Ancient Georgian Churches
The Orthodox Churches of Georgia
Georgia, which is centered in the Caucasus mountains at the eastern end of the Black Sea,
has a civilization that reaches back to ancient times. Due in large part to the missionary
activity of St. Nino, a woman from a prominent Cappadocian family, the kingdom of Kartli
(in eastern Georgia, also known as Iberia) adopted the Christian faith as its state religion,
according to received tradition, in 337. Western Georgia, then a part of the Roman Empire,
became Christian through a gradual process that was virtually complete by the 5th century.
The Armenian Churches of Georgia
The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world's oldest national church. It is part of
Oriental Orthodoxy and is one of the most ancient Christian communities. Armenia was the
first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in AD 301, in establishing
this church. The Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church claims to trace its origins to the
missions of Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus in the 1st century and is an early center
It is sometimes referred to as the Gregorian Church but this name is not preferred
by the church itself, as it views the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus as its founders,
and St. Gregory the Illuminator as merely the first official governor of the church.
Metekhi Cathedral, Tbilisi
According to traditional accounts, King Vakhtang I Gorgasali erected here a church and a fort which served
also as a king’s residence; hence comes the name Metekhi which dates back to the 12th century and literally means
"the area around the palace". Tradition holds that it was also a site where the 5th-century martyr lady Saint Shushanik
was buried. However, none of these structures have survived the Mongol invasion of 1235.
The extant Metekhi Church of Assumption, resting upon the top
of the hill, was built by the Georgian king St Demetrius II circa 1278–1284 and is somewhat an
unusual example of domed Georgian Orthodox church. It was later damaged and restored several times.
King Rostom (r. 1633-1658) fortified the area around the church with a strong citadel garrisoned
by some 3,000 soldiers. Under the Russian rule (established in 1801),
the church lost its religious purpose and was used as a barracks (R. G. Suny, p. 93). The citadel was
demolished in 1819 and replaced by a new building which functioned as the infamous jail down to the
Soviet era, and was closed only in 1938.
The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi
The Holy Trinity Cathedral of
Tbilisi commonly known as Sameba is the main Cathedral of
the Georgian Orthodox Church located in Tbilisi. Constructed between 1995 and 2004, it is
the third-tallest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the world. Sameba is a synthesis of
traditional styles dominating the Georgian church architecture at various stages in history
and has some Byzantine undertones.
Jvari Monastery, Mtskheta
Jvari Monastery is a Georgian Orthodox monastery of the 6th century near the city of Mtskheta,
Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, eastern Georgia. The name is translated as the Monastery of the Cross.
Jvari Monastery stands on the rocky mountaintop at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers,
overlooking the town of Mtskheta, which was formerly the capital of the Kingdom of Iberia.
On this location in the early 4th century Saint Nino, a female evangelist credited with
converting King Mirian III of Iberia to Christianity, erected a large wooden cross on the site
of a pagan temple. The cross was reportedly able to work miracles and therefore drew pilgrims
from all over the Caucasus. A small church was erected over the remnants of the wooden cross
in c.545 named the "Small Church of Jvari".
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral ("the Living Pillar Cathedral") is a Georgian Orthodox cathedral located
in the historical town of Mtskheta, Georgia, 20 km (12 mi) northwest of the nation's capital of Tbilisi.
Svetitskhoveli, known as the burial site of Christ's mantle, has long been the principal Georgian church
and remains one of the most venerated places of worship to this day. It presently functions as the
seat of the archbishop of Mtskheta and Tbilisi, who is at the same time Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia.
The current cathedral was built in the 11th century by the Georgian architect Arsukisdze,
though the site itself is even older dating back to the early 4th century and is surrounded by
a number of legends associated primarily with the early Christian traditions.
It is the second largest church building in the country, after the recently consecrated
Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral, and is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site along
with other historical monuments of Mtskheta.
Gergeti Trinity Church (Tsiminda Sameba)
The 14th-century Holy Trinity Church above Kazbegi at 2200m has become something of a symbol of Georgia –
its beauty and piety and the fierce determination to build it on such a lofty, isolated perch are all
emblematic of the country and its people. The walk up to the church and the panoramas this affords are a
highlight of Georgia. In 1988 the Soviet authorities constructed a cable-car line to the church, with
one station in Kazbegi and the other right next to Tsminda Sameba. The people of Kazbegi quite rightly
felt this defiled their sacred place and soon destroyed it.
For More Information
The Orthodox Church of Georgia - CWNEA