Georgia tours, Caucasus Travel, wine tours to Georgia
Tour ancient Mtshketa! Although Tbilisi has been the capital of Georgia for about almost 1500 years, the city of Mtshketa, just to the north, held that honor in ancient times. The city is still an important cultural and religious center and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It remained the coronation and burial place of most of Georgia’s kings until the end of the kingdom in the 19th century and is the headquarters of the Georgian church today. Archaeological evidence of thousands of years of habitation suggests that the city was once an important trading center as well. Mtskheta is surrounded by forest-covered mountains and its historic architecture and charming restaurants give it a quaint, village-like atmosphere.
Between the 11th and 12th centuries, there was a renaissance of learning and religion in the monasteries in Georgia. Two of the country’s most important religious monuments can be found in Mtskheta. Within the town is the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. Christianity was brought to Mtskheta in the 4th century and became the official state religion in 334AD. The Svetitskhoveli complex includes the cathedral and palace gates from the 4th and 18th century. The interior walls of the cathedral are painted with frescoes. The throne of the patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church sits in the center of the church and local legend proclaims that Jesus’ robe is said to be buried underneath the cathedral. A cedar tree grew from the burial place of the robe, from which the pillars for the church were cut and the seventh pillar righted itself in place and had miraculous healing powers, giving the church its name meaning “life-giving column”.
Perched on a hill overlooking the town at the confluence of the Arafvi and Mtkvari rivers is the 6th century Jvari Monastery. Legends continue here that Saint Nino herself planted a cross in the earth at the site of a pagan temple, at which point the statue of the pagan deity there tumbled to the ground. This cross continued to draw pilgrims from all over the Caucasus and a church was built over the site. There are several buildings in the complex from different eras, each reflecting the architectural styles of the times.Samtavro is the “Place of the Ruler” where St Nino lived and there continues to be an active convent there. Visitors will find a small domed 4th century church and the main 11th C church, a monument to Mirian, the Georgian king who adopted Christianity and the grave of St Gabriel. The site is popular with pilgrims and worshippers. Other sights in Mtshketa include the ruins of the Armaztsikhe fortress from the 3rd century B.C., the acropolis from the 1st century B.C., the remains of Pompey's bridge and the Bebris Tsikhe castle.