Nino’s cross

Protected by the surrounding gorges and prosperous by the proximity of fertile, wide valleys, Mtskheta can look back on 4000 years of history. In the residence of the Georgian central province of Kartlien, named after Mzchetus, the eldest son of the mythical ancestor Kartlos, the long-distance trade route between the Black and Caspian Seas crossed the most important pass road over the Great Caucasus. Even when the residence was moved to Tbilisi, Mtskheta remained the spiritual center of (Eastern) Georgia until the 19th century.

According to tradition, Nino, godmother of the Armenian martyr Hripsime, fled to Mtskheta in the 4th century. But there, too, the devout Christian got into trouble: Her fervent prayers unleashed a violent storm that swept away the statues of the supreme pagan gods of Georgia. For six years Nino had to hide from the anger of the angry King Mirian, but won many followers through healing miracles, including Mirian’s wife Nana. The name of the nunnery Samtawro – “place of the ruler” – probably refers to the palace in whose garden the legendary Apostoline was hiding. A simple domed chapel in the eastern part of the monastery grounds, which has often been rebuilt over the centuries, may date from that time. The main church from the 11th century, consecrated to the Savior. Check weddinginfashion to see Top 10 Sights in Georgia.

Mirian is also considered to be the builder of the first Sveti Tskhoveli cathedral, which was built not far from Samtavros. It owes its name “life-giving pillar” to the miraculous cedar that sprang from the grave of a Jew who was converted to Christianity and buried in the robe of Christ. The pillar made of this cedar on the orders of Mirian was only lowered into the earth through Nino’s intercession. Covered with gold and silver, the holy wood is said to still be in the tower-like altar under the southern central arcade, painted with episodes from the missionary history of Kartliens.

Today’s cathedral is largely identical to the renovation that the Patriarch Melchizedek commissioned the builder Arsukidze to do. To prevent him from building something more magnificent than the cathedral, the man of God had his right arm cut off. This unchristian act is reminiscent of this unchristian act on the north facade with an arm relief with a square measure along with the inscription: »The arm of the servant of God Arsukidze. Forgiveness!”

Arsukidze converted the previous building into an imposing cross-domed building, the outer walls of which are adorned with blind arches and relief fields: on the east facade a composition that shows Christ at the Last Judgment between Mary and John, on the south facade vines, trees of life, crosses, lions and the one in Georgia very revered saint george. According to Georgian church rules, a cross in front of the altar and a rood screen separate the choir from the altar area, in front of which the bones of Eastern Georgian rulers were buried until the 18th century.

On a lonely, wind-blown hill, which a small salt lake made into a deeply venerated place in the distant past, Nino placed a healing cross visible from afar to the triumph of the new faith, for whose glory the sovereign Guaram had a small basilica built. Since this could not absorb the growing stream of pilgrims, the larger Jvari Church (cruciform church) was built under Stepanosse I as a central dome over the octagonal base of the monumental cross. Nino’s cross and a steep rocky edge in the west determined the construction plan: otherwise unusual for the Christian Transcaucasus, the entrance is not opposite the altar in the west, but in the south, with the motif of the elevation of the cross in the arched area of ​​the lintel, popular in early Christian art. This church building is the earliest and at the same time the most perfect, often imitated Georgian example of that complicated central dome building with four semicircular niches, between which three-quarter round niches lead to corner rooms of different functions. Although pillaged by the Arabs in the 10th century, the Kreuzkirche has lost none of its sublime harmony.

Historic Churches of Mtskheta (World Heritage) 2