Ancient capital of the Georgian kingdom
Considered as the cult and sacred place for each Georgian, Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia is located 20 km from Tbilisi. Nowhere in Georgia is there such a quantity of sacred and cult places as in Mtskheta. This is the reason why this ancient city is also named “the Second Jerusalem”. It is there that St. Nino of Kappadokia brought the good message to. It is there that one of the greatest relics of the Christian world, the God’s Tunic, is kept. It is there that streams of Christian pilgrims and tourists from all over the world flow to. The main attractions there are: one of the most ancient and esteemed temples – Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and ancient Dzhvari Monastery. They both are unique amazing samples of religious architecture of the medieval Caucasus.
Mtskheta is located at the confluence of the two mountain rivers, the Aragvi, and the Kura on the river terrace surrounded by majestic mountain tops. The city legend says that Mtskheta was founded during times immemorial by the legendary ruler Mtsekhotos, the son of the first king of Kartli, who named the city in his honor.
The facts of history testify that the city was founded in the second half of the 1 st millennium BC, i.e. at the same time as Eastern Georgian Kingdom – Kartli (Ibeia), the capital of which Mtskheta was. That is why Mtskheta is often called “the cradle of Georgian statehood”. As the political centre of Eastern Georgia, Mtskheta experienced its first blooming during the time Alexander the Great. The ancient city walls could withstand attacks of Roman legions and Persian soldiers. Mtskheta owned the status of capital for almost one thousand years until the end of the 5 th century AD – when the ruler Vakhtang Gorgasali decided to move the capital to Tbilisi. But despite this Mtskheta remained an important religious centre of the country, the residence of Georgian Catholicoses, the heads of Georgian church.
In the Middle Ages Mtskheta remained played the significant part as a trading, crafts and religious centre. Today it still remains the spiritual centre of the country. Along with Tbilisi and Пицундой Mtskehta is the cathedra of the Catholicos – the Patriarch of all Georgia. In the late 19 th – early 20 th centuries Mtskheta and its vicinities were declared the architectural and historical memorial estate in the list of the World Legacy of the UNESCO.
Dzhvari monastic temple immortalized by Michael Lermontov (“Mtsyri”poem) is the most ancient cult monument constructed in the beginning of Georgian Christianity in the 6th century (585- 604 ). The name Dzhvari means “cross” in Georgian language.
Not far from Dzhvari there is another cult monument of Christian Georgia – one of the major Orthodox Georgian temples – Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.
In Mtskheta there is an active Samtavro convent Самтавро (the 11 th century) in which the ruler Mirian and his wife Nana, the first to accept Christianity from St. Nino in 337, are buried.
10 km to the west from Mtskheta in the village of Dzegvi there is an active operating Shio-Mgvime monastery (Simeon Mgvimsky, the 6 th century). The monastery is literally merged with the sandy coloring of the hillsides.