Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mtskheta, Georgia

Mtskheta, მცხეთა, was established in 1000 BC and is one of the oldest cities in Georgia.  It's in eastern Georgia, about 20 km (~12.5 miles) from Tbilisi, where the Aragvi and Kura rivers meet.  The city is home to over 19,400 people.

From the 3rd century BC to the 5th century AD, Mtskheta was the capital of the early Georgian Kingdom of Iberia.  In 337 AD, this is where Christianity was proclaimed as the state religion.  Today, the town is the home of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The Historical Monuments of Mtskheta were collectively listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.  However, due to serious deterioration of the stonework and frescoes the monuments were recently placed on UNESCO's World Heritage in Danger list.

Today was Palm Sunday in the Orthodox Church so all of the town's sites were extra busy.  Since there aren't a lot of palms in Georgia they use box-tree branches instead.  There were people selling branches on the street all weekend.

Jvari Monastery

The Jvari Monastery is known as the Monastery of the Cross.  It was built in the 6th century.  It sits on a cliff above the city.  The view of the city is great.
Overlooking Mtskheta

 The Samtavro Transfiguration Orthodox Church was built in the 4th century.  It was remodeled in the 11th century.  It is also home to a convent.  Inside of the church are the graves of the Georgian king Mirian, who adopted Christianity, and his wife.

St. Gabriel
Behind the church is the grave of St. Gabriel who passed away in 1995.  He was a very popular monk who was known for his clairvoyance and healing powers. 

There was a line of people at his grave today.  Everyone was touching their crucifixes to the earth on his grave and saying prayers.

The best known landmark in Mtskheta is the Svetitskhovli Cathedral.  It is the country's second largest church.  It too was built in the 4th century and rebuilt in the 11th century.  The church is home to the throne of the patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church.  A few of Georgia's past kings are buried here too.  It is believed by many that the robe Jesus Christ wore following his crucifixion is buried underneath the cathedral.

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