Jun 4, 2018
From the 3rd century BC, for almost thousand years Mtskheta was the capital of Georgia, or Kartli as is was then called. It was only in the 5th century that the capital moved to Tbilisi. As long ago as 337 AD, it was here that Christianity was declared the state religion and Mtskheta remains today, the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox church.
The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and the the 6th century Jvari church are among the oldest and most venerated of Georgia’s plethora of churches. They are duly mobbed by tourists on a daily basis as well as by devotees on a more regular basis. I got myself on a public minibus added myself to the stream of visitors.
It is a place of deep spirituality for Georgians and is deemed to have more than its fair share of miracles. There are tales of the robe of Jesus being brought back here, and there are tales of miracles wrought by Saint Nino. Tales that include raising the central pillar of the original church; the same pillar that performed further miracles and gave the church its name – Svetitskhaveli or Life-giving Column. There are other even more miraculous tales that justify the veneration of its devotees, ones that locals are only too happy to expound on.
The paintings and murals alone justify a visit to the Cathedral but apart from the cathedral, there is precious little else. The rest of the small town may have been charming once but today it is a choking maze of souvenir stalls, ice-cream stalls, cafes, restaurants and shops in a continual stream and more annoying than not. But little did I know there was another treat in store.
It so happened that a royal wedding was scheduled there when I visited. Men in the national costumes, complete with belted swords and pistols stood in their tall boots on either side of a red carpet.
Women dressed in elaborate gowns and Ascot-worthy hats swished down the carpet into the church. Foreign dignitaries, many of whom were dressed in their own national costumes arrived and were ushered in. This was clearly a big to-do. I lacked the patience to wait more than a half hour and missed the grand entrance of the bride and groom.